Dakar 18 - The World Famous Annual Rally

jztemple2
jztemple2
I was gone on vacation when this came out and when I came home two weeks ago I had planned on getting it, but the lukewarm reviews and the number of updates being released made me hold off. So I finally got it a couple of hours ago. I have run through the tutorial races and the first two rally stages, running a four wheel drive Mitsubishi.

A couple of caveats regarding my impressions. First I am using an X360 controller, so all the high drama from a lot of reviews about how the game isn't supporting some wheel and pedal hardware isn't meaningful to me. It is working just fine with my controller.

Second, I've had an interest for years about the Dakar Rally, ever since it moved to South America. When NBCSN started actually providing coverage I ate that up, plus over the net I've watched the daily reports through British websites. Since this game follows the route of the 2018 event, I'm pretty familiar with the course, the teams and the regulations.

There's an introductory video several minutes long that informs the player about the HUD, driving and navigating. Then there are several tutorials that expand on this by letting you actually experience some racing over different terrain so that you can familiarize yourself with the concept of navigating by compass and distance. I had to do a couple of the tutorials more than once to grasp what was happening, but I got the hang of it eventually.

So, on to the main campaign, err, rally. I selected Rookie difficulty as it includes navigation clues when running off roads or trails, which can be of real help. As mentioned, I'm running a four wheel drive vehicle which the game suggests for rookies.

The first stage, Lima-Pisco, is a short 35km special that isn't too challenging, although I managed to get lost enough on one of the ten waypoints that I needed a reset which added 15 minutes to my stage time.

The second stage, Pisco-Pisco, is a loop that runs out into the dunes, then back near the shore before arriving back near where we left. It's 271km, mostly off-road/trail, so you're navigating by compass and odometer most of the time. And there are some really freakishly large dunes. I completed the stage in 51 minutes, plus another 15 minute penalty. And I don't remember this as being the longest stage.

Impressions
From the standpoint of car physics, my impression is that the way the car is behaving is what I think it should feel like. I know that's not very scientific, but for me, a lot of the nonsense being thrown around in reviews is people just trying to find a reason to complain. I played a lot of race sims over the years, although not that many off-road ones, so I have experienced many interpretations by many games of what the physics should feel like. And in Dakar 18, the physics seem fine to me. It's like modern art, I don't know what it is, but I know what I like.

In terms of graphics, the game is nice looking. Again, I don't set a very demanding high level of expectations. I'm running at 1920x1200 on a 27 inch monitor, with a GTX 1060 6GB. The game defaulted to a graphics quality setting of Epic(!), so I'm guessing what I'm seeing is the best the game has to offer. The level of detail is quite serviceable for the purposes of racing. Regarding views, there are the usual chase, in-car, bumper and overhead views. The in-game view is set too far back from the windscreen for my taste, but then I'm using the chase view because it helps give the best look at the upcoming terrain.

Finally, gameplay. Between those first two stages I've put in more than an hour of racing. And the racing is good. The vertical challenge of running up, down and across the faces of dunes feels very real. The car I'm running felt twitchy at first, but after a few minutes I felt quite at home driving it. I did manage to damage the car bad enough to cause a withdrawal from the stage, from which I was able, as an option, to reload from the last waypoint. And that was on Rookie. I didn't get to see how well damage was modeled, like can I overheat the engine requiring me to drive slowly or just shut down and cool down at intervals. Or how the game handles flat; these cars carry a couple of spares just for that purpose.

I did come across a minor issue. The second stage, according to the information menu page that preceded the run, says there were to be 42 waypoints, but the stage completed info screen said there were 121 waypoints, which sounds right. It might just be the way they count them. I do know that there were ninety(!) navigation road book unique instruction panels. Each panel (which consists of three parts) are graphical representations of the next set of instructions and road conditions, like this:

https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/947336222986365383/49E0C5EB0903298A82AB21E85247FEAF4FDC3BA9/

The road book is one of the more important elements of the game. Rally raids like Dakar are as much about navigation as about raw speed and vehicle performance.

It's 2:30am and I'm wiped so I'm going to wrap up my impressions here. I'll post some more tomorrow.

Comments

  • EngineNo9
    EngineNo9
    GT Member
    Woohoo!! So glad to have you back and have also picked up the game! :smiley: I had nobody to talk to about this one when it came out, haha.

    I need to go back to it, but my impressions were similar to yours: the physics and everything else felt "real" enough that I had no problem with them, at least with the 4x4 vehicles.

    Can't wait to hear more of your impressions!
  • Isgrimnur
    Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    Wishlisted.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    I'm going to try to get in some play this afternoon. One thing occurred to me last night laying in bed, that a 271km stage shouldn't be able to be accomplished in 51 minutes :/ so I'm thinking there is maybe a three or four to one compression.

    I've also noticed that some of the waypoints are pretty close together and I don't remember that from the real race. It's OK though in it's way, it keeps the stages from having long, straight boring legs.

    And I don't recall seeing an in-stage save capability. That's going to be only a nuisance for me, since this is my gaming computer, but some folks might have an issue with that. I'll post if I figure out how to save in-stage.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    Completed stage 3, 48 minutes. Lots of dunes and some running in dry stream beds. Had a glitch, losing my co-driver's voice about half way through; apparently this is happening to a lot of folks. But between the subtitles and the road book I was able to get it done. I did miss a couple of waypoints but by running back along the reciprocal of the segment heading I got back on track.

    Eye candy:
    72j5uerqskbn.jpg
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    Just finished stage 4 and this is what sells the game to me. Started off with a long blast right on the beach, up through a dry wash and then out into the desert scrub, undulations and rocks. And that's not even through the first fifth of the stage. Through a checkpoint then out into the dunes where I manage to mash my car a couple of times flying over a crest. Lots of dunes. No, really, lots of them. Then to another checkpoint and some fast driving on a dirt road, but between the curves and the crests and the bumps, it's easy to lose control. Then another checkpoint and it's off to a long run of scrub desert with big, big rocks, ruins, valleys and a big blast at the end down to the final checkpoint by threading my way through a bunch of rocks the size of houses. I did completely lose my way there but in rookie mode I have heading cheat so I was able to get to the end. Fifty minutes of driving on the edge. Lots of fun :D

    More eye candy:

    CBF60DA74086FA37FF0474BFEC0398B51869C498
  • MonkeyFinger
    MonkeyFinger
    GT Member
    Sorry, but you lost me at "the reciprocal of the segment heading". :3

    Looks pretty darn cool, btw.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    Sorry, but you lost me at "the reciprocal of the segment heading". :3

    Looks pretty darn cool, btw.

    Basically you go back the way you came :)
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member edited October 25
    I just posted this review to Steam:
    Summary
    In spite of some technical issues, those being audio problems and occasional crashes, the game provides an entertaining and challenging representation of the Dakar Rally of 2018. While the graphics are not cutting edge and for some there are issues with the use of certain control hardware, it does provide a great experience, especially if you are a fan of the Dakar.


    In Detail
    Note that this review is written with the game incorporating the v.08 update. My rig: Intel i7-4770K 3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, GTX 1060 6GB, Win7 64bit Home Premium, 480GB SSD main drive.

    A couple of caveats regarding my impressions. First I am using an X360 controller, so all the high drama from a lot of reviews about how the game isn't supporting some wheel and pedal hardware isn't meaningful to me. It is working just fine with my controller.

    Second, I've had an interest for years about the Dakar Rally, ever since it moved to South America. When NBCSN started actually providing coverage I ate that up, plus over the net I've watched the daily reports through British websites. Since this game follows the route of the 2018 event, I'm pretty familiar with the course, the teams and the regulations.

    There's an introductory video several minutes long that informs the player about the HUD, driving and navigating. Then there are several tutorials that expand on this by letting you actually experience some racing over different terrain so that you can familiarize yourself with the concept of navigating by compass and distance. I had to do a couple of the tutorials more than once to grasp what was happening, but I got the hang of it eventually.

    For the purposes of this review I also completed the entire 14 stage rally on Rookie difficulty as it includes navigation clues when running off roads or trails, which can be of real help. I'm running a four wheel drive car which the game suggests for rookies. I have played the game just under fourteen hours.

    From the standpoint of car physics, my impression is that the way the car is behaving is what I think it should feel like. I have played a lot of race sims over the years, although not that many off-road ones, so I have experienced many interpretations by many games of what the physics should feel like. And in Dakar 18, the physics seem fine to me. It's like modern art, I don't know what it is, but I know what I like.

    In terms of graphics, the game is nice looking. Again, I don't set a very demanding high level of expectations. I'm running at 1920x1200 on a 27 inch monitor, with a GTX 1060 6GB. The game defaulted to a graphics quality setting of Epic(!), so I'm guessing what I'm seeing is the best the game has to offer. The level of detail is quite serviceable for the purposes of racing. Regarding views, there are the usual chase, in-car, bumper and overhead views. The in-game view is set too far back from the windscreen for my taste, but then I'm using the chase view because it helps give the best look at the upcoming terrain.

    Finally, gameplay. The racing is good. The vertical challenge of running up, down and across the faces of dunes feels very real. The car I'm running felt twitchy at first, but after a few minutes I felt quite at home driving it. I did manage to damage the car bad enough to cause a withdrawal from the stage, from which I was able, as an option, to reload from the last waypoint. On later stages I ran on a number of terrain types, from flat brush desert to twisting mountain roads to along the beds of rivers. And the weather changed from sunny days to pouring rain days to overcast ones and finally sunny days. And a couple of stages did run from sun in the late afternoon through sunset into the dark.

    And these are not WRC stages. A Dakar stage can be several hundred kilometers long. The game does compress distances, which can be disconcerning till you figure it out. The best way to explain it is to think of a Dakar kilometer as only one-forth or one-fifth as long as a kilometer in the real world. So when your codriver says something is two kilometers ahead and you are going, say, 60 kph (which in the real world is one kilometer per minute), you aren't going to have to wait two minutes to reach that point, you will be there in 20-30 seconds. And so when your codriver makes his usual call 500 meters before a waypoint or significant location, your real world mind should think of that being about 110 meters away, or the length of a football pitch (soccer field).

    I have seen several problems. The game has crashed four times, but each time I restarted the game loaded the last checkpoint. I can only recommend, when give a pop up menu option that includes quitting the game, take that option and restart. It's not a guarantee, but it might help. I never had a corrupted save, nor did a crash reoccur at the same point of a stage.

    The other problem is the dropout of audio, also mentioned by others. The codriver's voice would stop, although I still had other audio. And sometimes the voice audio will start becoming intermittent.

    There are other items, not really issues, that could be addressed. Adding more teams, more vehicle types, and more camera locations would be nice. Also, it would be nice if the difficutly levels were adjustable, so that for instance I could run at Normal difficulty with the Rookie waypoint indicators enabled. But these aren't problems with the game so I don't count them against it.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    Well, bikes are a disappointment. The handling physics are more towards the arcade rather than MXGP like. It's almost impossible to fall off the bike unless you hit something or go off a sizeable height. And just to put a disappointing cherry on a mediocre cake, my bike got hung up on a barrier at a checkpoint where the game auto-controls the bike as it transits through. It kept backing up then running into the same spot. I exited and reloaded the game but it is even worse now. So I have to restart the entire stage. I've posted a report.
  • MonkeyFinger
    MonkeyFinger
    GT Member
    Yeah, wading through the Steam reviews the other day not only meant skipping past all of the wheel complaints but also seeing lots of people mentioning the problem with bikes. And something about Peru being awesome terrain but the last bit (Argentina?) felt "rushed" and not nearly as detailed?
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member edited October 26
    And something about Peru being awesome terrain but the last bit (Argentina?) felt "rushed" and not nearly as detailed?

    I did all the stages and I didn't notice that the last stages were any less complete than the first. Now the first couple of stages, those in Peru, are mostly dunes, while on the last stages in Argentina there was a lot of racing across mostly flat brush country, but there was still a lot of detail there. I looked through my screenshots to refresh my memory and they confirm that there was a lot to see there. Now Stages 12 & 13 both were run partly in the dark, maybe that has something to do with their complaints, but certainly there was a lot of challenging terrain in Argentina.
  • EngineNo9
    EngineNo9
    GT Member edited October 29
    Speaking of Road Books, I guess they now have a separate app you can download to read that (on Android at least, iOS coming soon):

  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    EngineNo9 wrote: »
    Speaking of Road Books, I guess they now have a separate app you can download to read that (on Android at least, iOS coming soon):


    Now I just have to convince my wife that she should be my co-driver on an hour long stage. I guess she should be able to do that, she seems to have a gift of telling me what to do ;)

    Of course, she'd have to learn how to use an Android tablet/smart phone :#
  • EngineNo9
    EngineNo9
    GT Member edited November 3
    Update 9 just hit with several fixes and improvements (including fix for audio dropping out)
    New Features:
    • Implemented permanent WayPoint indicator (WP) on Rookie modes (on and off-track)
    • Implemented the option to play the Tutorial or not at the Start Menu
    • Implemented crash camera effect
    • Implemented impact particles

    Features improved:
    • Improved: Previous used camera are now restaured when the player returns to the game, in career mode
    • Improved: Performance on stages with vegetation
    • Improved: Some road book icons were adjusted to improve navigation
    • Improved: Removed the vehicle to tow mechanics when the player choose challenge mode in the tutorial
    • Improved: The ocean effect
    • Improved: Removed the WayPoint indicator (WP) on training lessons for learning proposals

    General Bugs fixed:
    • Fixed: Bikes would hit the ASO NPC during control points
    • Fixed: Audio effects stop playing after a while
    • Fixed: Bikes would fall during intro cut scene
    • Fixed: Steering linearity was not properly set after using Last Waypoint
    • Fixed: Problems unlocking achievement "Better than Walkner"
    • Fixed: Opening the Steam overlay platform during pause would lead to no input
    • Fixed: In the option "Restart Stage" if the Last Waypoint option was activated, didn't move the character to the proper place
    • Fixed: Issue related with the orientation arrow when is inside of the other waypoint radius
    • Fixed: After a load game the waypoint counters were duplicated
    • Fixed: After a load game, all AI drivers would start from the beginning and not on the previous position
    • Fixed: Controller vibration option no longer interferes with force feedback from the steering wheels
    • Fixed: Credits background overlaying gameplay after complete a career
    • Fixed: Roadbook not updating when doing last waypoint on Multiplayer clients
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    EngineNo9 wrote: »
    Update 9 just hit with several fixes and improvements (including fix for audio dropping out)
    Features improved:
    • Improved: Some road book icons were adjusted to improve navigation

    That's good, I noticed there were several errors.

    I just started the patch download, but this seems to be one of those games where they have to do a bunch of preallocating. I seem to recall that this is related to a game that is downloaded in compressed files and then has to be uncompressed (decompressed?) on your rig. That also means that the patch will be sizable.
  • EngineNo9
    EngineNo9
    GT Member edited November 3
    jztemple2 wrote: »
    EngineNo9 wrote: »
    Update 9 just hit with several fixes and improvements (including fix for audio dropping out)
    Features improved:
    • Improved: Some road book icons were adjusted to improve navigation

    That's good, I noticed there were several errors.

    I just started the patch download, but this seems to be one of those games where they have to do a bunch of preallocating. I seem to recall that this is related to a game that is downloaded in compressed files and then has to be uncompressed (decompressed?) on your rig. That also means that the patch will be sizable.

    Yeah, my download says preallocating for a 23.2 GB download...again. Seems to be massive like that any time they make changes to the maps.

    And yeah, the preallocating thing that takes longer to install than download is usually down to compressed pack files that don't work well with Steam's patch process.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member edited November 3
    I now seem to recall someone mentioning that this is one of the games where you essentially download a new version of the entire game, rather than just patching the existing game. So I won't be taking a look at the changes till later this evening.

    I'm hoping the "Fixed: Bikes would hit the ASO NPC during control points" will allow me to continue my saved game with a bike, I'm getting rather burned out on doing the first two stages :/
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member edited November 3
    I also saw these two posts from the devs in the comments of the Steam News item for this patch:
    Bigmoon Entertainment [developer] 2 hours ago
    Regarding to AI, it is scheduled an improvement update with the speed limit indicator for Trucks, and other vehicles and other cool stuff that will be announced on November 13th! ;)

    Bigmoon Entertainment [developer] 2 hours ago
    We have a specific part of the team working to improve the Bike physics for Dakar 18 and of course to continue on Dakar 19, but that specific improvement take more time. As soon we have that update ready we will announce with lots of pleasure! :)

    Glad to hear that they will be addressing the bike physics.
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    Well, I couldn't go on the same stage with the bike because of the version change, and since they are planning to update the physics I decided instead to start a new rally with the SxS. Fun to drive. I got through the first stage fastest and am part way through the second stage.

  • EngineNo9
    EngineNo9
    GT Member
    jztemple2 wrote: »
    I also saw these two posts from the devs in the comments of the Steam News item for this patch:
    Bigmoon Entertainment [developer] 2 hours ago
    Regarding to AI, it is scheduled an improvement update with the speed limit indicator for Trucks, and other vehicles and other cool stuff that will be announced on November 13th! ;)

    Bigmoon Entertainment [developer] 2 hours ago
    We have a specific part of the team working to improve the Bike physics for Dakar 18 and of course to continue on Dakar 19, but that specific improvement take more time. As soon we have that update ready we will announce with lots of pleasure! :)

    Glad to hear that they will be addressing the bike physics.

    Awesome to hear that they're continuing support and even big changes like the bike physics! I'll be really interested to hear what they have to say on the 13th, if it's a DLC of some sort?
  • jztemple2
    jztemple2
    GT Member
    There pre-release roadmap mentioned providing some more Argentinian territory to race on, although unless there is actually stage racing I think I'd pass. Maybe they are going to officially announce Dakar 19?

    Oh, here's the info from the dev's thread:
    October:
    FREE DLC “ARGENTINA EXPANTION MAP”
    An additional 12,000km2 to explore freely in Argentina

    DAKAR Road Book reader (Mobile App)
    You will be able to use a tablet to read the Road Books and act as a navigator


    November:
    FREE DLC “Navigator Voice pack”
    Navigator voice in French
    Navigator voice in Spain


    January 2019:
    FREE DLC “1st Team Pack”
    A pack of additional teams from DAKAR RALLY 2018 will be added
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