Do you know those YouTube titles that say, “I’m so addicted to…”? Well, this isn’t clickbait; I’m genuinely addicted to Disney Dreamlight Valley to the point where I almost regret taking it on. It’s not too early to say this, but this could be one of the best games I’ve played this year and better than Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
If I worked on my social media presence, I’d be inundated with abuse for that last line, but really: this game is marvellous.
Developed by Gameloft, you play as a human that’s been teleported into the world of Disney. Dreamlight Valley, to be precise. Upon your arrival, you’re greeted by Merlin (Sword and the Stone), who informs you that the previous person responsible for running the community has disappeared and like it or not, you’re the new key holder. The problem is these night thorns that have created the Forgetting; the inhabitants are getting forgetful, not remembering their purpose or who they are. Is there something more sinister at work?
Your job in Disney Dreamlight Valley is to re-establish order, that is, friendships. Sure, it might be conceived as corny, but it’s imperative to form bonds with the locals by running errands, hanging out and treating them with gifts. Initially, you’ll manually remove thorns with your newfound magic abilities, expose new biomes, recruit famous Disney and Pixar characters to the fold, and run errands on their behalf.
Using Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a comparison (because that’s all I know that compares – that and Hokko Life), you mine, fish, dig, plant and harvest, sell your wares, craft furniture and make your dream home while establishing friendships. In terms of friends, it begins with Merlin, Mickey, Goofy and others – depending on which area you unlock, you shower them with gifts, build up your rating with them and then unlock goodies such as avatars, clothing and furniture. Entering the Dream Castle, you can unlock Remy, Moana and Wall-E.
That’s pretty much the concept of Disney Dreamlight Valley, and I can’t get enough of the grind. I’d grab a friend, then do frequent circuits of the valley, mining stones and gems, pulling up flowers and fruit, selling to Goofy, and then returning home to replenish my energy (unless I have some apples on me). Like Stardew Valley, you’ll encounter a bit of burnout if you don’t watch out, so simply entering your home or consuming some food will keep you ticking over.
Besides levelling your character by improving their energy levels and unlocking new stuff, you’ll craft a wealth of gear to expand said crafting or design the perfect home with furnishings. But best of all, customisation. I absolutely love customisation in games, as shallow as that may seem, and the options in Disney Dreamlight Valley are amazing. Other than your base appearance, you can wear garments from your favourite Disney films, those inspired by them, or create your own. Dabbling with the latter was a lot of fun, but I did notice some early glitching of custom apparel. It wasn’t reproduced with ‘out of the box’ gear.
To return to that notion of addiction, I clocked up so many hours within a few days of playing on my Steam Deck (yes, it runs great, but there were a few jumps after a recent update) and couldn’t put it down. So much so that I ended up palming off some duties to get my fix. It’s such a great game with excellent presentation, precious characters and a score that will have you pining for your Blu-Ray collection of Disney and Pixar. As I think I said, I’m not a Disney fan, but this game is magical – no cliche intended. My only reservation is I think it’s unlikely that my favourite character hasn’t been included yet (Baloo from The Jungle Book).
There is online play with a multitude of events you can dabble in, which act as seasons, but so far, I’ve only concentrated on my solo experience. Considering the amount of time I invested in Animal Crossing: New Horizons upon release, I’d happily spend triple that in the valley. Sorry, but it’s true. I love this game. More so now I’ve added some rooms to my digs and expanded some of the buildings after lots and lots of mining!
Disney Dreamlight Valley is now available in Early Access on PC: Steam (previewed), Epic Games Store and the Microsoft Store. You can also get it for PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch with the Founder’s Pack Editions. Check out the official site for more details.