Dreamlight Valley Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch & PC)
Disney's Dreamlight Valley is a magical action role-playing game that is evidently rife with wisps of farming elements and heartwarming story arcs. Although still very much in its infancy, this is, without a doubt, the humble beginning of a marvelously magical era.
A Valley in Disarray
Dreamlight Valley begins with a modern twist on the ol' castaway scenario. You arrive on an island, a magical realm known as, well, Dreamlight Valley. As a magic-wielding newcomer to the barren village, your goal is to banish The Forgetting, a mystical aura that shrouds the memories of its inhabitants. To counter the wickedness that plagues the Valley, the vast majority have fled to various parts of the world (also known as Realms.) Your goal, as the last remaining bastion of hope, is to collect a token called Dreamlight, and revive the region, one chunk at a time.
It's understandable that, with a game that revolves around restoring a community, anyone would associate it with New Horizons. And to be fair, it's easy to see why. As you plunge into the first two hours of the Valley, your sole purpose is to remove Night Thorns, an ultraviolet substance that closely resembles the abundance of weeds that New Horizons employs. Besides having to pluck away at the dozens of royal purple plants, you also have to collect three Royal Tools: a pickaxe, a watering can, and a fishing rod. With that, of course, comes a lengthy prologue of mopping up the leftovers from what can only be described as the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse after party. Persevere, though, and the magic eventually follows suit, unlocking a myriad of ventures flushed with wonder and comradery.
Dreamlight Is Everything
Dreamlight Valley revolves around one thing: Dreamlight, a flashy token that the player must accumulate in order to unlock new sections of the village. In order to obtain Dreamlight, you are expected to play your part in the community. That, of course, means completing a series of “Dreamlight Duties,” which net you a set amount of tokens in exchange for your services. And honestly, they're pretty straightforward tasks. Like, for example, you'll get 250 Dreamlight for catching a fish, and then another 100 for selling said fish to Goofy. Accumulate 1,000 Dreamlight, and you'll have the option to expand the village and, in turn, build more homes for your future guests.
Thankfully, Dreamlight Valley doesn't employ a pay-to-win scheme. That means, contrary to popular belief, the whole of the game can, in fact, be experienced without having to fork over any sly fees. And honestly, for a game that incorporates items like Gold, XP, and Dreamlight, that's a real sight for sore eyes. That said, you do need to pull your weight in order to reap the fruits of your labor.
Of course, there's more to Dreamlight than catching a few bass down at the local pond. There are also tasks that range from snapping photos of wildlife, discovering fresh new recipes, and venturing off the beaten path to unearth a thread of mysteries. And as all of these tasks operate on a carousel-like system, there's pretty much always something to do, whether it's at the crack of dawn, or in the dead of twilight.
“You've Got a Friend in Me”
Of course, Dreamlight Valley isn't just about rebuilding a village. In fact, it's more about establishing life-long friendships with the characters that you'll eventually rely on much later down the line. Being able to actively recruit someone isn't exactly a chore, which is great. However, in order to max out on the perks of having certain friends, you are required to put in the legwork. And when I say legwork, I mean hanging out with each villager on a real-time daily basis. And if, for example, you want that secret recipe book from Remy, then you had best believe that you'll need to put in some serious one-on-one time before you start seeing results.
The good news is, the Friendship Quests aren't all that taxing. Repetitive, yes. But painstakingly dull and depressing? Not even in the slightest. And the reason for this is because of the real-time clock that the game employs. As the Valley progresses in real hours, minutes, and seconds, there is always something happening. And it's because of that, that I, for one, felt inclined to go fishing late at night, just in case I discovered something that wouldn't have been there at the break of dawn. Friendship Quests, in ways, were similar, in the fact that they always found a way to keep you hooked, regardless of the hour or day.
Beyond the Valley
So, how do you recruit these sparkly-eyed folks, exactly? Well, this is where Realms come in, which are, in short, portals to other parts of the Disney kingdom. By earning enough Dreamlight, you're able to unlock these Realms and go on new ventures, each containing their own quest chains and recruitable characters. And at the time of writing, that includes Ratatouille, Moana, Frozen, and WALL-E.
The only issue with the Realms, though, is the length of the actual story arcs themselves. Take, for example, Moana. In this disappointingly short episode, the quest line had me collecting a few items, a light, and then a fish. Somehow, in the weirdest way, this wound up convincing the Polynesian princess to up sticks and join the gang over in Dreamlight Valley. This must've taken me, say, twenty minutes or so. That's twenty minutes in one Realm. And I think I speak for everyone when I say, you know, where's the beef?
Of course, quest chains don't just abruptly end. In fact, they continue long after the character you've recruited comes back to your island. Still, the lack of content in the Realms is rather disappointing, given how much content Gameloft has to play with. That said, as this is still an Early Access game, there's still plenty of time to add a little extra meat to the bones, so to speak.
A Valley Worth Forging
Customization is a pretty big deal in Dreamlight Valley, and it is perhaps one of the best parts, period. Thanks to Scrooge's Store, the Nook's Cranny of Disney, players have access to daily items and themed rarities, all of which can be purchased and dotted around the island. From birdhouses to ice thrones, a Mr Incredible display case to a retro arcade machine — Dreamlight Valley has an abundance of quality items and cosmetics. And in all honesty, I enjoyed spending more time potting about looking for uncharted territories to add a little flair to than following up with the countless other pursuits I had embarked on.
Of course, the Valley is one thing. Your home, on the other hand, is a whole other venture, and one that can consume your entire day's agenda if you aren't careful. As a safe haven from the Night Thorns, you are pretty much able to transform it into anything the heart desires, whether it be an old shack, a retro arcade, or a gleaming utopia that oozes sophistication and glamor. So long as you possess an adequate amount of Dreamlight and coin, the possibilities are infinite. And on that note, I for one can't wait to see what else Gameloft brings to not only Scrooge's Store, but the whole of the Valley, in general.
Go Home, Mickey
It's nitpicking at this point, but Dreamlight Valley does, as expected from an Early Access game, possess its fair share of graphical and technical errors. Although not quite on par with Cyberpunk 2077, there are definitely a few things that need ironing out. Take, for example, the cramped spaces that cause your avatar to lock up and freeze. Or, say, the companions that persistently follow you around even after you've told them to leave you alone for the fourteenth time. Yes, I'm looking at you, Mickey Mouse.
Besides a few frame drops and the odd freeze, Dreamlight Valley just about runs like a hot knife through a stick of butter. And like I said, it's nitpicking at this point, and there's honestly nothing a bit of tender loving care and a well-placed bandaid won't solve.
Disney's Dreamlight Valley brings a vial of vigor to a well established genre, using its well-versed pocket of Disney-Pixar lore to establish a breathtakingly beautiful open world playground. Although its Realms are somewhat limited and bite-sized compared to, say, Kingdom Hearts, each of them provide plenty of room for growth. And when all's said and done, any game that can make me want to go fishing with Mickey Mouse at 4am can get away with just about anything, flaws and all.
There's still a whole lot more Gameloft can bring to Dreamlight Valley, and this is, without a doubt, the humble beginning of a fantastic role-playing game. That said, until we're able to see the whole canvas, we just can't give it the full marks it may rightfully deserve. Nevertheless, for what it is, and what it has already captured in its short time at the forefront, our faith in the future of the Valley is most definitely at an all-time high.
Dreamlight Valley Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch & PC)
A Dream Worth Sleeping in For
Disney’s Dreamlight Valley brings a vial of vigor to a well established genre, using its well-versed pocket of Disney-Pixar lore to lay the foundations for a breathtakingly beautiful open world playground.