PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Every year millions of people around the world flock to Disney theme parks for the experience of spotting beloved characters and taking in the aesthetics and rides that let them relive their favorite films. The wonder and excitement of stepping into a Disney-infused world is unmatched – a childhood rite of passage and way for adults to recapture a part of their younger selves.
Gameloft wants to bring that feeling into the gaming world with its recently announced free-to-play game Disney Dreamlight Valley. The life-simulation adventure game lets you create your own avatar and design your own world, where you’ll interact with iconic characters and find nods to the Disney and Pixar classics in the items and structures around you. I recently saw a demo for Dreamlight Valley and chatted with the team behind it, and it has a lot of potential. Here’s what you need to know about the experience that’s launching sometime in 2023 for all major consoles, PC, and Mac.
You can think of Disney Dreamlight as a hybrid experience. You have the main narrative path where you discover why the world fell into darkness and its inhabitants lost their memories. Every objective you complete provides a picture as a hint to guide you in piecing together what happened. This also includes discovering why you’re the chosen one to bring this world from its desolate state into a thriving landscape.
"We have that whole overarching meta-narrative where the player is discovering their purpose and saving the valley," explains senior product marketing manager Claire Llewellyn. "They also have the storyline around building friendships with characters for the story arcs. And thirdly, they also have the whole realm story arcs to discover – the adventure aspect that they're going on."
While engaging with the main story, you can expect it to play much like an adventure game, with mysteries and puzzles to solve. Gameloft compared it to LucasArts games like Monkey Island and Indiana Jones. From what we saw, various portals to Disney and Pixar worlds exist, and you’ll have tasks to complete within these to restore characters’ memories and bring them back into the world. For instance, we had to locate some hidden items and move trash piles to get the goods to repair Wall-E. Once we did this, we not only unlocked new story clues but Wall-E was brought back into our world as a character living out their own life in it.
The other part of the game is the life simulation aspect. Think of a cross between The Sims and Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon. You are very much cleaning up this world and unlocking various biomes, such as a meadow and beach, which will advance the main story. Gameloft says it will take between 40 and 60 hours just to unlock all these areas in the game.
In addition, you're also putting your own mark on it by designing it as your place. You have your own avatar you can customize and a house you can decorate as well. Activities litter the world for you to engage in, such as harvesting crops, mining materials, fishing, taming animals, and even designing your own clothes. Cooking and crafting recipes are aplenty, so you’re always working toward creating something new to either give as gifts or use to decorate the world.
Gameloft drew inspiration for the game by challenging its team to think, “What would it mean to be living next door to Disney characters?” Beyond the main narrative, the team crafted unique stories for a multitude of big-name characters, who will casually walk around your world as you unlock them through the main story. Speaking with characters every day should net you new dialogue, and they all have their own A.I. schedules and behaviors. A bonus? Gameloft is also working with Disney's voice team, so the voiced dialogue feels true to the characters.
Inspired by RPGs, every character also has a friendship level to showcase your bond and progress in their personal storylines. In my demo, Goofy asked for help finding his missing fishing rod, a nod to the character’s love for the activity. Once we located it in the world, our friendship improved with the anthropomorphic dog.
Every new friendship level you reach with a character gives you perks, such as new objects or decorations. You can build your friendship faster by giving characters gifts, so crafting items or cooking dishes for them is to your benefit – just keep in mind everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Once you reach certain friendship tiers, you get more of the unique story Gameloft crafted for the character.
Part of the experience is obviously about expressing yourself and putting your unique touch on the world. You're always evolving the landscape, taking it from a dark desolate place to a vibrant populous. Watching various Disney and Pixar characters move into your world is a big highlight, but so are all the new items you can unlock and craft that exude the Disney spirit.
So far, the game has 1,000 decoration items, allowing you to create everything from a Monsters Inc-themed living room to a Little Mermaid-centric bathroom. Part of making your own avatar is creating your own individuality with your clothing. Gameloft wanted players to express themselves as Disney fans just like you see people at parks with their attire. You can design or purchase your own outfits, focusing on unique hats, masks, glasses, and more. In my demo, I saw everything from a winter Buzz Lightyear jacket to Elsa's iconic blue Frozen gown.
A photo mode allows you to share your fun creations and experiences with others, but the game is still being worked on, so time will tell if Gameloft adds a feature for you to visit other friends’ worlds or download their designs.
"We have many plans for multiplayer interaction, but at the Early Access launch, we won't have this kind of interaction yet," says game manager Manea Castet.
With any free-to-play game, this is always the burning question, and it's something Gameloft is still figuring out. However, the team was adamant that microtransactions would focus more on cosmetics.
"We made sure the monetization side of the game is being built during Early Access with our players to make sure that they like it," Castet says. "The strategy now is to make sure it's all about customization. We will have a system to unlock new outfits and new decorations that you can speed up with real money if you want. There is no way to speed up your gameplay, speed up your progress, or unlock a new area by spending real money."
During the game, you will earn currency by doing different things in the world and reaching certain milestones but you cannot spend real money to unlock it. This currency can then be used to do things like increase inventory space and buy new decorations.
With all the Disney worlds and characters at its disposal, Gameloft has a lot of content to draw from and sees the game as having a long tail. Early Access will merely be the start of what's in store.
"At Early Access, we're going to have four doors [to Disney and Pixar realms] unlocked," Llewellyn confirms. "We're going to be unlocking additional doors for free for players. There's a lot more coming and a lot more IP from Disney and Pixar that we're going to be adding in the months and years to come."
Those who want an early taste of the experience can play it in Early Access this summer. Here, Gameloft will be monitoring the community feedback and learning more about what you want from the game as it builds the final version of it. You can join Early Access by purchasing a Founders Pack or by being an Xbox Game Pass member. As an early adopter, you'll earn exclusive in-game awards, which will carry over when the full game releases in 2023.
For more information, visit the official website.