Days Evaluated: Dec 25th – January 02nd
First off I would like to say that I don’t usually review addons because there is such an extensive amount of information already available for us virtual pilots to read and see before buying. The main reason I decided to go forth with this review is because I am a pilot from the southern California region and I am familiar with the airspace and how the scenery looks in real life. Hopefully a review like this can give a comprehensive comparison between what is provided by ORBX and what it is like in real life. Also, I have been an owner of MegaScenery SoCal for years now and I can help those that are looking for an upgrade from this aging scenery. I am glad to have picked up ORBX’s beautiful scenery addon and for its price, it is simply irresistible! A quick note, I will only be covering the Southern California region as there is multiple reviews and pictures on the Las Vegas side of the scenery. I have, by no means, covered all the scenery! There is miles on end of scenery to look at and I am only scraping the surface of it. I chose to cover the areas I know best to give you guys the best feedback, enjoy!
- Intel i7-5820K @4.1GHz OC (Hexa-Core)(12 Threads)
- Asus X99-A Motherboard
- Nvidia Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX970 (4Gb gddr5)
- 2×8 (16Gb) Crucial 2133MHz DDR4 Ram
- Samsung Evo 850 SSD (500Gb)
- EVGA SuperNova V2 850 Watt PSU
- Samsung SyncMaster 2343BWX + Samsung S23C570
- Lockheed Martin P3D V3.1
Download and Installation
This is really an easy step because flightsimstore.com and orbx have made the executable incredibly simple to navigate through. I simply logged into my The Flightsim Store account, added Orbx – FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California to my cart. From there I proceed to checkout and paid with PayPal. Easy huh!
Once downloaded (around 6.4 gigabytes of incredible scenery) I extracted the zip onto my desktop and began the installation through the .exe file. The wrapper extracts the files in a temporary directory then the ORBX installer begins. As long as you follow the steps on the .exe files, everything will run smoothly.
Once in the sim, I had to manually inject the scenery directories for SoCal but that is only because am currently having issues with my scenery.cfg file, no biggie as long as you add the directories in the correct order (Custom, Mesh, CVX, and Scenery ← in ascending order). Installation is simple!
- FTX Global + Vector (Tested)
- FSDT KLAX (Tested)
- LatinVFR John Wayne (Assumed)
- T2G San Diego (Assumed)
Even for a relatively high end system* like mine, this scenery does tax the system quite a bit. There are micro stutters because the sim is constantly trying to load the textures that follow with the scenery. In terms of stability of FPS, the scenery likes to hang between 25 and 30 fps. When flying into the heart of Las Vegas or Los Angeles, I have seen frames drop to as low as 15. The scenery is taxing and will require the average computer to reduce AI Traffic or general settings. While testing the FPS, I was running multiple other programs on my second monitor including Chrome (With YT videos playing) and ASN. That might equate for some performance loss. Overall, yes you will get your computer’s a*# handed to you, but with modesty in the sliders, this scenery will do just fine.
* This can be debated by some but in the general population of flight simulator users, I am confident that my system is above average. I think I should invest in a SLI GTX970 setup.
Thoughts on the Scenery (In General)
First off, I have to say I enjoy writing about Flight Simulator! This sure beats writing about literature in school. Okay, in terms of high much and how well ORBX has done SoCal, I have to say they hit it right on the money. I spent a couple hours of flying VFR around most of the coverage, with the exception of Las Vegas for my first flight. When there is farmland in Google Maps, there is farmland in ORBX. They have nailed the regions of SoCal and the various classes of land in the area. I am genuinely impressed as to how much land ORBX is including in this 6Gb file! I will let the pictures speak for themselves now, and if I have comments I will add them under the picture.
Click through the Flikr Embedded album below for images and captions. (Note: Window resolution must be larger than 1024 pixels to see the full size of the images)
ROUTE FLOWN IN THE GALLERY ABOVE.
My Opinions (As a SoCal Pilot)
Okay, This is the heart of the entire review. The scenery is stellar but it does come with its setbacks. The overall saturation of the scenery (amount of color) is a bit too much for my taste. This results in a SoCal scenery as though the drought crisis never existed. This isn’t too big of an issue for people that don’t live or fly (in real life) from the area, but I am just nit picking. The valley area (San Bernadino and Riverside area) is well accurately made in terms of dryness and tan color. The scenery accurately models landmarks and important geographical regions perfectly. I couldn’t be more content with the coverage and accuracy that ORBX has put in. The guys over at ORBX really know how to make a scenery that just looks outstanding. For roughly 140,000 square miles of coverage, this scenery really hits it home for anyone looking for a good scenery to buy.
I love taking out the TAC for the LA area and flying VFR around in the Baron. Even though I fly IFR most of the time in the simulator, this scenery has inspired me to leave the 747 back in the hangar and to pass the time in some fine GA plane.
Click the photo below for a larger version (and download options):
So… What is Wrong?
This scenery has very little to critique, but what I can say is that it vaguely reminds me of the default scenery. There were times while flying through the middle of the mountains when I couldn’t tell if I was in the coverage area. I would have been happier if ORBX went over to did photoreal textures, but the resource needed for that is quite difficult to attain. The other issue, as mentioned, is the fact that it feels too “green” to me. SoCal is a dried up raisin and this scenery should represent that. The outskirts of the basin Los Angeles clearly has this textured, the lush mountains are a bit hard to believe. This isn’t really an issue, it is more of just being too specific.
There seems to be inconsistencies with the scenery. There are parts of the scenery that are just cut off, similar to default scenery and this makes for some awkward pictures. It isn’t a huge deal, but I noticed some patches of land like golf courses or residential areas that were just cut off with no real blend to the terrain next to it. The scenery feels like a massive default scenery upgrade rather than a completely different scenery. I tried to find my home in the sim and the roads and school that is near are accurately placed but the town center and few other landmarks are overridden by residential autogen. There are minor quirks about the scenery that MegaScenery didn’t have an issue with, but overall it still a great package. This issue isn’t deal breaking, but it sure makes you think twice about flying low level VFR.
ORBX SoCal VS MegaScenery SoCal
I decided to toss in MegaScenery SoCal into this review because I have been using that scenery for my SoCal needs for years now. Though being an older scenery, it holds up quite nicely against ORBX’s rendition but obviously has its cons. ORBX really has the edge over MegaScenery because it is modern, has a larger coverage, accurately placed autogen, and is visually appealing because of its complexity. The only real edge MegaScenery has in this case is its performance and the fact that most of the scenery coverage is photoreal. Photo real scenery has its perks of looking better at high altitudes but is also not as visually appealing if it is low resolution. MegaScenery has some edge in the fact that their scenery is photoreal. I comparison between MegaScenery, Google Maps, and ORBX really shows this point that having photoreal scenery with autogen placed accurately is the best option. Megascenery has its own setbacks that won’t be discussed here however. ORBX takes a toll on the host system due to its extensive scenery and detail. For pilots looking for a scenery without hiccups, but are okay with buying an outdated scenery, MegaScenery does the job. ORBX easily sweeps over MegaScenery but it too has the unique issue discussed in my opinion above.
Click the photo below for a larger version (and download options):
ORBX has made Southern California as if there is no ongoing drought. The scenery is lush and green and that is really hard to find these days in the SoCal area. The eyecandy of the scenery is definitely there, but just like FSDT on their LAX, ORBX fails to realize how dry the region really is. This isn’t a major setback though, the place just looks incredible to fly around! Overall, this scenery is worth every penny. It is extensive, detailed, and just a nice fit for anyone looking to explore mountains, coastlines, and everything in between. Even if you don’t come from the area, this scenery is well worth to check out. There is many airports, large and small, deserts, mountains, beaches, and a whole lot of autogen.
Final Verdict: BUY THIS SCENERY! Good value for the money, okay performance, and a lot of region to explore!
Final Notes: ORBX is fantastic, but I would have hoped to see more photoreal scenery. Great coverage and for the price, this addon is simply a must have!