I’m embarrassed to say that I love Disney Dreamlight Valley. It is certainly the least cool new game I’ll play all year (as compared to indie darlings NORCO and Citizen Sleeper, for example). But it’s a delight nonetheless, partially because it’s easy to play, and easy to enjoy.
Not that easy means boring—far from it. Dreamlight Valley features many flagship elements of farming town simulators, with crops to grow, flowers to gather, quests to follow, and buildings to improve.
Disney Dreamlight Valley Is a Strong New Contender in the Farming Sim Genre
People have been quick to compare Dreamlight Valley to Stardew Valley (the titles alone are cause for a raised eyebrow). But the reality is, ConcernedApe’s mega-popular game took heavy inspiration itself from the long-standing Harvest Moon series. Stardew Valley has maintained impressive staying power since its launch in 2016, partially because of the solo developer’s commitment to rolling out patches, ports, and new content. Farming titles as whole have been on the rise with games Ooblets (which I loved in early access), Cozy Grove, and this whole list of farming sims coming out in the next year on Switch alone.
Where Dreamlight Valley differs most from its farming competitors is its focus on making your life easy—via a touch of that Disney magic. You can easily water multiple crops at one time, or speedily replant seeds en masse. Even ridding the world of evil cursed thorns happens with one quick click and a wave of your character’s hands.
Furthermore, you can ask one of your Disney companions to help you out, and even give them a specialty focus in areas like gardening or mining. Building friendships with those characters is a central component of the game, and the game rewards you with friendship points for doing simple tasks (like gathering raspberries) with specific friends (like Merlin).
These choices turn what is honestly an often boring core mechanic in farming games into a purple-and-pink sparkled delight where everything moves forward at once, making it easy to want to stay in the world and propel yourself forward.
Dreamlight also has a significant advantage over Animal Crossing—a series many friends think I’d like but I cannot stand—because while it is aligned to the player’s sunrises and sunsets, it does not limit the player to day cycles. What that means is that, hey, if you want to go harvest 100 apples today, you certainly can. Items grow or respawn at a manageable pace that make it easy to stay in game for hours.
Is Disney Dreamlight Valley a Good Game?
Disney Dreamlight Valley works because it knows you want to binge a game. And not just any game, but an easy game. A comforting game. I was absolutely delighted by the chance to work on a restaurant with Remy from one of my favorite films, Ratatouille. When Mickey told me how about how much he misses his wife Minnie, I knew I was going to do whatever I could to make their reunion a reality. When Merlin showed me a whole castle of realms I was going to visit, I was wowed.
This is where Disney truly shows its mega purchasing power. The game gently reveals more and more of the world, letting you know that you’ll be able to enjoy and build in this world for many hours to come. Disney has seemingly unlimited development resources, and countless beloved franchises. For $30, the game is a bargain in what is officially becoming a $70 landscape.
Disney Dreamlight Valley has a little bit of everything to make a blockbuster farming hit. For the makers out there, there’s a sweet character creator combined with a shockingly detailed custom clothing creator (making it probably a back door candidate for one of the best fashion games on the Switch). Plus, unbarred home décor and city improvement mechanics!
There’s thoughtful custom dialogue with each Disney character. Background music is a running loop of gentle instrumental covers of dozens of classic Disney songs; they’re not distracting, but rather, every few minutes your brain goes, “Oh! That’s nice.” The graphics are impressive even on the Switch (the platform I played on) given the world size; a few bugs here and there, but nothing a quit and restart doesn’t fix. There’s crafting, exploring, making, photographing, questing, bartering. There’s even a fishing mini-game, because of course there is.
Should You Play Disney Dreamlight Valley?
This is an objectively good game. I wish I was cool enough to say that I didn’t even consider buying this game. I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard Disney fan, or anything.
But on a rainy Saturday, sick and coughing and a little sad, I found the ultimate comfort food in Disney Dreamlight Valley. It is a return to childhood for anyone who has fond memories of any Disney film. What’s more, there are themes here of remembering and forgetting, of saving worlds and friends, of bringing light to the dark—familiar fare for anyone who enjoys Kingdom Hearts. The big messages here remind me of the delight I found in that series, but without all the emo teenagers with giant shoes. This is saving friends for the sake of friends, pure and simple.
While Disney Dreamlight Valley is available on a variety of platforms, I think it’s at home on the Nintendo Switch. It’s easy to pick up and play for 10 minutes on the bus or in a hallway, and enjoyable enough to play for hours on an airplane or a couch.
Disney Dreamlight Valley features a robust set of game mechanics and a forgiving pacing that makes it a great choice for actual children or adults who are looking to binge several hours of making apple pies for Mickey Mouse.
I.e., me. I’m making pies. And I love it.
It’s a pile of garbage and incredibly boring. Stop lying.
That’s the wonderful thing about opinions. You’re entitled to yours, and the author’s entitled to hers. No one’s “lying.”