Ever since Stardew Valley – a sort of fan redoing of Harvest Moon – came out, there has been a resurgence of those types of games. One that picked up even more not in the immediate wake of Stardew Valley but as the game didn’t lose steam months and even years later. We have seen a lot of games use a similar formula. Move into an area, have certain tasks you can perform, get to know the NPCs in that area, and slowly develop your world. My Time at Portia, Garden Story, and even Slime Rancher to an extent. None of these games are rip-offs of each other, but they all bring the same sort of vibe and cozy gaming for the player. Well, Disney has decided to get into the mix with their game Dreamlight Valley. I noticed it was on Game Pass and decided to give it a go.
Before we get into the meat of the post, I want to note that I have not finished this game. I mean, first, it’s pretty clear updates are coming that will expand on the game, but I have also yet to finish even what’s already there. I have gotten fairly far into it, though, and it’s the sort of game that you don’t necessarily need to “beat” – or even really totally can – in order to get it. With that…
Dreamlight Valley starts off like Stardew Valley. You create your character, and then that character needs to “get away from the city and the grind.” They return to an old cottage they used to frequent that is in disarray and lay down to read. You are then in Dreamlight Valley and greeted by Merlin.
Merlin explains that long ago, the valley was ruled by a benevolent leader, and everybody got along, even villains, and were in harmony and balance. But the ruler left, and “The Forgetting” happened. Thorns overgrew the valley, characters disappeared, and those remaining are struggling to remember each other, themselves, and who the ruler was.
It’s not hard to piece together that the game is an allegory for aging. You find, not too long in, that you were the ruler, something that I think most people will put together before then. You can also link the “thrones” and “overgrown nature” of the valley to how the cottage that you haven’t been back to in so many years looked.
You are Christopher Robin, who grew up and left. It’s not unexpected, but it’s still well done. They do play up the mystery a bit more than I think will land for most people. Although the game is really more about gameplay and interaction with Disney characters, so it’s fine that the broader mystery is not perfectly executed – and is again still good –
Gameplay is solid. You fish, mine, dig up stuff, cook, farm, etc., all the fun but casual activities you expect from a game like this. You also develop friendships with characters, and they can have a “skill,” so they get extra points when you do the activity with them. So Goofy, who in canon likes to fish, I picked fishing for. When I “hang out” with Goofy, I get friendship experience for everything I do while he’s following me around, but more for when we fish together.
As you play, you slowly unlock more characters and areas. There are a variety of characters from different movies in Disney’s history. You, of course, have Donald, Goofy, and Mickey. You also have a few villains and heroes, both from Disney and Pixar. I was a bit surprised at the focus on modern movies, though. It makes sense because they are the ones more currently on people’s minds. However, the game is definitely trying to appeal to both young people but also older people like me. There is a lot of nostalgia happening in this game, and again the overarching plot is about growing up but coming back. While all of that will appeal to young people, there is clearly a pull for millennials and the like, so I suppose I expected a bit more balance in older characters vs. new ones. That being said, there are, of course, a few older characters there. Scar is by far one of the best and darkly hilarious. The characters overall are pretty decent. Donald really leans into old-school bad temper Donald which I like. Mother Gothel is horribly passive-aggressive, which you expect. They manage to bring in what you know of each character pretty well. Some land better than others for me, but that’s the nature of Disney.
The game is fun and ultimately bittersweet. There are sad moments and the realities of lost childhood that are a theme overall. Mostly though, it keeps things focused on the fun you are having and the developing friendships the character makes with everybody. It has just enough of the sadder themes that it’s not just “hey, live in Disney land,” but not so much that it takes away from the wholesome fun the game provides.
Bottom line? If you like Disney and you like these types of games, I strongly recommend. It’s easy to pick up and play; after going overboard for the first few days, I would put an hour or two in every day and really kept my enjoyment up. There is a lot to do, and it’s pretty fun. The game is also really forgiving and not too much of a challenge which will appeal to all age groups and skills. As a for instance, sell off all of a certain type of mineral and then need it for a quest? Great mineral rocks regrow quickly, and it shouldn’t take you too long to replace them. It’s an enjoyable, relaxing, sweet game that manages to bring a lot of nostalgia in the best ways. If you have Game Pass, even more of a reason to give it a try.