2022 has been full of farming and life-simulation games, though Disney Dreamlight Valley stood out for me above the rest of the crop. Even in its early access state (paid, or via Xbox Game Pass), its work-in-progress storybook world already unfurls into a warm and cosy Animal Crossing-alike. I love its deep customisation and its unexpected focus on story - especially the characterful and often hilarious interactions between its heroes and villains. Above all else, though, it's the game's promise of further expansion which has kept me intrigued.
Disney Dreamlight Valley primarily takes place in a cluster of biomes you gradually unlock and tame to your liking, eventually turning each land into a fitting home for the many Disney and Pixar characters you befriend. In the centre of all this sits the game's castle - a mash-up of the iconic Disneyland centrepiece with the hub experience found in Princess Peach's home from Mario 64.
Inside this castle you'll find dozens of portal doors leading to each of the Disney and Pixar characters' worlds, albeit with just a slice of each available to visit - a busy kitchen from Ratatouille, Bonnie's bedroom from Toy Story 3, the enchanted forest from Frozen 2. It's here you'll welcome further Disney faces to your valley as you slowly uncover more of its mysterious history. And it's also here, in the castle, where I get most excited.
How many more characters will Dreamlight Valley get? How much deeper will its story go? There are, teasingly, dozens and dozens of doors still to be opened, and from trips to the game's Discord server full of ravenous fans, there are millions of Valley residents now waiting to find out, hoping for their favourites. The Disney and Pixar content vault is expansive - and why yes, an Aladdin world would be lovely, thank you.
If it feels odd to be most excited about things which aren't in the game yet - I understand! It's a bit like walking past a construction site and getting intrigued by the various skeletons of buildings and pipes and scaffolding, even though I know it's going to turn into a pretty standard block of flats. Still, I also unashamedly enjoy seeing it all come together over time.
For now, the game's roadmap looks relatively straightforward, with a couple more characters already seen in early trailers (Cinderella and Belle) set to appear before the game hits its version 1.0. After that, Disney Dreamlight Valley is expected to transition to a free-to-play model, though what this will look like remains to be seen. With plenty to keep playing for, I'm along for the ride. Will it stick the landing on its full launch? I'm keen to find out.