Edit: Upon hearing the community and taking a further look into what we have come to expect from the developer, the reviewer has decided to lower both the presentation scores – due to the scenery lacking detail in features such as the airport – and the features score, due to this possible retracting from the overall experience. As a result of this, the value score has also decreased to come more in-line with the changes; this still remains a good aspect of the product, however, due to the vastness of the landscape, as explored in the following review.
Monument Valley is a natural wonder of a region, located on the Colorado Plateau (on the Arizona-Utah border), covered in a plethora of sandstone buttes. The peaks in the area reach up to 1,000ft above the valley floor and have played home to many Western American movies since the 1930s from directors such as John Ford.
In this scenery, produced by Orbx’s returning developer Frank Dainese and his developing partner Fabio Bellini, the beauty of this landmark location has been excellently translated into X-Plane 11.
The most important aspect of any scenery is how it looks, and Orbx’s Monument valley certainly tries to excel in this. The scenery is littered with accurate 3D models depicting the real-life buttes, found in the valley. The feeling of free flight is a truly captured as I flew between these massive monuments; they truly tower the terrain and are an impressive spectacle. There are 21 of these models found within the area, all of which have 4k textures baked into them.
The entire scenery has been developed from satellite elevation data, which is especially important for a scenery of this calibre and there is high-resolution photo-scenery, which I was a big fan of as it ensures there’s always something to look at, even in the sparse areas. Additionally, the region is covered with typical desert vegetation, to add that little bit more life.
Found at various points along the main road are replicas of the small settlements that exist in the valley. I was quite the fan of the clusters of huts for the communities; the highly detailed signs one can read, marking the state boundary between Arizona and Utah and the Tribal Park markers with images of the native people.
On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the detail in some of the building models wasn’t up to par with other Orbx sceneries. Many of the buildings have a simple model of the real-world counterpart and have lower-resolution textures, like the View Hotel, for example. I was impressed by the variety, however, as there are many custom buildings like the indigenous huts, caravans and houses.
Luckily, the pilot’s attention will be focused on the peaks for the majority of the time, so this lack of detail in some of the man-made structures won’t be much of an issue.
Breaking away from the X-Plane scenery installation norm, Orbx decided to make use of their FTX Central 3 software. This software allows one to not only install sceneries, but also buy them. Given that there was no need to go searching through files and dragging them over, etc. – no matter how easy I find doing so – I was pleased by this user-friendly touch, as it increases accessibility for everyone.
Firstly, the scenery itself not only includes the Monument Valley Airport (UT25) but 4 helipads dotted around at the points of interest along the road: Monument Valley Airport Helipad, View Hotel Area, Oljato Area and John Ford Point. Having only recently found an appreciation for rotor-craft, I found myself making good use of these and just having fun, which is all we ask for.
Monument Valley Airport is typically the place where most users would start when first exploring this product, and the airport bears a striking resembling feel to its real-world counterpart. The long, custom runway acting as a gateway into the valley for most, is perched next to the small hangar which houses one of the only two aircraft based at the real airport. I was a little disappointed to find that the hangar was just a default asset supplied with X-Plane, and I would have hoped that the developers could have put a bit of effort into modelling a custom one, as it’s real-world brother is smaller and not as close to the runway. I couldn’t help but feel slightly unnerved passing to the giant of a building so close at 100 knots when this is not the case in reality.
In addition to this, as is not always the case on other sceneries I find, the buttes are entirely solid, giving me a chance to practice my helicopter skills on the highest peaks, or re-enacting those famous STOL videos one finds on youtube.
Unfortunately, the product does not come with a configuration tool, like was have come to expect from Orbx, however, I suspect this is entirely due to the sparseness of the scenery, and I do not feel that this is a negative aspect to the product.
Finally, the famous ‘Man on the Horse’ photo location is modelled, with an imitation of the man and the horse themselves perched majestically upon the rocks. A true gem in this scenery, as it made me appreciate the history behind the location, the people and the film industry which owes its credit to the land.
This scenery covers a vast area and, as a result, I was expecting some stutters given the amount of vegetation in the area and the highly detailed buttes. I found quite the opposite, and I was, in fact, able to max out my X-Plane 11 settings and maintain a high 40-60fps with no stutters whatsoever. I don’t think any system, which can run X-Plane, will have any problem running it with this scenery installed.
Even on the highest settings, as I was zooming through the sandstone buttes at 300knots, not even a little stutter occurred – which is a first for my system in an area like this. So I give a solid thumbs up to the Orbx developers in this category.
Priced at $24.95 AUD, I cannot fault the developers at Orbx as I feel this price is justified – if not a little too cheap. I feel this way mainly due to the sheer scale of the coverage area; the scenery covers a vast expanse of land with the impressive terrain and many small details, and costs less than most medium-detailed airports that one can find for X-Plane 11.