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Dakar 18

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 15 - 2018

Follow the Tulips.

 
I love rally games. There is something quite enthralling about pushing as much as possible from each second while driving on the very edge of losing control. You follow a set route and try to finish it in less time than your competitors. It’s tense and exciting. Bigmoon Entertainment’s Dakar 18 is not that kind of rally driving game however. Based on the famous Rally Raid event, players will be given checkpoints to pass and an end to reach, preferably in a faster time than everyone else. But when it comes to the route, it is more up to the player how they approach the checkpoints, and to start with they will need to find them.

 
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I had never heard of Tulips before watching a recent BBC TV show in which a group of celebrities took part in a rally. They are a form of navigation that require checking strange little symbols and the distance travelled to actually form a route. It looked damn complicated on the TV show, and they at least had roads to follow.

 
The big thing in Dakar 18 is authenticity. Each stage of the rally is absolutely huge, and players will have to make their way through a number of checkpoints before reaching the end, or face penalties that will ruin their time. The complications come from the fact that the stages are wide open, and players can approach the checkpoints in any order. In fact, some checkpoints can be missed altogether. So, imagine a wide open expanse of sandy dunes. Somewhere out there is a checkpoint that is marked by absolutely nothing. There are no markers, and so finding the checkpoint will involve some mighty feats of navigation.

 
Essentially, the player has a compass direction and a distance. Follow that and the player will find the checkpoint. Get lost somewhere, and things can go wrong pretty quickly. Occasionally there may be some kind of landmarks on the route, which can be referenced with the Tulips, giving the player another point of reference. All of this information is given out in the Roadbook, which is displayed on the screen.

 
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Things can be made easier or more difficult. Adjusting the difficulty setting can, in the easier setting, provide a marker that appears on the compass, to give the player a rough idea where to head. There is also something to be said for taking a navigator, which is only available in vehicles that can seat one. Take a bike, and the player will have to do all of the finding themselves. In the other vehicles though, the player will have a voice next to them, giving them helpful directions to the next checkpoint. At least, that is as long as they don’t go too far off track, at which point the navigator becomes next to useless.

 
There is something quite engaging about finding hidden checkpoints, and the developers have obviously realised this and included a treasure hunt mode in the game alongside the career mode. In this, players will hunt around for hidden treasure using the exact same type of navigation, in any area that has already been completed. It’s a nice little mode that can pass some time and hone a players navigational skills.

 
When it comes to the vehicles, there are a nice variety of different vehicles to choose from. Players can attempt the rally on a motorbike or quad bike, or in a car, truck or utility vehicle. Each different class has strengths and weaknesses. Bikes are fact and agile, yet don’t have a navigator, while trucks are much slower, yet also a lot more stable. Whichever class the player chooses, they will be stuck with it for the whole career, and the other modes, unless they start another save. It seems like a strange decision, but there you go.

 
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As far as the handling goes, Dakar 18 does lean more towards the arcade type. The cars really do feel the weakest of the bunch, feeling far too floaty and more difficult to control, which is an issue in a game that demands such precise navigation. Realistic damage is included, so hurtling off a steep drop may be exciting, but will lead to extra time added as the player needs to repair the vehicle. The utility vehicles are probably the most fun to drive, giving a nice balance of power, strength, speed and a navigator.

 
Very unusually for a driving game, the players character can actually get out of their vehicle and walk around. The point of this could just be to look around for one of those landmarks. But also players are able to stop and help other drivers that may have got their vehicles stuck, by attaching a tow rope and pulling them out of trouble. Sportsmanship is an important aspect of the Dakar Rally apparently.

 
When it comes to the visuals, there is not a whole lot to say. Dakar 18 has some great weather effects, and a decent day and night cycle, but otherwise it seems very average. The different destinations offer some character and seem authenticity designed, but it is difficult to get excited about wide open areas of barren desert with very little features. The cars look nice, but again lack the detail that really make them pop.

 
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Dakar 18 is a different type of rally game, one that is more about the navigation than the driving. As a result, it will have a very niche audience. Move away from the niche appeal, and there are some places where the game could have been improved, such as vehicle handling or visuals, to make the game more enticing. For fans of the rally raid that want a fairly authentic experience, Dakar 18 could deliver. However, it does feel like dropping the authenticity a little, or at least including a more widely appealing mode, would have given more players a reason to pick up Dakar 18.

 

 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ 



 

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