By Tanner Dedmon
Disney Dreamlight Valley is the sort of game where once you hear about it and see it, you’ll wonder how and why it hasn’t already been made before. If it were a simple life-simulation game where you created an avatar and piddled about with different Disney and Pixar characters while talking with them and doing activities like fishing, that’d probably be plenty enough to rope in Disney fans who’d spend hours and hours with the game considering how it’s already going to be free-to-play. But on top of all that, Disney Dreamlight Valley has an interesting adventure element to it, too, which feels like a vital thread used to connect various endeavors and retain players.
These takeaways come after attending a hands-off demo presentation of the game piloted by game manager Manea Castet who showed off Disney Dreamlight Valley throughout various stages of progression. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was naturally the first game that sprung to mind when considering what a Disney-wrapped life-sim game might look like, but between the time I first heard about the game and the time I saw it, I realized I’d underestimated the draw that Disney characters would have to make this more than an Animal Crossing lookalike.
Discover the magic that memories hold as you explore new rich stories in a village of your own design alongside Disney/Pixar Heroes and Villains in this new life-sim adventure game.
Welcome to #DisneyDreamlightValley #LiveMagically and Wishlist today – https://t.co/SNqX72g8HS pic.twitter.com/sVkIsOHyWZ
This became evident through one of the first Disney character interactions showcased. It dealt with Merlin, a character who’s by no means restricted to Disney alone but one that was unmistakably the same character from The Sword in the Stone. That movie came out decades ago, and the fact that Gameloft placed him so early on in the game showed a commitment to Disney characters and franchises overall, not just “new Disney” which was one concern dispelled already as someone who’s attachment to the Disney characters has lessened through the years. From Merlin to Wall-E to Moana, it was evident that Disney Dreamlight Valley was pulling from the annuls of Disney’s vast roster of properties.
But with so many characters to pick from, how does Gameloft begin to choose who gets in, who’s added later, and who’s omitted entirely? During the presentation, Castet showed a “Collection” menu keeping up with different collectibles cataloging players’ encounters. It showed 18 characters as the cap for that particular category, and while Castet didn’t give a specific number, he said that was the range they were targeting for the game’s launch with more to be added in the future. When asked if Disney properties like Star Wars and Marvel would make appearances, Castet had no comment at the time but suggested that Gameloft would be focusing more on the classic, traditional Disney characters.
Some of these Disney characters task players with simple objectives like cleaning up the area and going on fishing trips while others are encountered through a nifty “Realms” feature. It’s through these Realms housed in a castle that players will find their Disney favorites and through which more content will be added in the future. One Realm shown saw the player heading to Wall-E’s world to help the skittish robot get back up and running with Wall-E later making an appearance in the Dreamlight Valley hub world once his mission was completed. Between those recruitment efforts and the more traditional life-sim tasks of cleaning up different biomes and making your living area hospitable, it quickly became apparent how the hub world would end up looking like the decorated, busy versions of the world shown when Castet fast-forwarded to a slice of gameplay shown 30-40 and then 60 hours into the game.
That hub area looked suspiciously accommodating for not just the player and their Disney pals but other real-world players, too. It’s large, encompasses numerous biomes, and only gets bigger the more you progress through the main story and unlock regions of the map and structures. Also, who wants to customize their world and place everything just so if not to show it off to someone else? Castet said there were plans for multiplayer in the future but that nothing was being announced at this time.
Realm-hopping and befriending aside, Disney Dreamlight Valley’s got its more typical life-sim features to fall back on. It’s got over 1,000 cosmetics for players to collect with Monster, Inc. pillows and Buzz Lightyear attire shown off as examples. If there’s something that’s just not quite fitting the way you want it to, you can also use designs from different Disney properties to create your own custom outfits. That may seem like a small addition, but once multiplayer comes around (however that may be implemented), it’ll hopefully make each avatar feel truly unique.
With any free-to-play game, the monetization element is always one to be wary of. While things can always change as early access and full launches approach, Disney Dreamlight Valley‘s monetization system seems agreeable so far. Star Coins granted through various tasks are used to acquire outfits, house decorations, and other items to round out your inventories while “Dreamlight” is gotten through finishing story missions and is used to unlock new Realms. Castet reiterated more than once that when it comes to time-based activities or the energy system that governs how much a player can do at one time, there’s no way to increase those resources or speed them up via microtransactions.
Disney Dreamlight Valley‘s hybrid approach mixing adventure elements with a life-sim foundation casts a wide net, and if you’re even remotely a Disney fan, it looks to be a net with few holes in it. As someone who’d be more in it for familiar character encounters as opposed to building a world to perfection, the simplicity of the world customization system where you can drag and drop elements across biomes was a welcome sight. For those who are more intent on crafting a world unlike anyone else’s Dreamlight Valley seems to have no shortage of options to do so.
Disney Dreamlight Valley is targeting an early access launch in the summer for PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Xbox One with a full launch planned for 2023.
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