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?
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.
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.
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.
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.