Disney’s Dreamlight Valley finally arrives in Early Access. Are you ready to save your favourite Disney characters? The Finger Guns Preview;
Animal Crossing but Disney. There, I said it. We can all move on now. The inspiration behind this Disney mash-up is so utterly and completely transparent there’s no way of getting around the sheer fact there are inspirations here from a certain franchise that’s now sold well over 60-odd million copies (primarily thanks to pandemic-saver New Horizons). As Disney does, they see something very successful and well, either buy it or make a version of it themselves and slap the word ‘Disney’ on it. In lieu of Disney buying Nintendo(!), Dreamlight Valley was the next obvious option. Make a Disney version of one of the most beloved franchises of all time, put it on all the systems and if they hate, let em hate and watch the money pile up.
And whilst Disney is known for its wholesome, wondrous magical worlds, Animal Crossing has something completely unique which similar games can’t seem to grasp, and it’s up to Dreamlight Valley to become that game you check in on and progress just a little bit every single day. Over the pandemic New Horizons became such a staple of so many of our daily lives (450+ hours and counting over here..) that it required us to look after our island, to nurture it and create it into something awesome. Dreamlight Valley doesn’t start that way.
There’s no empty canvas on a vast island here. Dreamlight Valley is already particularly built up, it’s just going through a bit of a rough patch. You’ll appear upon the Valley covered in vines, dark, dreary and rainy, effectively the location of any villanouns ne’er do well you can imagine from Disney movies past. It’s up to you to clear the vines and bring some semblance of stability back to the valley, and well, you’ve got Merlin on hand to show you that you have the magical powers to make it happen.
Your character – which you can spend literally hours creating and dress up like a walking Disney merchandise store – is more than willing to help the residents of Dreamlight Valley, which in its early moments will introduce you to the likes of the aforementioned Merlin, Goofy (who is terribly fond of watching you fish), Scrooge McDuck (who owns a shop you have to renovate that the Nooklings could certainly learn a thing or two from) and of course, Mickey Mouse. Who has a whole lotta Mickey Mouse merchandise in his own house. It’s a bit weird.
The Animal Crossing of it all comes from crafting, crafting and crafting. An early challenge has you running around the Valley looking for a fishing rod, a shovel and a pickaxe. It’s certainly a whole lot faster than when you would have to wait days to unlock the recipes for them all in AC, but thankfully there’s plenty more to immediately be getting on with in Dreamlight Valley, and the experience is all the richer for it.
And that’s the bonus of jumping in slightly early. During this Early Access period (of which is also available on Xbox / PC Game Pass if you’re subscribed), it’s the perfect way in to Disney’s hugely promising new world. I know I keep bringing it up but if you’ve absolutely maxed out on Animal Crossing and your island is completely 100% covered you’ll probably find there’s very little left to do. Dreamlight Valley is the answer.
You’ll pick up on the nuances immediately. The flower arranging, the rock smashing, the 24-hour daily turnaround of items in Scrooge’s shop, the events and the daily movement of progress. The game isn’t in a rush to get you anywhere and you’re signed up for this pace because they know there’s an audience out there for exactly such a thing. The primary difference between Dreamlight Valley and AC – bar the obvious branding, which god forbid could span into Marvel, Star Wars characters etc someday – is you’re not doing the hard work for yourself, you’re doing it for the residents of Dreamlight Valley, and the fundamental way that makes you change your way of thinking through a slow motion AC like makes it feel like there’s a greater plan at play here than just you surviving on an island surrounded by animals that don’t do anything for you.
And as mentioned above this is Early Access, but at no point does this game feel unfinished. It’s a complete world where you can explore as much as you’ve unlocked and as it expands your great big Disney-fan grin gets even wider. Dreamlight Valley feels polished, executed beautifully from developers Gameloft, seemingly their biggest ever project. The full release comes in 2023 when it goes free to play (sadly with microtransactions), but rest assured jumping in now is the best way to experience Dreamlight Valley. You’re gonna wish you did in 2023. If the game is as big as Gameloft and Disney are hoping the possibilities here are literally endless. Will we see Iron Man hug it out with Moana aboard the Millennium Falcon? There’s no reason to suspect not. Hell,even Springfield could pop up in Dreamlight Valley. Disney is that ridiculous these days.
And there’s always something to do. There are times when you’re running up and down your island on New Horizons are you’re thinking ‘well, that’s it. I can’t do anything else’. You’ve self-completed Animal Crossing. The game and the island will continue without you but there’s nothing more you can do. And much like a VFX employee at a Marvel studio, the work just keeps on coming and you’re always busy with something to do. This is an Early Access that’s absolutely stacked with content to be getting on with, and you’re constantly exploring, chatting to the characters or meeting new ones, learning more about the Valley as it carries on.
As you make ‘friends’ with Goofy, Scrooge and Mickey you unlock even more objectives, and each character has their own in-game battle pass if you like. The more you can get done for each character the more items you can unlock from them, all themed around that character for your house or for the Valley, giving you that incentive to just keep going. I’ve dropped nearly 30 hours in to Valley at this point and at no point did I feel bored or run around looking for something to do. I always had something to be getting on with, whether it be collecting dreamlight (effectively Nook Miles to get stuff unlocked), finishing up character paths or taking part in the Pixar Fest where clearing up certain objectives earns you Pixar Points to unlock gear specific to their films. I have an Up hot air balloon in my Valley. You can have one too. Adventure is out there. That’s an Up reference.
And the loop just keeps going. Merlin keeps you busy running around the Valley making it all prim and proper. Once you’ve unlocked the Moana realm you’ll meet Moana and Maui and you can’t help but sing along to all the rubbish songs from that film (Encanto is far better don’t @ me), that Disney sparkle is sprinkled across every boundary and it’s a gloriously joyous world to just keep swimming through. That’s a FInding Nemo reference.
I started Dreamlight on PC and that’s probably where I’ll play for the majority. On high specs it runs like an absolute dream, something I only noticed when I moved my save to my Xbox Series S on launch day only to find the game running at 30fps. Now I’m not normally *that* guy but I was incensed. Wonderfully, if you’re the type of person that wants to play on the go and you don’t have a Switch, the cloud gaming version of Dreamlight Valley is a steady 60fps as it’s running off an Xbox Series X server. Go figure. I haven’t tested the PlayStation or the Switch versions yet, though how this is running on a Switch at all boggles my mind entirely.
Still, there are technical hiccups here and there but in no real way did they affect my enjoyment of this Early Access preview. I’ve heard reports of missions being impossible to complete as items fall into cracks in the ground never to be recovered. I personally haven’t experienced that one yet, my biggest issue has been the camera.
I’m not sure why, maybe it’s Animal Crossing training me for such things but a higher position camera I feel would work wonders. While it’s lovely to stroll around and feel up close and person with these fantastic characters, I did long for a Two Point type camera I could swing in and out at a moments notice so I could survey the entire valley. Upon placing items around the Valley you can zoom out as much as you like and the map almost becomes a grid for you to place things which is fantastically helpful, though I’d also like a similar option when navigating myself. Perhaps that’s just me but it would be cool to treat Dreamlight Valley like a theme-like and manage it as such. Ergo, I shall wish upon a star and see what happens in the full release.
If you’re at all used to the grind of AC and similar titles such as Hokko Life and Cosy Grove, you’ll be instantly familiar with the endless it work it takes to pile up required resources. Yes, that’s a major part of the early moments of Dreamlight and there are times where it feels somewhat frustrating when you just want to crack on. An early mission with Scrooge McDuck has you running around looking for a particular flower, one of which I couldn’t find for the life of me until I finally stumbled across it (the menus are helpful here as they will tell you the quests and where the resources are most likely to appear, mind). You’re crafting a whole lot so be sure to get your workstation at a location you can easily get back to when you need it (or do the old AC trick and keep one in your inventory at all times so you can just craft on the go). Resource hammering feels like a chore, but hey, these games often do. This is what you signed up for, kid. Disney ain’t all magic and sparkles.
But if you’re jumping from AC to this then you aren’t going to mind. This is what you came here for. A brand new place to call your own but this time you’ve got Mickey Mouse and his chums cheering you on instead of Tom bloody Nook stealing your bells every five minutes. At this very moment, in the earliest of Early Access it feels endless, and as mentioned above if they can get this right where Dreamlight Valley could go is practically limitless, and that’s hugely exciting. Of course, we said the same thing about Disney Infinity, though this looks to be like a far more robust experience that could last and last. It just needs that audience, which it would appear it’s done a very good job at already securing. A quick glance at the #DreamlightValley hashtag is enough to convince us that they’re off to a cracking start.
With new content already promised by the end of the year (Buzz! Woody!), Dreamlight Valley is off to one hell of a start. With the likes of New Horizons slowing down and Nintendo no longer producing new content (a bizarre decision, considering its 40 odd million player base), it would appear Disney have taken the ball and ran with it, and if it can iron out some slight technical niggles and there’s no reason why this can’t go to infinity and beyond. That’s a Toy Story reference.
Now, if you’ll excuse me this 35-year-old man has to get back to the Valley, Goofy wants to fishing, Scrooge has some new threads and Mickey, well, Mickey just wants to party. If there was a perfect antidote to life right now, this is it. It’s going to be massive. Be prepared. That’s a Lion King reference.
Also why is Stitch in the all the promotion if he ain’t in the game yet. Pfft.
Disney’s Dreamlight Valley is available now on PC (Version Previewed via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a promotional Ultimate Founders Edition copy of the game.
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