With FTX Global on the horizon I thought it would be a good idea to survey some of the landclass addons available to see how they compare to the default FSX scenery. Landclass addons promises increased geographical accuracy over the default terrain. Coupled with the high quality landclass textures created by ORBX for FTX Global one can, at least in theory, get a more geographically accurate and realistic looking FSX with little or no performance impact!
There are currently three major landclass products available: SceneryTech Europe Landclass (v1.1), Cloud9 XClass Europe (v1.05) and B. Renk’s MyWorld Landclass X. The last product is so poorly described and marketed that I didn’t purchase it for this review, so this is going to be a battle between the SceneryTech and Cloud9 offerings.
Before we proceed it is important to understand the limitations of landclass and what it does for FSX. The FSX scenery is divided into a grid of squares measuring approximatly 1,2 by 1,2 km in size. A system similar to the latitude and longitude grid covering real world maps. Each square can be assigned (among other things) a landclass and/or waterclass that tells FSX what type of generic terrain texture (forest, ice, city, suburb, rural etc.) it should display inside each square. Further the type of landclass that can be used is restricted by which of the 24 FSX regions the location belongs to, hence you avoid the amazon jungle being populated by conifer trees, and the Canadian Tundra with tropical swampland. Knowing this we understand that a landclass addon by nature is limited to giving a very abstract version of the real world. Being confined to a limited number of generic textures and a low resolution grid a landclass addon can only increase geographic accuracy so much.
To make this review manageable I’ve narrowed down my test area to a few locations around Europe that I know very well personally. The reviewed landclass addons will be measured against FSX, Prepar3D and Ultimate Terrain X Europe, the latter being the absolute best product of its kind available. For the record it has to be said that Ultimate Terrain X does a whole lot more than just replace the defualt landclass by adding accurate roads, railroads, rivers, coastlines, lakes, custom textures and then some. I will provide a set of identical screenshots for each selected area, as well as a satellite image for real world comparison. Now, let’s get this show started!
CROMER & SHERINGHAM, ENGLAND
The above Google Earth image shows part of the beautiful Northfolk coastline between the towns Cromer (left) and Sheringham (right). In the middle lies two smaller villages called East and West Runton.
The default FSX scenery has completely left out the two coastal towns and replaced the area with random villages and farmland. You can sport the city of Norwich in the background, but the town of Aylsham half way to Norwich has been completely left out.
Lockheed Martin has changed the landclass of the area somewhat from the original FSX/ESP scenery. The coast is denser populated (too dense), but still the towns of Cromer and Sheringham don’t stand out like they should. Still, it is marginally better than FSX.
Cloud9’s XClass has really understood what a town looks like. Sadly they should have used the same landclass as Prepar3D in between Cromer and Sheringham instead of making the entire coastline look like a large town/small city. In the background Cloud9 has included many of the small towns/large villages surrounding Norwich.
SceneryTech Landclass Europe is almost as inacurate as the default FSX scenery. It has even included a strange dry spot where the village of East Runton should have been.
Above is a screenshot using Ultimate Terrain X (UTX) Europe. Here Cromer and Sheringham are very well rendered, but the Runtons in between have been left out. The patches of forest are also very well placed. Yet UTX isn’t perfect. Aylsham, a small town half way between Cromer and Norwich isn’t as prominent as it should have been, Cloud9 did a better job there.
Last we have a screenshot of the coastline using ORBX FTX EU England scenery (Thanks to about
Jake ‘Quadraspleen’ Eyre for the screenie). It’s by far the most accurate, and a significant improvement over UTX.
Conclusion: All landclass products were lacking in certain areas, and the difference between each of them was bigger than I had expected. Cloud9 was much better than SceneryTech for this area, and a tad better than both FSX and P3D default in terms of accuracy. For accuracy only ORBX can come close to photoscenery.
The review will continue tomorrow or the next day with screenshots from Budva in Montenegro, Giardini-Naxos in Italy and Svolvær in Norway. Stay tuned, and feel free to comment or ask questions if anything is unclear.