Dinkum, My Time at Sandrock, Catizens - just a few examples of recent life sims hitting the already crowded market. In the recent genre boom since the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, many developers have tried their hand at the farming and small town, feel-good simulation model, with varying results. Now, with the release of Dreamlight Valley into early access, media giant Disney joins the fray.
Disney Dreamlight Valley sees you take on the role of protagonist and savior of the eponymous Dreamlight Valley, on a mission to restore the dark and tortured land to the splendid paradise it once was. Doing so involves farming, magic, quests, and crafting, among other things. Unlike Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, Dreamlight Valley has a fairly strong overarching plot to it, and one that you must follow in order to unlock new areas of the valley, new friends, and new items.
Unfortunately, this is still a Disney game, so what you see is what you get. While even the trailer teases that you’ll be able to make friends with villains, there’s no real character development for anyone and it’s not like Remy is going to abandon his restaurant dreams and suddenly develop a taste for tyranny. For better or for worse, the game centers around the Disney characters and locations that you already know and love and doesn’t really deviate much from the formula. Even your own protagonist is fairly bland, and though you have different options for dialogue responses, they’re still a happy, vanilla Disney stand-in.
The gameplay itself is fine but also doesn’t boast much originality. Building on genre staples, the game encourages farming, exploring, making friends, cooking, and crafting, but doesn’t really add anything new to any of the mechanics. If you’re already a fan of the way other games in the genre have tackled these tasks, you’ll be retreading familiar ground in Dreamlight Valley. The game walks you through the tutorial at the beginning to get you started with all you need to do if you do happen to be unfamiliar. Again, for better and for worse, all of the mechanics are basic and easy to grasp, and the game lets you consult tutorials whenever you need them, which is a plus.
Dreamlight Valley’s overarching plot should be what sets it apart from other life sims but instead is what brings it firmly in line with dozens of other Disney games. See, Dreamlight Valley used to be prosperous, then the ruler disappeared and The Forgetting set in, now you have to clear the evil thorns out of the valley and help the denizens remember their lives. This also happens to be extremely similar to the plot used in Epic Mickey, Disney Magic Kingdoms, heck the whole “pushing back the darkness” is even used in Kingdom Hearts. It’s simply not original, it’s been done so many times that it’s turning into a Disney cliché.
If you’re looking for Animal Crossing with Disney Characters, congratulations! You’re in the right place. If you’re looking for a life sim that adds something new to the genre or a Disney game that takes on characters and themes in fresh and unique ways, you are most definitely out of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit on that. That being said, Disney Dreamlight Valley is definitely charming in its own way, and those who are established fans of the genre or looking to just cram more Disney into their lives will have some Fun and Fancy Free while exploring the Valley and collecting its citizens to bring them back to their friends.
TechRaptor previewed Disney Dreamlight Valley on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It will be launching for PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and iOS on September 6, 2022 in Early Access.