After a short but sweet demo earlier this year, I was finally able to dive into Disney Dreamlight Valley for around five hours, exploring three unique areas and Moana's realm. Being a bit of a Disney nerd, I was excited to catch up with some familiar faces. But is there enough of the questing and life-sim activities to keep me occupied?. To quote the famous mouse himself, oh boy, there sure is.
To get the village up and running, you need to complete quests for Mickey, Goofy, Merlin and Scrooge McDuck. While doing so, you'll discover the Royal Tools—tools like the shovel, pickaxe and watering can—which are essential for completing quests and gathering resources. Oh, and doing some all-important digging, gardening and mining for rare gems.
To say Dreamlight Valley is full-on from the get-go feels like an understatement—the quests never seem to stop. If you do manage to max out the quests for a character's specific friendship level, you can simply ask them to tag along and they'll level up as you fish, farm and remove the night thorns that plague the landscape, keeping the inhabitants of the valley in a forgetful state. Raising friendship levels and completing quests for characters along the way can take hours, but that's not me throwing shade—you will not be left wanting for something to do. If I shut my eyes, I can almost hear the mice singing "keep-a busy Cinderelley".
Removing night thorns yields Star Coins, seeds and other resources you can use to craft new items and more. It is very relaxing—and fast—to plant seeds, water and harvest their yield, especially when you unlock the cooking stove. There are dozens of recipes and ingredients you can discover as you explore new biomes, unlocked by finding mysterious orbs. You can whip up fancy snacks to restore your energy levels, sell or gift to friends to boost your friendship level. Sharing is caring, after all.
I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
You'll need to spend a good few hours completing quests and visiting a new realm to recruit characters like Moana if you want to free the Orb of Friendship from the night thorns. To do this, you'll need to collect a slightly less obvious resource: Dreamlight. You can collect Dreamlight by completing tasks, such as planting X number of seeds, reaching level three friendship with three characters or simply harvesting fruit. Turning in these collections via the menu or the Dreamlight Well in the centre of the village will help generate Dreamlight, which will allow you to destroy particularly large and stubborn night thorns. You'll need to collect a substantial amount to unlock the Dream Castle and realms, and then free the orbs.
The Dreamlight system is easy to miss if you avoid Merlin or don't access the Collections menu. By generating enough and going off in search of new pals, you'll unlock the orb which is key to opening up new areas to explore and unlocking those ever-useful fast travel stations. Don't expect to get them for free, though—Scrooge McDuck has a monopoly over everything useful.
The crafting and life-sim elements are on point in Dreamlight Valley. Again, crafting tables are easy to miss, but you can drag and drop literally anything and put it anywhere on the map, within reason. Moana might want a house by the sea, but she'll be happy with a home slap bang in the centre of the village until you unlock Dazzle Beach. Alongside ready-made costumes and clothes, you can also design your own. Naturally, I decided to make a dress with a tiger on it in order to be painfully on brand. As promised in the demo, you can change everything about how your character looks on a whim.
It distracts from the now
Dreamlight Valley was designed to have a lengthy and complicated story but, unfortunately, the first few hours let it down as the characters constantly repeat themselves about forgetting things due to the aptly named Forgettening event. Fortunately, it's quite easy to skip past most of the dialogue and get back to harvesting corn or spending your well-earned cash on spooky furniture at Scrooge McDuck's store. You'll soon discover a shadowy figure who seems to be behind all the chaos, though who or what they are remains to be seen.
Ultimately, Dreamlight Valley is poised to have more areas to explore, characters to meet and, quite simply, way more things to do than in Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. Even before its 'full' release next year, there are plenty of quests and activities you can grind for rewards, or maybe you want to go on a mega friendship hunt and explore as many of the Dream Castle's realms as possible. Already it feels like the perfect game for those who want a long-term gaming commitment, which should be welcome news for those waiting for any big RPG releases (thanks for being delayed, Starfield) as well as those who want something they can pop in and out of at their leisure.
Besides, who doesn't want to listen to a little twinkly version of How Far I'll Go?