Disney Dreamlight Valley is best described as Disney's take on Animal Crossing, as the entire game revolves around rebuilding what was once a thriving, beautiful town full of friendly neighbours and magical places.
With the lack of proper competition for Animal Crossing, it's easy to go into every new life sim game with a tinge of scepticism, as most of them seem to fail at capturing what makes the franchise so cosy and welcoming. And although I had many layers of it going into the game (with a healthy dose of excitement and hope mixed in), Disney Dreamlight Valley slowly peeled away at them with every magical reveal.
One of the biggest flaws in life sims is that most of them feel empty in one way or another; whether the characters are a bit bland, or the mechanics implemented are essentially just empty or shallow, it always feels like there's something more that could have been done. In Disney Dreamlight Valley, I found myself surprised at the amount of freedom and customisation I had at every turn of the corner. Whether it's the ability to change from male to female freely, change the way your character looks, or even just move nearly everything in the town, there's nothing I found myself wishing for that hadn't already been added.
Additionally, by the tenth hour on the Early Access, I was yet to discover every aspect of the game. There are a ton of things to do, especially if you're into taking your time with decoration. Aside from the main story (which serves as a tutorial as well as a means to unlock many aspects), you can also do side missions, farming, decorating, fishing, foraging, and achievement-hunting. That's not counting levelling up your friendship with the villagers to get different unique items themed after them and unlock more friendship missions!
My biggest fear was that, because the game has so many different mechanics, most of them would feel empty or unfinished, as it's so common in big games (especially life simulators). However, every new feature I explored left me satisfied with what I could do: the portals to unlock the characters all felt unique and fun, the friendship system is full of charm and personality, the decorating offers an enormous amount of freedom, and there's a mindblowing amount of things to collect.
Another feature I thought might leave us wanting was the clothing, as oftentimes, games will make the premium ones infinitely better than the free ones. Although some of the items are a bit on the bland side with just a single colour, they're not ugly, and they fit perfectly with the more heavily themed ones. And, if you fancy making your own clothes, there's also the option to collect motifs to do just that. The battle pass system helps collect said motifs, along with many other Disney- and Pixar-themed decorations.
Despite it being Early Access, the game is surprisingly smooth in its running; I barely found any glitches and never experienced any lag, which I was grateful for as I loved exploring the village. There's something magical about walking around a town you've decorated and catching Goofy just staring out into the meadows or Merlin sitting at one of the benches enjoying the day. With the charming graphics, it's also easy to catch yourself appreciating the afternoon sunlight.
All in all, Disney Dreamlight Valley is doing a fantastic job at crafting a world that feels fit for Disney fans. From befriending villagers of nostalgic characters to decorating awesome spaces, it's heading in the right direction.