Disney Dreamlight Valley Preview: A Charming Fantasy

At first blush, Disney Dreamlight Valley seems to have a relatively simple core concept: what if Animal Crossing but Disney and free to play? The upcoming adventure and life-simulation video game essentially tasks players with restoring the world of Dreamlight Valley to greatness with a number of classic tropes. This time, however, there are a number of Disney and Pixar characters along for the ride, and it makes for a charming experience that's admittedly a bit hard to really gauge without its monetization implemented.

The premise of Disney Dreamlight Valley sees players leaving the city they live in and returning to an idyllic childhood meadow of sorts before falling asleep. This transports them to Dreamlight Valley following a fairly robust character creation, where Merlin is running about trying to deal with all of the problems currently plaguing the place.

Dreamlight Valley once had a magnificent Ruler, you see, and they brought together all sorts of Disney and Pixar characters like Mickey Mouse, Moana, Remy, WALL-E, and more to live and play together. But those days are in the past, and the current state of Dreamlight Valley is dismal. There's been an event called "The Forgetting" where all of the characters that used to hang around have split up and largely forgotten everything – including who that mysterious Ruler was in the first place.

And so the player must return Dreamlight Valley to greatness once again. That involves getting rid of pesky Night Thorns infesting the place (which requires simply running up to them and poofing them away with a small fraction of energy) and working with characters like Scrooge and Goofy to once again open up their shops. Fighting the Forgetting is simply reforging those characters' bonds, leveling up their individual friendships, and working together to take on simple quests using tools like a watering can, fishing pole, shovel, and pickaxe.

(Photo: Gameloft)

While it sounds simple in theory, there are plenty of complex systems just under the surface. Doing any action requires energy, which replenishes over time or can be regained through eating or resting. Buying things and opening shops requires Star Coins, which can be gained through selling items, found while removing the aforementioned Night Thorns, and more. Quests are often locked behind becoming better friends with characters, which can be accomplished through doing tasks for them or simply giving them gifts. And certain specific quests like opening up other sections of Dreamlight Valley requires Dreamlight itself as a resource.

If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is, but Disney Dreamlight Valley is far from stingy with all of these resources in the early hours. Getting Mickey to friendship level 3, for example, came with a bonus of 500 Star Coins. Dreamlight can be earned through quests or challenges, which range from harvesting fruit a certain number of times to taking a photo to equipping a new outfit. At no point did I ever feel like I had to grind or scrounge for materials as there was always some method of earning it with some sort of task that was immediately available to me.

(Photo: Gameloft)

It is worth noting that all of these systems seem a lot less malicious in part because the video game's battle pass – called Star Path – was not implemented in the preview build on PC. The game is eventually going to be free to play for, but will sell Founder's Packs "filled with exclusive goodies such as in-game currency, cosmetic items, and more," according to Gameloft. These will also grant entry to the Early Access launch, as will an Xbox Game Pass subscription. To top it off, there will be "purchasable expansion options," though it is unclear what that looks like at the moment.

That said, Gameloft's Manea Castet, Game Manager on Disney Dreamlight Valley, has previously said in no uncertain terms that time-based activities and energy that determines how much a player can actually do at any given time cannot be increased or sped up through microtransactions. That seems to imply that classic in-game purchases for real money that so often riddle other free-to-play video games won't be involved at all.

(Photo: Gameloft)

Disney Dreamlight Valley, at least in its current form, feels charming and simple enough. There's cooking, crafting, and decoration galore, and plenty of Disney and Pixar characters for kids and Disney-obsessed adults to interact with. Honestly, the combination of Disney with these sorts of Animal Crossing-like mechanics feels almost overdue, and if that's ultimately all Disney Dreamlight Valley turns out to be, it will have succeeded.

Disney Dreamlight Valley is set to release in Early Access on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 6th. It is also set to release on iOS. A full release is set for 2023. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming Disney life-sim and adventure video game right here.