Disney Dreamlight Valley Manages to Beat Animal Crossing: New Horizons in One Key Way, But That Might be Worse for Players


The latest cozy title to give players a chance to build and tend to their own virtual town, Disney Dreamlight Valley, brings a number of positive strides to this genre of casual games. In some ways, Disney’s latest trip into a customizable Disneyland even manages to offer a more full and compelling gameplay loop that could better incentivize players through the hours players put into Animal Crossing: New Horizons and similar titles.


This is primarily from the way that Disney Dreamlight Valley handles the respawning of materials and the timing for completing tasks and interacting with the Disney characters scattered across the valley. Where most cozy titles tend to set limits on daily activities, Disney Dreamlight Valley‘s world is constantly in motion and will let players continue farming, foraging, and even building for as long as they want with quick turnarounds on each activity.

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How Disney Dreamlight Valley Handles Activity Limits

In Disney Dreamlight Valley, the only limit on what activities a player can perform comes in the form of the Energy, which is used every time the player does any activity. For example, going out and gathering the fish that can be sold or used to cook meals like fish sandwiches will take a small amount from the energy meter. So, when this meter runs out, the player can’t keep engaging in these types of activities. However, this Energy can be recovered by either eating food or resting back at the player character’s house.

The result of this system is that while there are limits on how much the player can mine, farm, or fish in Disney Dreamlight Valley, it can be easy to get right back to working around the village after a short break. This means that players won’t have to resort to sometimes game-breaking cheats like Animal Crossing‘s time traveling, or fiddling with save files in order to progress beyond the limits of the day. It means that players are instead free to choose how much progression they want to chase in a given play session, without the limits that many other cozy titles place to lock progress behind real time.

How Animal Crossing: New Horizons Limits Progression

At this point, Animal Crossing fans are well aware that these games intend for players to come back and have new objectives to complete every day. To this end, the series doesn’t so much limit players with an energy meter, but by only providing a specific amount of objects to interact with. Additionally, the acts of building new structures and collecting all of Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘s items require a real-time wait from day to day. It helps to keep players invested in the development of the game for days at a time and extends playtime out until new seasons and events change the environment.

This is both a benefit and detriment to Animal Crossing‘s design, as this limiting factor will keep players invested for much longer than the 60 hours that it otherwise would take to beat the “story” of the game. By keeping players coming back for short bursts every day, it ensures that many players likely won’t have seen the credits before being shown that some specific dates will bring new items to collect and new characters to interact with. Beyond the incentive to return to the game daily on the hunt to finally see K.K. Slider perform at the end of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it also keeps players from over-binging the game. Considering Nintendo’s history of promoting healthy gaming habits, this is a little surprise from the developer.

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How Disney Dreamlight Valley’s Resource Freedom Improves the Cozy Genre

The resource limits of Animal Crossing: New Horizons aren’t just the one game, as many other titles in the genre follow this rule to keep players from being able to progress too quickly. Another notable example is Cozy Grove, which also limits the number of interactable objects on a day-by-day basis in order to lock progression behind days, weeks, or even months of returning to the island and tending to the available tasks. In the case of the resources like gemstones or iron ingots in Disney Dreamlight Valley, the only wait is the few minutes before the source of these items renews onto the map.

This means that players have much more freedom to set the pace of their gameplay in Disney Dreamlight Valley, by either hunting down quests as quickly as possible or gathering up every item they can find. The limit on Energy is only a momentary setback, usually incentivizing the player to return home, where they can take stock of everything they’ve collected and inspect anything they might have for an available quest. It’s an otherwise unlimited gameplay loop that players can wind up putting as much time as they want into. However, as nice as this limitless loop is, the incentive to binge could lead to unhealthy habits.

Take Breaks, Even from a Cozy Disney Adventure

Most games are built on some sort of gameplay loop, generally sending the player out to adventure in a new level, where they then accomplish the task of fighting the bad guy or collecting the MacGuffin, and then returning to a hub or menu screen. In the case of cozy games like Disney Dreamlight Valley or Animal Crossing: New Horizons, that loop is to head out from the player’s home, collect materials, and interact with characters before returning home with money and resources. There are a lot of factors that go into determining how much “fun” these loops can be, but the length of each loop and the speed they can be restarted can have a huge effect on how long players will keep the loop going.

For Disney Dreamlight Valley, the loops are dictated by inventory space and Energy, and the reset is as quick as a visit to the shop to sell items or in the house to rest for a few seconds. This can easily lead players to spend hours on the seemingly simple gameplay, as they check on Goofy, then Scrooge McDuck, then make Ratatouille with Remy, then start farming tomatoes for the quest they’ve been neglecting, then start fishing to earn some money. With so much to do, it can seem like time just flies by and suddenly the player’s avatar has had more meals that day than the actual player, and they’ve dipped into their sleeping schedule with only a few hours before work in the morning.

The point is that while these cozy titles can be great fun, they can be a time sink that threatens to dominate entire days’ worth of gaming time. In this way, Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘s daily limits can keep players from over binging, even if they are compelled to log in every day. So, the biggest tip for Disney Dreamlight Valley that isn’t engrained directly into the gameplay is to make sure to take breaks and keep a solid track of time. Exploring Dreamlight Valley is fun, but can easily take a whole day faster than it seems.

Disney Dreamlight Valley is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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