In the world of cross-country rally racing, events such as the Baja 100 and the Dakar Rally are the peak of competition and endurance for those racers. The “Mount Everest” in this area of motorsports. It’s a grueling event that pits man and his machine against Mother Nature and the elements. To finish an event such as the Dakar Rally is an achievement all of its own, but to win one is like nothing else in motorsports.
This is the dynamic and grueling style of racing that Bigmoon Entertainment tasked itself to bring to deliver to the video game world. Let’s have a look under the hood of Dakar 18 to see if Bigmoon Entertainment was able to successfully bring the Dakar Rally to life in the digital world.
What struck me most about Dakar 18 is that the game has a very steep learning curve. As soon as you’re done installing the game you are thrust right into a tutorial rally where you will have to fail miserably for an uncomfortably long time before you start to pick up on what’s going on. You may even rage quit more than once before you manage to slog your way through what amounts to the game’s highly uninformative tutorial. During this tutorial rally, you encounter vague directions from your poor and most times useless co-driver that only tells you that you’re off course after you have figured it out; at which point you simply restart the tutorial and start all over again with less patience for the game.
When you finally finish the tutorial rally, the game opens up and allows you to pick one of the five classes to race with. This is the point where you can truly define your own path as a cross-country rally driver by selecting from one of the five vehicles: Trucks, Cars, Motorcycles, Quads or UTVs. The choice is entirely arbitrary as choosing a Truck over a Car, or a Motorcycle doesn’t change the game in the slightest, so pick whichever vehicle you’d prefer to get lost in.
The driving mechanic in this game is serviceable, but it is far more on the arcade side of the spectrum than the simulation side. Because the game, much like the real world event, is a race against the clock the driving mechanic doesn’t have to be amazing as you’re mostly driving in long straight lines across variance terrain rather than rally racing around tight corners at high rates of speed.
The one major problem with Dakar 18 is that it’s a hyper-focused game. The developers sought out to replicate a real-world event onto a digital platform, and in that, they succeeded. However, because of this very same niche racing event they wanted to bring to the video game world, there isn’t a lot of life in this game. Once you have finished one stage, you have pretty much run them all as there is very little variation to Dakar 18. This game will undoubtedly appeal to fans of this style of event, but that does not justify creating an entire game around this single event. Dakar 18 would have been a far more successful game if the Dakar style event was just one part of a more broadly based off-road title.