I’ve actually been asked often, both by friends and random people who generally like these types of games, but also had a request for my thoughts at this point after playing for over 100 hours in nearly 2 weeks. As a reminder, the game is in Early Access and so anything I say here could change.
The short version is if you like stuff like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, and Puzzles, I do think you should look into it more as you will probably have a lot of fun with this. Disney is definitely a bonus, but not an end-all be-all– I know people who aren’t super into Disney and have still gotten very into the game just due to liking the genre and getting interested in the story. It’s very much a Life-Sim Puzzle Adventure Game that just happens to feature Disney characters. Knowing things about them maybe help with certain quests or discussions, but isn’t a requirement in any way.
General In-Game Thoughts
For the most part, I am enjoying the game so far, but honestly, it’s Disney, there’s customization elements, and there’s puzzles– it’s no surprise I was interested in the game from the start and obviously, have been excited for a while now. And I think when you’re focusing on story stuff, that’s kind of where the game shines most right now for me, even if the puzzles were a bit simplistic, but it is early game so it’s kind of expected.
If you’re the really creative type, I think you can get a lot out of the Touch of Magic Tool as well with so many shapes and motifs you can unlock, but due to certain issues with it (Such as the “mirroring” option causing the item to duplicate into a new layer after being mirrored– great if you want two different colors, but kind of inconvenient otherwise, especially as if you still want to adjust the positioning, you need to either delete the new layer or move them both separately and hope they’re still lined up), you can hit those 50 layers so quickly.
My dress doesn’t look too fancy, but I still ended up hitting 50 very fast as I unlocked more motifs in the game. There’s maybe a few things I could try adjusting using new tools to get myself some more layers, but I’d worry about ruining the outfit in the process. Kind of makes me wish I could duplicate a design so I could test stuff out on a second one without worry of ruining the first. I know there’s an undo button, but I’m paranoid XP
I would say my biggest issue with the Touch of Magic customization right now is the lack of colors– we have so many more shades and even expanded gradients and stuff on existing clothes, plus more styles (I’d love to have a proper overskirt than just an illusion of one), and god, I’m so sad there’s no nice light pink shade to pick for the outfit/certain patterns– I did my best to make it work with the lightest “pink” they had, but I really wish I could’ve made it nicer.
As for actual furniture/item customization, I wish I could comment more on it, but to be honest, I haven’t done much with it yet. It’s not necessarily due to not wanting to, but due to having trouble deciding what to do. Right now, I’m getting such a random amalgamation of stuff with no idea what to predict (I really wish they showed all the items like how you can see certain other things in the Collection just faded out) so I can’t actually plan out WHAT to make. Plus, we have no house exterior customizations yet and… the yellow house really isn’t very me.
On top of that, despite the general customization, some things are locked (such as ponds or big rocks) and many items (and the villager houses) are huge so fitting them around the few objects that can’t be moved can be a bit harder than expected.
I’m also kind of mixed on how much I want to change. I do feel bad fully like… removing trees and shrubs for more room, so I’m really struggling just what I want to leave alone and what I want to change up. I know that’s not really an issue for a lot of people, but for me I find it a bit overwhelming so I’ve just done… well, barely anything despite having plans for where I wanted to put my character’s house since before the game’s early access began.
It’s also a bit difficult because, so far, some areas in quests have been heavily required based off where something may be located and I’m kind of worried moving something could cause issues in a future quest as the story isn’t complete yet. Obviously, this is issue has hopefully been taken into account, but I worry anyway.
There are also situations like The Forgotten Lands where it’s currently just… entirely covered in fire that I’m sure we’ll be able to remove in the future with some quest, but makes it very hard to do much of anything in. Initially, I also wanted to move all the Villains here (I’m going for some kind of theming, okay??), but even this is impossible because Ursula’s house requires water around it (I kind of hope maybe they can eventually have it so water is just stuck to the bottom so you can place it other places) and Mother Gothel is currently living in the big tree in the Glade of Trust. Maybe she’ll move out eventually.
It’s hard for me to really just plan out as I go and I really need to be able to plan ahead and have some idea of what I have to work with to properly make things work so being stuck in this state of unknowing just has had me more or less leaving everything alone beyond placing new houses, many of which I may move again once I get the ball rolling a bit here.
If I do get everything currently possible done, I may start at least making some progress to moving things like I hoped?? But it’s just hard to figure out what I want to do and set things up when I not only don’t know what is currently available (and who knows what else is to come), but also can’t make some things I do want to like the lovely path I’d love to make, but can’t because Alexandrite isn’t in the game yet ;~; I’ll have to mine a lot…
But as for what I have left to do right now… I would say, that ties into my biggest frustration with the game: The Grind is awful. At later levels, you will be crafting and gathering a lot of resources– Hundreds of Iron Ore to make into Iron Ingots (which you then need to make into Tinkering parts), Hundreds of Stone, Wood, Clay, etc. to make various items to proceed in quests… Even Seaweed, which you may get sick of fishing up, is actually used for various crafting materials in the making of Fiber (and balancing it as the favorite food for Sea Turtles as well).
As many of you may be familiar with here, I hate crafting, so needing to constantly have so many items on hand and in such large amounts is exhausting. It sucks just spending hours just smacking rocks and digging into the ground to constantly farm resources. Storage is also a huge problem with chests only being able to hold 16 items each (only your one in-house chest seems to actually upgrade in size) and honestly, even if they eventually add storage expansions, I don’t want a bazillion chests holding different things and trying to keep track. Cooking and Crafting shows they can keep track of EVERYTHING across every chest– let me do that with storing and grabbing things so I don’t have to make a map to keep track of my chests. Especially when items can only go up to 50 or 99 and you need more than that stack amount to even make certain things, it just becomes even more frustrating. If I can’t hold the amount of an item you’re asking me for to craft in a single stack, maybe it’s way too many required for a single item.
The only real positive for me with it is that with crafted furniture, if you have it in your inventory (and I hope they do fix this to make it so it notices items placed too– I’m assuming it’s just a bug right now that it does not), you can then buy more from Scrooge. And when you just made a Clocktower that takes 200+ of various materials to make and you can just buy it for like 13,000 Gold from Scrooge, it is genuinely a relief.
Unfortunately, that grind is where I’m stuck for many reasons:
- Memories – I really like the memory system in theory. I think it’s fun as you unlock things story-wise and find things you can interact with in the world. I think it’s a lot less fun when you’re just stuck gardening/mining/fishing/cooking etc. for hours even if you don’t need anything just to try and farm parts of a memory that isn’t guaranteed to even be new. I get that this is to be a long-term goal and I’m criticizing about it only about 2 weeks in, but with how it works now, I don’t have faith someone could truly get through the game even when it’s “finished” to some extent and have a good amount banged out. It just feels too random and inconsistent. And I don’t know, being 44/121 even after over 100 hours has me a little concerned pacing-wise, especially as I’m sure that number will go up as more updates come out, plus some I know aren’t available just yet either. Right now, there’s also 47 pieces I have that are fragments are various memories which don’t get counted at all to that number so it’s not like I’m not finding anything… but knowing I still need so much and am getting doubles on memories even now really hurts.
- In addition, can I just say how much I really hate the “fragmented” memories system? Each memory is already kind of a fragment of a story without literally breaking up one into ~10 different memory pieces you need to find. It’s also just… honestly less exciting than finding a full memory and is another thing adding to an already extensive grind.
- Motif Bags – The only real way to get Motifs right now is from feeding Critters with a higher chance at doing so when it’s a favorite item. Some of those favorites are some pretty rare stuff and as I get down to just needing the “rare” colors (ones that only show up for a day), I feel less motivated to try for them, especially when I’m getting buried in Dream Shards now. I REALLY hope another way will be added to get Motifs in the future– maybe if a clothing-specific store or something gets added… Or just a character who will sell those magic bags (The clothing, furniture, and motif ones).
- Dreamlight Duties – I just like completing things, but I definitely have more than enough Dreamlight for future things. I pretty much just have Fishing, Foraging, and Mining tasks left and it’s… definitely a lot. I very much am motivated by what I “need” with those types of things– IE: I’m motivated to get one of each for any kind of collection thing and anything I may need for another collection thing such as cooking and then my motivation dies entirely because it becomes too repetitive for me. I know most people do not have this problem.
- Crafting – What I’m currently working on. As mentioned, some items just require way too many things, in my opinion, and I don’t know, it kind of feels demoralizing to gather up a full stack of an item just to see it go away entirely on one item.
Besides those, it’s mainly “waiting game”-related tasks otherwise. Waiting for Scrooge to restock, waiting for Eric to add new blueprints, waiting for those 1-Day only Critters to come back around, etc. So, when I do feel like playing, I’m either popping on just for one of these or using my brief grind tolerance to work on the above.
The 1-Day only Critters ties into my only other big issue with the game right now: Despite the flexibility of making stores 24 hours and sleep schedules being more like naps (though, those can still be inconvenient to people– they at least seem to wake up for urgent quests, but if you can only play for an hour a day and it’s the one hour they’re taking a nap, you’re out of luck with giving them their favorite items which does suck), there’s a handful of time-specific tasks such as finding the Shards in Mother Gothel’s questline each requiring a specific time of day and some Critters only sticking around for 6-8 hours. Anyone who knows me knows I love pets and I have absolutely bent my sleeping schedule out of shape trying to keep up with them.
Similarly, while it’s great they have made it so crops always grow “in minutes”, when some take 90 minutes to 4 hours, honestly, I wish I had some way to speed it up. Even making it so they grow faster as you level up would be nice.
That said, while friendship is also kind of a grind, I actually didn’t find it too bad in the long run. Between Remy’s Restaurant, favorite items, and even doing the chosen task with whoever when you hang out with them (I find Mining and Gardening to be the best– I may do solely Mining later as I feel like I need more Gems than Crops at this point and it felt the fastest), they honestly can go up really fast and only around 8-10 does it feel kind of slow.
Ursula and Ariel are about the only hang-ups as they currently cannot hang out with you, and in the sense of Ursula, won’t be at Remy’s restaurant (I’m not sure if Ariel goes or not once you do get her the ability to walk on legs again when she feels like it), which means all you can do to get them up is spam them with gifts. While you can give gifts infinitely (Favorite gifts are a boost from 3 different items a day that you get from the first time you give each item that day), it’s still relatively slow. At the very least, it does seem they took this in mind as Ursula and Ariel get more from non-favorite gifts than other characters… but that doesn’t make it any less slow at times.
The Stamina system, at the very least, is honestly really odd because it almost feels unneeded with how easy it is to work with. Go home or eat some fruit you likely quickly foraged from somewhere anyway. I guess it could be a good way to get some people to take a break, but I’m kind of glad that you can just keep trucking along if you want to. It really lets you play at the pace you want… ignoring those weird time-locked situations.
tl;dr version: The Story and Questline stuff are really interesting. Looking for stuff to interact with that could find you a new memory or collectible is a lot of fun. I also really love the puzzles.
The main problem is that the game gets incredibly grindy right now and I don’t think that’s a fun way to expand the playtime. Plus, some strange choices on what’s time locked and what’s not.
Obviously, if you’re the type to go super hard on farming with hundreds of crops plotted and you like spending all day mining, some of these issues may not be a problem at all for you.
I think the game is still really fun and even if you mainly just play for story and some customization, I think you can get a lot out of it. Just those grind 200+ of things may wear you down a bit if you have trouble with those kinds of things like I do.
Exclusives and Monetization
Obviously, I’ve been playing since Day 1, but I do hope they will reconsider and let people be able to get the Week 1 Bonus items later on, even if maybe you need to spend some money to get them. Similarly, I still think the Founder’s Pack items should stick around after the game launches Free to Play– considering the prices for the packs were likely around the amount of Moonstones you get, the items were essentially free gifts, so I hope they do consider just putting them in the market for people to buy, though, maybe for cheaper since they won’t come with Moonstones or any other bonuses. I know right now this isn’t the plan, but with Early Access, things can change so I’m just saying again how I really hope they consider this.
Similarly, I hope all “Star Path” stuff can still be gotten as well in the future, considering there is still supposed to be a premium store. I also hope something can be done for those who maybe have no way to access the ADT to get the Dreamlight Valley Jersey as well.
Now, let’s talk about the biggest question I get asked about: The Game’s Monetization. I’ve spoken previously about my concerns with the Star Path, so now that I’ve experienced and finished it, I wanted to refine my thoughts a bit.
I will say, in general, I’m still not a fan of Mission Pass systems. That said, I do think Dreamlight Valley’s is better than many I’ve seen previously, but it does also fall into a bit of a concerning grind at points.
The way the system works, at least for the moment, is it costs 2,500 Moonstones (Likely to be about $10 based off the estimates they gave for how many months you can complete based off the amount you got from each Founder’s Pack) to unlock or 4,100 if you take an extra 100 Event/Mission Pass Currency (Discounted for your first purchase of 100) which allows you to get a bonus three tasks showing up in addition to the three already and unlocks more items you can buy on the Star Path.
Essentially, there’s five pages of rewards with a bonus page at the end if you get everything. To unlock the next page, you need to buy at least three items from the current page. So, for example, if you get three items on page one, you’ll unlock page two. Buy three items on page two, you can unlock page three, etc. The only thing that requires you to have EVERYTHING unlocked is the final page which lets you exchange an extra event currency (which, you’re unlikely to have unless you bought some to get some items right away) for Moonstones.
I actually liked this system a lot as I only really wanted a few items from each page so this let me get nearly everything I really wanted pretty quickly before working on getting the other items just for completionist reasons. Item costs varied– Motifs were pretty much always 5 while clothing and furniture often varied between 10-25. The most expensive item was the IncrediSquirrel, who I needed immediately, which cost 40.
Some pages also have Moonstones available as well. Some of the tiers also allow you to get more Moonstones which I kind of wish some weren’t tied to Premium so people who go hard on the tasks can maybe get some Moonstones to help pay for their tier.
That said, you are able to get 10 Moonstones Daily from a blue chest somewhere in the Valley to help build up currency, but while you may manage to earn a lot of Moonstones from doing the Premium Star Path, it’s impossible to really get a leg-up unless you’ve bought Moonstones previously. I think anyone who has a Founder’s Pack will have some advantage in the future and maybe be able to keep up with it and have a good supply of Moonstones for future ones as well, but anyone who jumps in when it’s Free to Play will be unlikely to get Premium without putting in some money which I do think kind of sucks. You really do get an advantage from playing now in Early Access.
I would say my big worry with the Star Path though is the missions themselves. As mentioned, you can only see 3 at a time unless you get the Premium version which lets you see 6. There is a permanent set of tasks, it’s not random (the only thing I think may be random is the order you get them), and so when you have a task to go catch 20 Tuna, you are stuck with that task unless you buy the event currency you’d get from it to essentially “skip” it.
There’s no re-rolling on tasks and so if you get six that may be a bit too hard for you or require things you can’t access yet (because some of these tasks do require certain areas and characters unlocked), you’re essentially screwed until you can get those things… And even then, RNG can be rough. Grinding 20 Topazes took me ages, especially as any from your Companion don’t count, and the Plaza really just wanted to constantly give me Garnets.
I really wish they had it so you could see all tasks from the get-go so you can always make progress with the premium thing just being tied to some items you can claim. I only completed a handful of tasks while doing other stuff– most of the time, I had to completely focus on a single task to get it done which… honestly isn’t very fun. Especially when it’s like sell 200 of some item you probably have sold enough of already if only you had that task up when it came around.
The only real positive I have for how tasks are done is that there’s no time limit– you have the entirety of the Star Path to get it done. You don’t need to worry about getting close and then it rolling over when the day or week ends.
As for any other monetization, we won’t really know until Early Access is further along. The Premium Shop is supposedly not coming during Early Access (or at least not until closer to the end of Early Access). All we know is supposedly it’ll just be some cosmetics which hopefully won’t be too expensive and Expansions, though, it’s mixed on if those will only be new Biomes or if they will be Realms as well, so we just need to wait and see.
At the very least, since they seem to be listening to feedback, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed it may not be too bad. It’s entirely possible to make something that both makes money and doesn’t completely break your consumer’s wallets, so…
I do think the Star Path could work really well with just a few more adjustments. At the very least, it doesn’t feel as exhausting as most other games’ do for me.
I hope that gives you guys some idea of what I’ve thought about the game thus far! I guess the shortest way to explain it is I am mostly happy with it, but the grinding at certain points (and right now as repeat memories make me cry) is really exhausting. The Monetization also seems okay so far, but I could see it causing issues for those who choose not to play during the Early Access period/may play solely free to play.
Hopefully they’ll continue to consider feedback in the future though and it can continue to improve on some of the parts that really frustrate me in other Life-Sim games. I’m keeping my fingers crossed at least and looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds when we get the next update.