Orbx have been known for their quality ever since their conception many years ago. Starting off with a few small Australian airports and then moving quickly onto more impressive and detailed international aerodromes. When they mastered airports, attention was turned into creating not only airports world-wide for Flight Sim, but they would retexture the entire world, improve landclass for entire continents and release regions packs based on entire countries. Orbx have certainly earned their reputation amongst the community for providing a degree of realism no other developer has been able to master. Not only that, but their entire catalogue is just one giant ecosystem with the intention of the entire Flight Sim world being the Orbx world.
With a huge proportion of Flight Simmers originating from Germany, it came as no surprise to see Orbx focus their attention on the region. Of course, that’s not the only reason as Germany is home to many historical landmarks and cities. Not unlike previous products, Orbx have ensured that no detail has been left out, and have decided to split Germany into “North” and “South.” A controversial decision amongst some, but we have to remember that Germany North alone covers 70,653 square miles of the country. We’ve seen it before with Orbx where a region is so massive, that they break it down into smaller section. Look at New Zealand, the UK and even their original Australia packs. So whilst it essentially means that the whole of Germany will cost you ‘double,’ it gives flexibility for the user, ensures that the product is ready for “half” earlier and ensures that Orbx stays in business to continue to provide the content for us. The real question is, is “half now, half later” the right thing for you as a customer?
I’ll start by saying it’s extremely difficult to review a region. Unlike an airport, there are so many things to take into consideration:
- Consistent quality around the ENTIRE region (not just where the developer expects you to fly)
- How does it blend in with other payware products?
- Performance in both urban and rural areas, with the same settings (because I wouldn’t want to change settings half way during my VFR flying)
- Accuracy of the landmarks and other VFR details.
Let’s face it, this is not an airport where you can focus on that one singular area.
As you read through, you’ll probably notice that the flow –hopefully- follows the above and blends in with your other deciding factors.
I want to start with ‘quality.’ As I said above, Orbx are renowned for their high-class quality product. After the success of FTX Global and other regions, it’s only natural for that team to continue using their experience and skill to really improve upon their techniques, ensuring that they develop their best product yet. Without a doubt, you can see how the team have really achieved this goal.
It really doesn’t matter where you are within the region, the level of detail is astonishing. To really appreciate the detail, I had to change my flying style completely and take a small little general aviation aircraft out of the hanger.
Starting in the East of Germany, I loaded up my wonderful A2A aircraft, ensured I had plenty of fuel on board and took off towards the west, before swinging the nose around to a north-westerly direction. With a low cruise altitude of just 2,000ft, I was able to really take in the beautiful detail that Orbx’s Germany North had to offer.
My initial thoughts were just how much time it must have taken for the developers to hand-place every single object within my viewpoint. You could see everything from powerline pylons, traditional Germany housing (complete with stylistic rooftops) and even crops within the fields just a few thousand feet below me. With the detail already striking, I nosedived down to just 700ft to get even close to the detail. I assure you right now, I was not disappointed.
At 700ft, I could see just how painstakingly accurate roads, rivers and tree lines were to ensure that a pilot flying VFR on basic reference points could make the journey no problem. Now, bear in mind that my settings are pretty high (more on that in a second), which is exactly what gives you the breath taking detail you would expect from a full fat region.
It’s honestly incredible just how much you can see even at just a few hundred feet. It is all thanks to the high quality texturing work that the team have managed to pull off. Providing you have the system to handle it, you’ll see the crisp detail in everything you fly past. There are markings on the roads, crop-dust like texturing in the farm fields, and the urban areas have signs of wear and tear that you would expect from a busy city. Of course, the best detail comes from that where there is photoreal texturing. If Orbx decided to create Germany North completely with photoreal, then we probably wouldn’t be able to use it in our sims today. Not only that, there isn’t always the high quality you need for a project like this, nor would simmers see half of it. To compromise between detail and quality, some areas are given photorealism, with Orbx masterfully crafting beautiful textures to fill in the rest.
With Berlin seeing a “lite” cityscape, touring around there is simply awe-inspiring. Seeing the Brandenburg Gate in all its glory within Flight Simulator is nothing short of amazing. It’s rich in detail and paints a picture of exactly where you are within the city. Never before have I experienced a feeling of actually flying over such an important European city like I have with Orbx Germany North.
This extends to not only the placement of landmarks in the Berlin area – the entire region is littered with things for you to see and do. Whether that’s docks, lighthouses, monuments or even little churches, there is always something for you to glance at as you whiz by at 100knts.
It’s not just Berlin that gets special treatment, as parts of Hamburg, Brehmerhaven and Duisburg have elements of photoreal added to them – really complementing the excellent ground texture work. By the way, the balance and blend between photoreal and Orbx’s custom texture is spot-on – not hindering detail and not too distracting.
With my short VFR flight coming to an end, it’s really important to remember that when Orbx create a region, the little airports also get some tweaks as well. Expect to see object flow and other Orbx magic at work to create a little extra detail at those airfields. It helps to keep you immersed in the experience of the product. Speaking of immersion, something else that is key is ensuring that other products fit well with the experience. Of course I’m talking about 3rd party airports.
Now, I ask myself, is it really fair to judge a product on whether someone else’s product will work just as well? In some respects, I believe it is. I have to remember that most people out there with a passion for Germany (because they’re the real target audience here) will most definitely have other German airports in their library. On the other hand, it would be impossible for Orbx to create their own product with others in mind. What we have is something of a compromise. Now it may be by sheer chance, but Aerosoft’s Berlin blends quite well with Orbx Germany North. The impact on frames however does take its toll.
Like I said earlier, I have a pretty decent PC, with the sliders turned right up. Why do I have them up? It’s in the user manual and it does make complete sense. Remember, there’s a LOT of detail in the textures, so to ensure you have the best experience you need to have sliders turned up.
This is where my bug bear really occurs. On one hand, I want to ensure I have the most consistent and smooth experience whilst doing VFR around Germany, whilst on the other, I want to make sure the detail is rich and what I would expect from a full fat region from Orbx.
In some areas, the high settings run perfectly fine on my machine. This is fine in the more country areas of Germany, but when you approach the likes of Hamburg and Berlin, the PC does begin to struggle. Because of this I am then left with having to turn sliders down, and thus loose elements of detail. Whilst this would be inevitable, it does ruin the sense of immersion and fun I was so excited about a few paragraphs up. Of course, you can choose to turn off some features to give you some extra frames, but for me, this ruins the experience from the full product that gives you such spectacular views. Certainly helpful though to ensure people with mid-range machines can run Orbx Germany North.
It’s not the end of the world, and shows how forward thinking Orbx have been. They know technology will only get better as time goes on, and thus Germany North will continue to flourish years from now.
Performance issues aside, the detail continues to impress me like no other region before it. With the introduction of Orbx’s new 3D night lighting system, it makes no odds when you fly, you will always get a truly picturesque experience. With seasonal variance also available, there’s no excuse to not fly to Germany all year round.
Yes you will have to change your flying style. Yes you will have to have a pretty powerful PC to get the full experience. But is it worth it?
The immersion will leave you speechless. If you have a burning sensation to go and explore, then this is for you. If you just fly high and fast, then save your pennies for those detailed international airports, as you’ll miss the fantastic detail in the texturing.