Saber Porto spoke extensively to Traxion.GG at Gamescom about his thrilling open-world off-road Dakar Desert Rally racer.
Following a reveal in December 2021 and pre-order bonus details earlier this month at Gamescom, a slew of details have been revealed for the upcoming Dakar Desert Rally.
We’ve actually played it and talked to the dev team, so alongside the gameplay trailer, here’s everything you need to know about the latest official real-world Dakar rally raid game and why it was. This is one of the most extensive off-road driving games in a very long time.
It’s an open world racing game with a career
The game takes place in a giant open-world representation of Saudi Arabia, where the real-world Dakar event takes place.
Read that again.
Open world. Yes, as you can see in these images captured by Traxion.GG, you open the map which shows the 20,000 km2 1:25 scale environment and there are event icons. From what we’ve seen so far, these events take place in the form of races against AI-controlled rivals where your final position matters.
Not over time, like the current Dakar, and not linearly. It’s one stage after another with the fastest of all the stages winning. Curious.
XP is earned to unlock driver levels and Dakar Points (DP) are earned to purchase new vehicles. You can unlock classic cars by completing each event in all five vehicle classes – Car, Truck, Bike, Quad and SSV.
In a movement that is Like the real-world event, the multiple vehicle types are all playable and visible on your routes. So in a car, for example, you can see a quad competitor running their own race.
If this all sounds far from a serious experience, you’re right. But that’s by design.
“We decided to create a progression. There is an XP that will level up in the second part, so we will have several levels. So we decided to bundle the first part, around eight to 10 hours of gameplay, to make sure there will be an evolution,” Game and Studio Director Paulo Gomes told Traxion.GG.
“We [want to] choose someone who doesn’t need to know Dakar and just wants to have fun.
“Events are set to a certain level of XP. So if you have XP level four, or level five, you will be able to play a certain level of roadbooks. If you have XP level seven, you unlock another pack, etc.
But it is also a replica of the real event
Alongside the more accessible racing “video game” career, however, is the more traditional – focused – section of Dakar.
Called the “Dakar Experience,” it’s where you complete stages based purely on time, with an overall winner in each vehicle class, with routes inspired by those tackled by Peterhansel, Sainz and others.
This is unlocked when you reach XP level 25, and is what a Dakar purist will be looking for.
“The Dakar Experience is what we call the simulation, the real simulation which is a representation of Dakar 2020, 2021 and 2022,” explained Gomes.
“Roughly, on average, there are 12 hours of experience to complete the 2020 Dakar. Then you have 2021 and 2022.
“If you want to complete it with each different type of vehicle, it is multiplied by five.”
There are three distinct game modes
In an effort to appeal both to people who may not even know what the Dakar is and die-hard simulation fans, there are three clear game modes that combine aids and rules.
1. Sports mode
In races, each waypoint is a giant yellow beacon, and arrows are sometimes displayed on the ground, like a racing line option in a track-based racing title. The browser is largely superfluous. Head where you see, like Smuggler’s Run or a Trailblazer in Forza Horizon 5.
2. Professional Mode
The racing line and visible markers are removed. It’s about you and your navigator audibly directing you to the next invisible waypoint.
The roadbook is used to deliver an approximate course direction, the same system as the co-pilots on a real event. There is also a compass-shaped arrow at the top of the HUD. It’s a genuine balance, but not impossible.
3. Simulator Mode
Take navigating in professional mode, but delete saves halfway through – in other modes you can save your progress at waypoints, as some of the Dakar Experience routes will take up to an hour – apply the rules of speed limit like the real thing and do not allow resetting or repositioning. If you seriously damage your vehicle, it’s game over.
Only connoisseurs should apply.
There are over 150 vehicles and three seasons included
The list of vehicles is diverse as it includes the aforementioned five types but also officials, licensees, competitors and commitments from the Dakar 2020, 2021 and 2022 events. You buy them with DP as you progress.
In the garage you can see them and change the design of the livery if you decide to create your own team. There will be a limit to the number of vehicles on display here, but a warehouse system is in place so you can collect all vehicles and store them.
Add the unlockable classic rides, and there’s everything from a contemporary Toyota Hilux to a Citroën 2CV.
Create and share your own routes
If the varied vehicles, different game modes and open-world single-player career weren’t enough, you can create your own routes in the map area, save and upload them for others to enjoy.
There will be a method of uploading and testing user-generated roadbooks, and even rating the best ones.
“What we’ve done is create a tool where you can drive all those 20,000 km2 area and easily set waypoints. The player can create the routes and will indicate if there is a danger zone, if there is no danger zone, or if there are speed limits, etc. “said Gomes.
Along with route creation, online multiplayer is also a feature, although we haven’t tested this yet.
Dynamic weather and time of day
It’s fair to say that Saudi Arabia isn’t known for its rainstorms, mud or snow – the sun apparently bakes 365 days a year.
However, Dakar Desert Rally will have a full day-to-night cycle and dynamic weather in what, in our hands-on experience, is a very flexible system that changes on the fly. Clear the sky one minute, light up the storm the next.
AI is crazy
Your rivals in the game have been programmed to be realistic, which means that in this case, they make mistakes. Sometimes you will cross a blind sand dune ridge and a truck crashed into a car and evasive action is needed.
It’s indicative of, well, Dakar – how realistic the pace is over a full stretch remains to be seen.
You not only need to watch out for parked rivals, but also for parts of their cars which, if hit, can inflict damage on your vehicle.
If this happens, or you hit a rock or spill, there is a full visual and mechanical damage system, and your money is used to make repairs to the bivouac.
Yes, you can use a steering wheel device with Dakar Desert Rally. In fact, during our tests with a Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer, we noticed unique force feedback for each type of vehicle. Motorcycles are controlled using a gamepad.
How the Dakar Desert Rally was born
Portuguese development studio Bigmoon Entertainment created Dakar 18 in 2018. At the time, the Dakar was taking place in South America and its first attempt was noble, but rough around the edges.
In the years that followed, the studio was bought by Saber Interactive in 2019, in turn becoming part of the Embracer group.
This allowed the team, now called Saber Porto, to ditch the annual release schedule and come up with something more befitting of the original idea. Footage was shown in 2021, but the team has decided to continue working for three years until the final name is set at the end of 2021.
Dakar Desert Rally uses Unreal Engine 4 as its base. Traxion.GG understands that it doesn’t use code from the SnowRunner game – under the same Saber umbrella – but the teams have shared ideas.
Dakar Desert Rally Release Date
Dakar Desert Rally will be released on the 4e October 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.