When Disney Dreamlight Valley was announced, I found its crossover parts of Disney, the farm life simulation genre, and a free-to-play model exciting. With a fair game economy and gameplay that keeps genre fans coming back, the Animal Crossing genre could have the potential to become a hit with players of all ages – but this microtransaction issue loomed large. After spending an hour with Gameloft’s development team and checking out a hands-on demo, I’m heartened to have seen a payment model with no uncomfortable caveats, which makes me more confident that Dreamlight Valley will be well populated with fans. gender and brand. .
At first glance, Dreamlight Valley seems like your typical farm life sim – even its name seems determined to bring to mind images from Stardew Valley, one of the genre’s most beloved games. I arrived at my demo wanting to know if this other valley could provide a similar mix of relaxing game mechanics such as farming, mining, and socializing. It does all of those things, but to my surprise, it does a whole lot more – things that seem particularly suited to what a Disney take on the genre might be.
Apart from farming, Gameloft says a whole second piece of this game is inspired by the adventure genre. The world of Dreamlight Valley is quite large – I wasn’t given a size but it seems much larger than the town in Animal Crossing. There are also other “realms” you travel to to help beloved Disney and Pixar characters on their quests. In one example I saw, the player went to visit WALL-E and helped the eco-friendly robot clean up trash, plant trees, and spruce up a world inspired by a city’s trash pile. movie planet.
The size of this kingdom seemed small, but I found it to be a smart extra touch, and the team intends to continually add new Disney characters to the game over time. The early access period kicks off this summer, and even before version 1.0 launches about a year later, Gameloft says players can expect more realms to be added for free on a regular basis. A house full of doors leading to the WALL-E realm and other future realms was the size of a mansion, with each door decorated with tantalizing symbols hinting at characters and series to come later.
For seasoned players, these quests will likely seem straightforward. Gameloft designed them to offer fewer hints than you’d expect, seemingly looking for a hard-to-find middle ground for players of all ages and skill levels who will be drawn into this type of experience. What I love about these realms is that they serve as recruitment missions. My demo moved to a later time when WALL-E was no longer in its own realm, but rather a neighbor.
Like in Animal Crossing, people often move into town, but unlike Nintendo’s juggernaut, Gameloft says its sandbox world and numerous biomes will have enough space to house any characters that move in, at least for a good while. moment. Rather than kicking people out of town to land your dream neighbor, players will have real estate available for all heroes and villains recruited into the kingdom. The team predicts that won’t eventually be the case, but adds that global expansions are planned to accommodate an ever-growing population of beloved characters.
The “meta-narrative” of the game, as Gameloft put it, is that the townspeople fell victim to something called The Forgetting, causing widespread amnesia among the characters and giving you a mystery to solve between recipe mastery episodes, fishing and harvesting. At a base game level, this oblivion is displayed in the form of storm clouds and spiky purple vines, which players can dig up like weeds in similar games. Your job is to spruce up the world to its former glory, but because you often invite new characters into town and unlock new furniture, clothes, and more, you’ll make it your own as well.
These customization options seemed massive. A look at the collection menu suggested that all furniture already totaled almost 1,100 in-game, along with over 150 crafting blueprints, over 160 meals, and almost 700 clothing items. Not only will more properties introduce new characters to the world, but their cosmetics will come with them, including an in-game store run by Scrooge McDuck – the game’s Tom Nook analogue – which features a regularly changing selection of inspired styles. by heroes and villains.
You can also design your own clothes layer by layer, like in Animal Crossing. One endgame multi-level house I visited included themed rooms for Monsters Inc., Tangled, and more. Collectively, it feels like Gameloft has covered all the basic genres fans hope for, while adding more story content than they ever imagined.
Although the dialogue is not fully voiced, each character emits voice lines as you pass them. They also each have their own AI schedules and behaviors, meaning a stroll through town can see Goofy fishing in a nearby pond, Ariel sunbathing on the beach, and Scar resting his treacherous paws in the biome. inspired by The Lion King. It’s funny how the characters are made to scale, which means they’re not the Buzz Lightyear and Prince Eric mascots you’ll see around town; it’s really them – and the humorous size difference that comes with them. Each character distributes rewards as you increase your friendship level with them, adding extra time to a campaign, according to Gameloft, it will take players over 40 hours even if you don’t max out your relationships with everyone .
With daily things to do and new friends to make all the time, it’s a live service. Gameloft says co-op plans are underway, although the game is launching as a single-player experience. While early iterations of Dreamlight Valley only feature Disney and Pixar characters, the team says the door isn’t closed to adding other Disney properties like Marvel and Star Wars. Time will tell if all the promises will be kept and the full potential realized, but in theory it seems designed to garner the post-launch support that Animal Crossing fans have been starving for.
The hands-on previews come with caveats, including the simple fact that I haven’t played it myself yet, but I’ve seen the game from many angles and can’t wait to see more. The art direction is beautiful, as you can tell based on the screenshots, and it seems designed to reward long and short sessions like the best of the genre do.
The only major question I had – what would the game economy look like? – received an encouraging response. In Disney Dreamlight Valley, there are no timers or things of that nature. You cannot spend money to speed up the growth of your crops or reinvigorate your character. These mechanics are often seen in mobile games, a space Gameloft is no stranger to, but the team assured me that they won’t be present here.
In their place will be optional customization options, like clothing and furniture. New Realms will be free for all players, and while some cosmetics will be paid for with real money, others use a currency that you can only earn by playing the game, clearly separating free items and paying. The team also has plans for a Battle Pass-like seasonal rewards chain, and paid expansions are also in the works, though the team isn’t ready to talk about what those include yet – the planet Hoth, perhaps?
This begs the question of what kind of a ratio between free and paid items there will be, not to mention what those prices will look like, but at least for now the catch I was expecting regarding Disney Dreamlike Valley doesn’t seem not be a gift. As long as this real-money system is reasonably priced and doesn’t lock all the best rewards behind the cash register, the rest of Dreamlike Valley has all the marks of a future favorite genre, and more than likely the gateway to many Disney fans. in the game.
Disney Dreamlight Valley launches in early access on PC and Xbox Game Pass this summer, ahead of a possible release on Switch and PlayStation as well.
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