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Orbx Netherlands TrueEarth: The FSElite Review

ONL Review
7.5
PRODUCT INFORMATION
Developer
Orbx
Purchase From
Orbx
Price
$54.95 AUD
BUY HERE
Version Reviewed
1.0
Press Copy Provided By
Orbx
SimMarket
FSElite's preferred Flight Sim vendor is SimMarket. (Why?)

As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favouritism. Don't forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you read.

Orbx, too, has ventured into the area of photoreal regions. Undoubtedly inspired by the popular ‘Ortho’ addons for X-Plane, Orbx’ first photoreal area is Netherlands TrueEarth. So what is ‘TrueEarth’, what does it mean for Orbx Regions and of course, how good is this addon?

 

Presentation

Let’s start at the beginning: what is TrueEarth? For a few years now, Orbx has made phenomenal region addons, with the most recent one being FTX Germany (North and South). These regions are tremendously detailed areas with accurate, hand placed landclass, custom autogen textures, custom models and more. However, and without a doubt inspired by the popularity of ‘photoreal’ addons such as Ortho for X-Plane or photoreal textures for airports, Orbx has decided to up their game. Combine all of the above with (heavily edited) photoreal ground textures, new technologies such as GIS (Geographic Information System) and ‘CityScene’, along with even more hand placed objects, and TrueEarth is born.

Orbx addons are, as always, really easy to install through FTX Central. The same goes for Netherlands TrueEarth. There is, however, one slight caveat here. Netherlands TrueEarth is a little bit bigger than Orbx regions usually are. The download size of the addon alone is close to 80 GB. Due to this, you’ll need a lot of bandwidth for the download. Another obvious requirement is a lot of empty disk space.

Performance

As always, this is an important point of attention, even more so with extensive regions. Orbx has done a lot to make the performance as good as possible. There is a control panel in FTX Central to toggle many details to help you optimise performance. Think about static and animated boats, harbour buildings, electricity masts, tv towers, antennae, windmills, water towers and more like this.

Regardless of all these options, performance is a bit of an issue. Most of the country is generally performance friendly with smooth frames and few to no stutters. But unfortunately, the closer you get to the West of the country and the densely packed cities, the more of an issue performance becomes. My frames started to drop a bit and stutters became more and more frequent. Especially when turning on all of the details, such as ships and harbour buildings, in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam area my performance suffered massively.

If you recall my review of Orbx FTX Germany South, you may remember a bit of a similar issue with that region when it came to performance. Generally, the performance of these two addons is roughly on par, with Netherlands TrueEarth performing slightly worse on occasion. Regardless, this is still a massive feat, if you consider that TrueEarth Netherlands is completely comprised of photoreal textures rather than landclass.

Features

There are a few distinct features I want to highlight about this addon. First of all, there are the photoreal textures. These are of very high quality, really detailed and very crisp. The colours are very vibrant, and there is support for five different seasons (including ‘hard winter’), most of which look great and accurate. For some reason, hard winter does not cover the entire country in snow.
The textures look great both when you’re flying low and slow and when you’re flying high up in the sky. There is definitely a visible improvement over Orbx OpenLC, particularly when it comes to texture variation. Also very nice is that the quality of the textures is so good, you can actually recognise the cities, landmarks and particular areas of the country such as national parks, lakes, canals and rivers and the like.
Unfortunately, the textures will on occasion blur. Particularly when you’re flying (low and) fast this is a common occurrence. And, as with all Orbx regions, it’s a little noticeable when you’re leaving the region, due to the change in textures. This is not a real deal-breaker though.

One of the biggest features that makes TrueEarth what it is, are probably the CityScene buildings. These are good, but not great. The textures are a bit boring: not very accurate and rather repetitive. Furthermore, the textures are coloured blandly, and lighting doesn’t seem to affect them in the same way as autogen textures are affected, so they stand out a bit – both during night and day. The custom modelling of buildings is something that is done very well, but that’s about it.
It doesn’t help that only the city centres are made out of these CityScene buildings. Anything outside of that will turn back to regular autogen. Depending on your settings, these areas may suddenly be rather sparsely populated in contrast to the densely packed CityScene areas.
It’s also kind of weird that some big landmarks are missing. Sure, a lot of them are there. But there are also a lot of them missing. Most notably, railway stations. But also some stadia, churches, concert buildings and the like are missing. This becomes particularly noticeable when you’re familiar with the area.

Orbx is also using a new technique for night lighting. Although I do notice a slight difference, particularly in the density and colour of night lights in cities and on roads, it’s not that much different from regular FTX Vector lights.

Last but not least, Orbx has, much like in their FTX regions, given the default airports a bit of an overhaul. These also look rather nice. They’re not too accurate, and certainly no replacement for airport addons by other parties. But for many of these airports there are no other options available, and that makes the Orbx touched airports that bit nicer.
Talking about third party airports, you’re probably also interested to know how compatible Netherlands TrueEarth is with FlyTampa’s Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Provided you have your addons ordered correctly (more information on this can be found on the Orbx forums), FlyTampa’s Amsterdam Schiphol blends perfectly with Netherlands TrueEarth and will override the airport and its surrounding area.

Value

Netherlands TrueEarth is without a doubt aimed at Dutchies and GA pilots. Sure, there is something there for everyone, and even if you’re not a GA flyer (or Dutch) you will enjoy this scenery, but the drawbacks on performance may not be entirely worth it. Netherlands TrueEarth is at its best when you’re doing GA flying, so you can take in all the beautiful nature, buildings and landmarks. Furthermore, that is the only real way to appreciate all of the detailed textures and admire the great job Orbx has done here.
Though it’s not too expensive, it’s still a bit hard to justify buying it if you’re only flying big airlines, as you’re likely to miss out on almost all unique features that this addon has to offer.

It should not be forgotten that there is some great freeware available for the Netherlands. The team over at NL2000 has been delivering photoreal scenery of the country for years now, as well as more detailed custom airports. Depending on your requirements, as well as your budget, this is a serious alternative to look in to. Depending on your preferences, I sometimes found myself liking one over the other a bit more in certain areas of the country.

 
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Orbx Meigs Field for X-Plane: The FSElite Review

Feature Image
7.9
PRODUCT INFORMATION
Developer
Orbx
Purchase From
Orbx
Price
AUD$32.95
BUY HERE
Version Reviewed
1.0
Press Copy Provided By
Orbx
SimMarket
FSElite's preferred Flight Sim vendor is SimMarket. (Why?)

As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favouritism. Don't forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you read.

It doesn’t matter how much of a one-eyed fanboy (or girl) you might be, there’s no denying that X-Plane is in its infancy compared to the ESP (FSX, P3D) platform. The other side of the simming fence has had a long time to build a fan base and attract to their platform a multitude of developers seeking to make some money from their hard work. X-Plane, on the other hand, is only now making these developers realise that we’re a market that cannot be ignored. Once a month, at least, we’re seeing more and more developers realise the potential of the X-Plane market and announce their intentions to bring their content to our platform. Orbx was no different.

Back in 2017, the hints were there that X-Plane was on the cards for the Orbx team, and just prior to Christmas as the year came to a close they announced a 2018 road map, with X-Plane featuring heavily in the work-in-progress presentation. Airports such as EGCB Barton Manchester, and photo-real scenery for The Netherlands were shown, but there was also what was to become their first product and entry into the X-Plane market; the legendary KCGX Meigs Field.

Now let me start here by saying that I do share the widespread opinion that this is an incredibly odd choice for Orbx’s entry into X-Plane for a couple of reasons;

  • Meigs Field has been closed for nearly 15 years to the day at the time of this review’s publication, and
  • A lot of the notoriety of the airport within the simming community comes from its inclusion to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series right up until FS2004

With that in mind, there is no doubt that Meigs is an iconic airport, and most simmers will have no doubt spent some time in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series at one point or another, surely having taken off from there once or twice in their simming careers.
So with that elephant in the room now addressed, let’s take a look at what Orbx has bought to X-Plane.

 

Presentation

Regardless of your preferred simulator platform, you know that Orbx is known for high-quality products in FSX & P3D. They’re a name that has been around for years, and as a result, they’re treated as a benchmark for other developers. Coming to X-Plane, this should be no different, and I’m pleased to say that the quality that I remember from my days as a P3D pilot still remains in their new venture into the world of X-Plane.

For those unfamiliar with Meigs Field (if there are any of you at all), it’s a small GA field set on an artificial island in Lake Michigan, Chicago. It’s surrounded mostly by water, but on the landside, it nestles a large marina, neighboured by sports stadiums, office buildings, parklands, an aquarium, and even an observatory, all backed by the easily identified Chicago cityscape. The entirety is modelled in detail, as is the Orbx standard. A little disappointing though is the coverage of the custom buildings – they appear to be quite sparse once away from the city centre, but this may be in order to produce a truer depiction of the city skyline – without having been to Chicago myself, I can only speculate.

The field’s scenery pack also includes orthophotos (or “photo-real ground textures” as they are marketed) for a great distance surrounding the airport, so once in the air in your low and slow machine, you’re able to take in the beauty of the Chicago area as in real world. The overlays have also been applied with great detail of city streets, highways, train tracks and traffic routes.

Throughout the areas covered by ortho, it appears that a lot of work has gone into placing lighting throughout the city – residential streets have a few lamp posts, main roads have more (and white in colour), highways have more with an increased light intensity, and sports stadiums have their fields under lights as if there were a Friday night football match taking place. All of this makes one absolutely stunning scene at dawn, dusk, or under the stars at night.

The airport itself is scattered with some static vehicles, most of which appear to be higher quality than what most users would be used to form the freeware addon scenery library vehicles which nearly all X-Plane users would have installed at some point alongside a freeware scenery requiring it. Interestingly, as someone who highly dislikes static aircraft in sceneries, I do find the amount of aircraft at Meigs Field to be tolerable – there’s not a huge amount, but there’s just enough to create an atmosphere that suggests that you’re flying out of an active aerodrome.
Texturing on the airside is done to a high quality. The runway is textured so well that you can make out the joins in the concrete, and the markings over the top are crystal clear from far out. Exiting the runway, you’ll follow some very clear taxiway markings back to the ramp, lined with the glow of the taxiway lights the whole way.

Features

As previously discussed, the surrounding areas of the airfield are modelled to a high standard. The buildings and stadiums place around the area are all landmarks that would expect to be found on a flight into Meigs.

The Central Business District (CBD) cityscape towers over the field from a distance, and nestled in between the surrounding buildings are the Sears Tower, Aeon Center, Trump Tower and Hancock Centre all modelled to perfection and in high quality. The surrounding autogen buildings are accurately placed, according to Orbx, and crisscrossing between them all is accurate roadways and highways with autogen traffic giving some life to the city.

Most immediately around the field are landmarks such as the Soldier Field football stadium, complete with night lighting and goalposts (in case you want to go kick a ball around after that $100 burger). A short distance away toward the CBD, and somewhat resembling a kidney bean, is the Cloud Gate sculpture. While not as shiny and reflective within the sim, the sculpture is easily recognisable and sits adjacent the music pavilion on the edge of the big-business district.
Back toward the field, you’ll come across the aptly named The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. This makes for a lot of interesting sights compressed into a small area – ideal for a sightseeing VFR tour.

Perhaps for the reason of not knowing how this airport would be received, Orbx have seemingly not implemented their ObjectFlow technology that features in their other sceneries on P3D and FSX. This is the technology that gives life to the airport itself, with people moving about the airport doing menial tasks. Perhaps it may be the case that this technology has not quite been perfect yet in the X-Plane environment. Whatever the reason, there is surely a reason for it, but I can’t help but feel a light implementation of this would have given a little more ambience to the airfield.

 

Performance

It has been mentioned in my previous content for FSElite, that I’m not currently running the latest and greatest in technology at all. My system is at its happiest when running X-Plane at Medium to High settings, with a small amount of AA. This generally gives me the best performance/visual brilliance balance that every simmer seeks to achieve.
Having come from P3D only 18 – 24 months ago, I was understandably wary of the performance impact that this scenery may have on my system after experiencing such with some Orbx (and other developers) products in that sim. Thankfully once my sim loaded in for the first time, and FPS had stabilised, I was met with some decent frame rates that were not the best I had ever seen from my system, but not much less than that either.
Considering the amount of night lighting and custom objects, I was quite impressed with how well it had been optimised for their first attempt at an X-Plane product.

Value

This is where things get subjective – like I mentioned in the introduction, Meigs has been closed for 15 years. It’s also a GA field. These two factors rule out two crowds; those who fly airliners, and those who like realism. You can also rule out those who sit in the middle of the two. For the people who fit into these categories, the value that this airport provides to you is going to be very little. I’d expect that if you purchased this product, you’d take the C172 out of there for some circuits once, and following that you’d likely only ever have your sim load it as you flew over the top in your A320. If this is you, I’d probably suggest saving the AUD$32.95 for the next Orbx release, unless you were VERY curious about how this legendary developer fairs in the world of X-Plane.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re a simmer who enjoys low and slow, and your alarm clock is the sound of a turboprop at full feather and mixture, Orbx’s Meigs Field is a must have. For the price tag they ask, it KCGX provides a legendary GA airfield with a beautiful surrounding cityscape full of landmarks and generally interesting sights. The surrounding ortho is high quality – ideal for low-level flying – and the airport itself feels alive with a scattering of beautifully modelled static GA aircraft. Upon taking your first trip in or out of the airfield, you’ll appreciate the hard work that has gone into bringing this product to X-Plane, and it’ll leave you curious and excited for their next offering to our world.

Conclusion

The Orbx name has been associated with high-quality products within the FSX & P3D community for a long time, becoming a benchmark for scenery developers to strive toward achieving an “as good as” or “better than” rating of their own products. We’re now incredibly lucky to the Orbx team entering the X-Plane market, as this will no doubt drive other developers to increase their quality in order to meet that same benchmark.
Meigs Field being chosen as their first product for the X-Plane platform has left a lot of people puzzled, but the product shows exactly what this experienced team is capable of doing despite working within a new simulator. The quality is exactly what you’d expect from Orbx, and then some, with X-Plane specific touches added to really bring out the brilliance of the product.
It’s not for everyone though, and anyone considering this scenery should really decide if the type of flying that they do is matched to the characteristics of the airport, but if you’re the target market for this scenery I’d highly recommend making this purchase.

KCGX Meigs Field by Orbx is available now through their website and FTX Central desktop application at a cost of AUD$32.95

 
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