Review — Disney Dreamlight Valley

A Dream(light) is a Wish your Heart Makes

Overview

Developer GameLoft
Publisher GameLoft
Genre Simulation
Platforms Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4 and 5, X-Box Series X and S
Release Date September 6, 2022 (early access)

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a cozy game for multiple platforms, which involves the typical gardening and side quests of most cozy games. Except this time, you are immersed in the Wonderful World of Disney. If you have ever wanted to live in a Disney world without all the danger, this game may be for you.

Content Guide:

There is nothing objectionable in this game. “The Forgetting” makes Disney characters lose their memory and (some) disappear. The highest stakes are disappearing friends, and they can be brought back. All magic is done without spells or incantations.

Panels of diverse avatars

Review

This reviewer received a copy of the game from the publisher.

Disney Dreamlight Valley has come out in 2022, the age of the Cozy Game. With the 2020 pandemic and shutdown, people needed more lighthearted fun tied to nature to keep them grounded and sane. Now, we continue to embrace the cozy genre with showcases like Wholesome Direct. Many of these games are created by independent developers and showcase a more diverse cast than the typical Triple A developers. Disney Dreamlight Valley was not made by a small studio, but it did hop on the cozy game bandwagon and embrace the aesthetics that come with it.

Avatar looking at Disney-themed backpacks
The Disney-themed cosmetics are all adorable!

The story is this: players finds themselves in a Disney world where the characters explain a darkness is growing. Some of their friends have disappeared, and they are plagued with a horrible forgetting. The player must banish the darkness, bring back the missing friends, and help everyone regain their memories. To do this, they travel to various Disney lands (Kingdom Hearts, is that you?), bringing other characters to the hub world to heal it. These other characters hail from various lands — like Moana and Maui in Montunui — but are part of Disney canon.

The Bare Necessities (of Cozy Gaming)

The premise seems exciting, a newcomer who can work magic with the help of friendship and banish darkness from the land. Gameplay, though, leans more toward friendship than banishing. The majority of the game is made up of side quests, similar to my previously reviewed Spiritfarer. These quests range from gardening and cooking to building a specific type of house. Most are fetch quests with the player needing to find, garden, cook, or buy certain items. Each character has side quests you will need to do for various purposes: to continue the Main Story, to unlock quests with other characters, and to level up Friendship.

Friendship points can be earned in a few ways. Once a day (real time), players can have a single conversation with a friend to earn some points. Characters can “hang out” together, which entails inviting them to do typical tasks like mining, gathering, or fishing with the protagonist. When Friendship is at a high enough level, friends can be assigned a specific task at which they excel. However, this excellence is only available while the player is hanging out with them and doing the same task. The easiest way to progress Friendship is to give gifts. Players can give an infinite amount of gifts to friends, though most raise points only slightly. The character log will show a friend’s favorite gifts, which change daily.

Different ways of levelling up Friendship. Guess they haven’t used their one conversation for the day.

Spiritfarer has similar mechanics, but its story connects with the player through dialogue and meaningful tasks. In contrast, the Dreamlight Valley residents have no introduction, and they act just as they should according to decades of canon. (The best example of potential character development is Mickey Mouse. Minnie has disappeared, and Mickey is becomes sad when reminded of her.) Dialogue assumes players are familiar with characters and their respective movies, and it never discusses them in detail.

Disney Dreamlight Valley knows its audience, which is a very specific demographic. The default character is a slightly plus sized white woman, the stereotype of a suburban mom. This game can be played by kids but feels intended for millennials. None of the character customization options show children, only adults. The opening sequence is the player character falling asleep and winding up in Dreamlight Valley. While playable for everyone, Disney has capitalized on tired parents and workers. If their real life dreams seem too outrageous, they can at least escape into the dreams of their childhood.

Character avatar with brown skin and Moana
You’re Welcome (The Pros)

The controls of Disney Dreamlight Valley are intuitive and simple, and its user interface is easy to understand and access. In the menu, players can check out character profiles, recipe lists, a map, and more. Quests are broken into the Main Quest and Side Quest sections, and Badges include the exact specifications for completing each one. The inventory even flags items necessary for a current quest.

Map
You start at the well in the center and move to the meadow and the castle before anywhere else unlocks.

Anyone can play because the game values choice. The Main Story is always accompanied by side quests from various characters, allowing players to complete tasks in a mostly nonlinear order. The biggest exception is when character require a higher Friendship level with someone else before their quest can be continued. Dreamlight Valley’s hub world begins small and expands as quests are completed. This keeps new players from becoming overwhelmed by a huge map at the beginning of the game, but it keeps enough characters in each section to keep from stagnating.

Though the game is not voiced over, characters can be heard cycling through a few phrases when players interact with them. The voice actors are similar to the originals, and music appropriate to the character plays in the background. Disney Dreamlight Valley includes a stream-friendly mode which automatically mutes copyrighted music. The graphics are not the best, but they are equivalent to a standard MMO. On the Switch version, there have been no frame drops, and the few glitches were aesthetic in nature.

The best part of this game is the character customization. Like most recent cozy games, Disney Dreamlight Valley offers an abundance of customization options. Instead of asking male or female, it asks for body type A or B. While one of them feels more feminine and the other more masculine, those labels are nonexistent, allowing people to better identify with their true selves. I did not notice the skin color variations, but the hairstyles had an abundance of straight, kinky, short, and long looks. They were also not divided into male/female styles, but all were available for all body types. Plus-sized characters look natural within the game’s graphics, instead of bloated or wrong.

What’s This? What’s This? (The Cons)

Because this is a cozy game, Disney Dreamlight Valley has limited gameplay, meaning certain pieces of the game should be optimized to relax the player. Unfortunately, this was not my experience. Players have an energy bar which depletes when doing nearly any task, including banishing darkness and gathering ingredients. Most mobile games use energy bars to encourage players to take a break from their screen. However, this energy bar can be refilled with food, similar to the stamina bars of RPGs. At the beginning of the game, players can accomplish tasks for about five minutes before needing to eat. If one has no food, they must wait until the bar replenishes naturally.

Guy and Mickey
Photo mode has various expressions for your avatar.

This necessitates keeping ingredients and/or meals ready in the inventory, which is small. Disney Dreamlight Valley revolves around fetch quests, and one would think the best option is to collect everything and wait for it to be useful. Most quests require a specific item which can only be found in a certain area of the map; and the Valley is full of varying types of fruits, berries, and flowers. A small backpack means players must pick and choose what they carry, instead of being prepared for any situation. Reward items, like furniture and clothing, take up extra space until they are “used,” which moves them into the correct collection. With area-specific flora, necessary food, and unsellable items, the inventory fills too quickly.

Accomplishing a multitude of tasks in one session and gathering large amounts of ingredients seem counterintuitive in this game, except for the Badges. Badges are like tokens which can increase the player’s level. They require the protagonist to interact with the world in a certain way, such as finding a specific flower 100 times or cooking the first four star meal. These Badges are sometime required to progress the Main Story, which is difficult with limited energy and a small backpack. The rewards (small amounts of money, cosmetic items, or things found in the world) do not feel worth the effort.

Moana and her boat
Why Should I Worry? (Conclusion)

That last line tends to sum up my experience of Disney Dreamlight Valley – the rewards are not worth the effort. In my own playthrough, I hit a wall; none of my quests were playable until I levelled up the Friendship of three different characters. Instead of learning about their lives through meaningful interactions and dialogue (which only opens once a day), I gave them weeds and sticks because they were plentiful in my tiny inventory and gifts were the best option available to me. Only then was I able to play the game again as it was intended.

Disney Dreamlight Valley includes a great character customization option and a dreamy escape from the drudges of adult life. The gameplay is easy, but its details may make the experience frustrating and difficult. It delivers nothing new to the cozy genre. However, if you are looking for a way to waste time and unwind after a long shift or if you want to escape into the world of your childhood, Disney Dreamlight Valley might just be the perfect thing.

Review copy generously provided.

The Bottom Line

 

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a typical cozy game that offers nothing new but is resplendent with nostalgia. While it doesn't respect your time, it makes a great time waster.

 

6

Courtney Floyd

Courtney has loved reading since she was a child. Kid's books, YA, memoirs, comics, graphic novels, manga, anything. She also loves bingeing anime, keeping up with her favorite shows like Star Trek, and playing video games. She has two dogs named Kora and Crash (after the Airbender series and Crash Bandicoot, respectively).

Leave a Comment