I’ve had access to Disney Dreamlight Valley on PS5 for about three days. So far, my biggest problem with Dreamlight Valley is that, as a fully functioning adult with a job, kids, and responsibilities, I am unable to sit there and play Dreamlight Valley all day, every day. Over the long weekend, my family has developed something of an obsession with Dreamlight Valley, gathering on occasion to shout demands at me about how I choose to decorate my house and dress my avatar. But even when they haven't been there, I've been relentlessly working through the game at a breakneck pace.
I am not kidding. I sat down for the first time to check out Dreamlight Valley for a few minutes before bed, and I ended up playing for four hours. The next day, I woke up at 8:00 AM, booted my kids off the TV, and ended up playing Dreamlight Valley until my wife finally asked me to stop at 5:00 PM to help make dinner. I skipped breakfast, and barely paused to eat lunch (I planted my garden beforehand, so it could grow while I ate). I played more before bed, and this morning just had to set the game down so I could come type up this preview article. Afterwards, I’m going right back.
When I say this game has hooks, I mean that it has big, gnarly barbed hooks that sink into the player’s brain and hold them captive there. This is the sort of game that I could see myself slavishly attending to every day, like a job, smiling the entire time. If all of this sounds kind of negative, rest assured, I don’t mean it that way. I’m just trying to say that what the evil geniuses at Gameloft have assembled here is addictive in the best possible way. Dreamlight Valley is an incredibly fun world, and I find myself not wanting to leave. There is too much to do.
Disney Dreamlight Valley enters Early Access today. Players on PC, Switch, and PlayStation can buy a “Founder’s Pack” to gain access to the game. Xbox Game Pass members can hop in without spending a dime. In addition to the Founder’s Pack, there are a few more expensive options that offer more cosmetic stuff that can be used in the game, but rest assured, the gameplay is the same regardless of which version you grab.
Once Dreamlight Valley goes into full release, it will be free-to-play, supported by season passes and content packs. I’ve been messing with the first season pass, which allows the player to unlock in-game cosmetics by completing specific tasks. It may or may not be worth it to you, depending on your proclivities, but this first pass focuses on Pixar stuff. I’ve been running around the world with a pet squirrel in an Incredibles uniform following me everywhere – so for me, it seems totally worth it.
Players have a decent character creator with which to create their in-game avatar. I’ve been playing the game as a Disney Princess version of my wife, and was able to slap together a reasonable facsimile in about three minutes, which she pronounced “better than that last one” - the “last one” being the Saints Row character I spent three hours on. As you play, you unlock a mountain of different clothing options, so don’t worry if your starting outfit is a little boring. You’ll be hoofing it around the valley in an evil princess (or prince) outfit in no time.
Players begin the game as a newcomer in Dreamlight Valley. Think of the valley as the place where all of the Disney characters live when they aren’t off having adventures in their own “realms”. At the start of the game, the place has been infected by “the Forgetting”, and the characters are scattered to the four winds, forgetting that they belong somewhere else. The player is greeted by Merlin from Sword in the Stone, who gives them a quick tutorial on how to start cleaning the place up (it is a hot mess when you arrive).
As you clear the streets of thorns and debris, you meet a few more characters, who start giving you more tasks to complete. Scrooge McDuck wants to open a store. Goofy wants to go fishing and open a farm-stand franchise. Poor ol’ Mickey just wants to figure out where Minnie ran off to. And Donald has disappeared into a dark portal while dorking around in the forest with Kristoph from Frozen. Helping these characters out provides the structure to the opening of Dreamlight Valley.
The game opens well, slowly unveiling the primary mechanics. The player learns to fish, to mine for ore and gems, to dig stuff up out of the ground, and to garden for food. All of these activities take energy, which the player tracks on a meter that depletes a bit with every action. At first, I was worried that the game was going to try to charge me for some doodad to fill up my energy meter, but there are no such pay-to-play shenanigans in Dreamlight Valley. You can fill up your meter by eating food or just dipping into your in-game house for a second.
Before long, the game’s secondary mechanics come into play. You learn to cook meals (which give extra energy), to arrange furniture and goodies in your house, and to rearrange the look and feel of the valley itself. There is a significant crafting element, allowing the player to supplement the furniture and clothing they find and buy with stuff they make themselves. Each of the characters in the game has their own quest line, and simply having them follow you around while you do stuff will level them up, slowly doling out prizes for doing so.
Once you get things in the core valley settled down a bit, the game starts opening up more, bit by bit. The valley itself has regions that have been cordoned off which can be unlocked, bringing in more characters and gameplay. And of course, you can enter other “realms” in the castle, allowing you to do missions to recruit characters into returning to the valley.
I spent the majority of my insane marathon working with Moana and Maui, whom I convinced to come to the Valley from their small tropical island. While the missions to bring them to the Valley are simple to accomplish, I quickly got caught up in their storylines and spent all day trying to level them up and work through their quests – some of which get pretty complex.
In fact, I now have a quest list as long as my arm. Most of the quests in Dreamlight Valley center around gathering different materials to make stuff, which is easier said than done. Some items have to be grown. Some have to be mined. Some have to be discovered, locking the quest down while the player pushes outward, exploring in hopes of discovering how to find tomato seeds or dandelions.
As complex as the game gets, it all works together pretty well. When you get stuck on something (I’m currently angrily mining for emeralds, and kicking myself for selling like eight of them without knowing I would later need them), you can just pivot to something else for a while until you figure it out. There is never a shortage of activities. And of course, you can always just spend a while grinding gardening for quick cash.
Disney Dreamlight Valley is funny, because the primary reward pushing the player forward is the acquisition of stuff – whether that stuff is clothing, furniture, or enough money to get a bigger house. I wouldn’t think I would care at all about the stuff I’m working towards, but it feels great when I accomplish a quest and am able to put that new sofa into my living room. It seems dumb, but it is inexplicably satisfying. I guess I understand Animal Crossing addicts a little better now.
Of course, Disney Dreamlight Valley is in Early Access, so it isn’t quite complete. There are a few problems lurking beneath the friendly veneer of the game. I have hit a few snags with quest completions, most of which involve a character shouting “Follow me!” and then just standing there, dancing in place like a big dummy. Leaving and coming back later usually resolves the issue, but in one case I had to shut the game down and reload my save. I've had trouble with the map crashing the game. A few rewards I should have received for leveling my Disney friends all the way up never appeared in my inventory. Characters also behave in funny ways, though that might be intentional. I am always amused when I come around a corner and see Goofy standing dead-ass in a thunderstorm, whistling to himself and fishing while torrential rain slams down on him.
I will be very interested in following Disney Dreamlight Valley as it expands. I’ve found three realms outside of the primary valley to visit, and though I’m not sure if there are more in this initial release, the game is expected to grow as time goes by. I plan on frantically playing through all of the currently available content, and I would easily be willing to pony up ten bucks or so to unlock new realms and characters as they arrive.
I’m also interested in seeing if, as more characters show up in the game, they start interacting with each other more. I’ve had Maui following me around (along with IncrediSquirrel) for several hours, and every time we see Moana, he just kinda ignores her. Mickey and Goofy both greet me when I happen by, but they don’t seem to care much about each other. The characters move abut the Valley throughout the day, but it would be neat if the game added little subroutines for these characters to hang out together and do stuff, or at least acknowledge each other.
But even as it stands, Disney Dreamlight Valley feels like a smashing success. The pay model so far feels very unobtrusive, purely optional for people that want to have a few more prizes to heap on the already giant pile of stuff you can earn or find. Folks that jump in now will find a nearly-finished-feeling game that will entertain them for hours on end. And people that decide to wait for the eventual free-to-play full release will probably experience an even more polished product.
Many, many people – and not just kids - are going to be deeply pulled into this game, and for very good reason. There is a wealth of entertainment here, and the game is only going to grow as time goes by. Even in this early version, Disney Dreamlight Valley is delightful. There is simply no reason not to jump in now and enjoy this game, other than the possibility of all of your free time evaporating. If you do decide to try Dreamlight Valley, I hope you have some vacation time saved up. And hey, a Founder’s Pack is a heck of a lot cheaper than a trip to Disney World.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here.View Profile