REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE – FINAL WORDS

Comparing Landclass addons is a labour intensive task. I visited eight areas that I have been to myself and photographed recently. My findings were surprising and I had much hoped for a different conclusion, but here it is:

1) The quality and accuracy of all landclass products and the default scenery can’t be trusted. They are very inconsistent to say the least;

2) Prepar3D has replaced much of  the FSX landclass for Europe, but in terms of accuracy it isn’t necessarily an improvement;

3) Ultimate Terrain X wasn’t as accurate as I had initially thought, still best of the bunch, although it just covers half of Europe;

4) Neither SceneryTech Landclass Europe or Cloud9’s XClass Europe will give you geographic accurate landclass for Europe, but XClass looked better to my eye by a hair. What these landclass products do is add more variety to the default FSX scenery.

So when the time comes to install FTX Global I will do the following:

1) Set up FSX with Ultimate Terrain X and XClass. SceneryTech will be uninstalled.

2) AS for Prepar3D I’d say it does the job just as good as the dedicated landclass products, so they aren’t really needed.

For anyone interested in flying in a geographic accurate simulator world there isn’t really a good product out there. The landclass addons aren’t really needed, and if I had known what I know now I would never had bought SceneryTech or XClass. However, if you don’t care about realism they will add a bit more variety to the drab default FSX landscape and make looking out the window a bit more enjoyable. Looking through the set of screenshots it is apparant that at least one product hits a home run for each area, meaning that realistically it is possible to create a fairly accurate landclass addon even with the restrictions the default scenery grid system and limited selection of textures. The freeware scenery FinlandX shows how it can be done for some countries with a large degree of automation by converting real world data to polygons, hence avoiding the FSX grid system.

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 8

SHKODER, ALBANIA

Albania_Google

Situated in Northern Albania by the shore of Lake Shkoder, the city of Shkoder is the perfect place to get a taste for the history and future of Albania. The nearby defunkt Gjadër Air Base tells a fascinating story of Albania’s military during its isolation years.

Albania_FSX

The default FSX scenery isn’t bad and makes a decent representation of the area. The mix of cool and dry crops look a bit strange though. However the countryside is way too poulated.

albania_p3d

Prepar3D isn’t much different from FSX, but it has more farmland in the left side of the screenshot, which is both correct and wrong at the same time. Just as the FSX scenery the countryside is a bit too populated.

Albania_Xclass

XClass is better than both FSX and P3D. Cloud9 has less forest vegetation, which is spot on, but have missed a lot of farmland and surrounding villages.

albania_SceneryTech

Scenerytech has done a very good job with the city and surrounding villages and farmland. They have gone a bit overboard with the forest though. They’ve also made the area very dry.

Albania_UTX

UTX has selected very dry textures for their farmland also. It’s not bad, but just as with the defualt FSX and P3D scenery, the farmland area is a bit too populated. Strangely UTX has done nothing for rivers and coastline in this area, but then again, it is not listed as a covered area in the advertisment, so this must be a bonus area from Scenery Solutions?

Conclusion: Well, I’d say that in terms of accuracy it is a tie between Cloud9 and SceneryTech. In a few days I’ll be drawing an overall conclusion and rating of the featured products. Doing this review has surprised me, and I find it strange that it hasn’t been done before since these products are pretty old. Stay tuned!

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 7

LE VIADUC DE MILLAU, LA FRANCE

France_Google

The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast’s summit at 343.0 metres (1,125 ft) above the base of the structure.

France_FSX

While the default FSX scenery has given most of the area around the viaduct a realistic landclass treatment, the town of Millau has been wiped off the map almost completely.

France_P3D

I don’t know if this is an error or represents Lockheed Martins’s futuristic vision of the area, but the town of Millau has certainly grown into one giant city judging by the landclass assignment. While FSX has made this area too rural, Prepar3D has made it too urban – almost complete opposites!

France_XClass

XClass has gotten the town about right, but the landclass closest to the bridge is wrong with that awful grassland and lack of fields to the left of the town.

France_SceneryTech

SceneryTech has given the area a pretty good treatment, but there are too many villages depicted around the fields in the left part of the screenshot.

France_UTX

UTX has done the best job of all, but there should have been a tad more fields between the bridge and the town.

Conclusion: SceneryTech is clearly the best of the pure landclass products, but Ultimate Terrain X is the best of the bunch. Both FSX’s and Preapar3D’s default scenery is unusable.

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 6

HVALVIK/STREYMNES, FØROYAR (FAROE ISLANDS)

Faroe_Google

The Faroe Islands lies north of Britain, half way between Norway and Iceland and is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. It is well known for its one and only  airport, Vágar, which is often very challenging to land on because of the treacherous North Atlantic Weather. The Faroes are well knwon for its unique landscape of grass-covered mountains and hills almost completely deprived of trees. Some even call it the Falklands of the North.

Faroe_fsx

In FSX this landscape has been ill treated. Streymnes is left out and there is way too much vegetation.

Faroe_p3d

Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D team clearly has little knowledge of these islands. The populated areas are a tad better depicted, but again, the vegetation is wrong wrong wrong.

Faroe_SceneryTech

Scenerytech isn’t really an upgrade over the default FSX/P3D scenery. Slightly different, but still highly inaccurate.

Faroe_XClass

Cloud9’s XClass have done a better job with the landscape, but misses the fact that there should be a few villages surrounding the narrow strait.

None of the products does a very good job with the Faroes and can’t be called an upgrade over the default FSX/P3D scenery. While XClass does the best job in terms of vegetation, the lack of villages keeps it from being any better than Scenrytech’s horrible rendering.

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 5

BORKUM, OSTRIESISCHEN INSELN, DEUTSCHLAND (GERMANY)

germany_google

Today we’re going to have a closer look at the beautiful town and island in the North of Germany called Borkum.

germany_fsx

FSX renders the landscape as mostly farmland with a bit of barren grass thrown into the mix. Very inaccurate and if it weren’t for the recognisable coastline, you’d be hopelessly lost.

germany_p3d

Prepar3D is almost identical to FSX apart from using a more densely populated farmland landclass. Still, it doesn’t look much like the town of Bokum.

germany_scenerytech

SceneryTech has toned down the farmland a tad, but is still way off and it can’t be described as an upgrade over the default FSX or P3D scenery.

germany_xclass

Knowing the limitations of the FSX/P3D landclass system, XClass by Cloud9 has done a very good job of Bokum. They’ve even added a bit of sand/beach landclass which surrounds most of the island in real life.

germany_utx

Ultimate Terrain X Europe is the most accurate of the bunch. The improved coastline, beaches and road network does most of the work, but the landclass is good and on par with XClass.

Conclusion: I am still amazed at how different these products are. A pattern is emerging, although we’ll have a few more series of comparisons to do before we can try to pick a favourite. XClass is as good as UTX in this area. SceneryTech is abysmal.

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 4

GOLFO DI NAXOS, SICILIA, ITALY

italy_google

Just North of Etna on the island of Sicilia (Sicily) lies the beautiful Golfo di Naxos. The closest town is Giardini Naxos, and further back lies the charming hillside town Taormina.

italy_fsx

The FSX default scenery bears little resemblance to the real world location. The only thing that is accurate is the Giardini Naxos archeological park – purely coincidental of course.

italy_p3d

The default P3D scenery looks good. Apart from the desert area further behind, the towns are nicely depicted. Seems that Lockheed Martin has a soft spot for Southern Europe, since they did quite well in Montenegro also.

italy_cloud9

Cloud9 did a poor job. Taormina is completely missing and most of the surrounding area is too dry and has too little vegetation. In real life the area is surprisingly luxuriant because of the local weather created by nearby Mount Etna.

italy_scenerytech

The only good thing to say about Scenerytech here is that the landclass used for the mountains is OK. Just like Cloud9’s XClass, Taormina has been left out. Also, the landclass used for Giardini Naxos is too rural.

italy_utx

Like P3D, Ultimate Terrain X has managed to do well with the placement of the towns and the selected lanclass type. However they have transformed the area into a desert.

conclusion: Quite surprisingly P3D has done the best job, and all of the payware addons have failed. In Ultimate Terrain X you can deactivate vegetation landclass and only use its city landclass which would fit well with P3D default scenery. Sadly Ultimate Terrain X’s EULA doesn’t allow use with P3D…

Next up, Deutschland and Føroyar (Faroe Islands).

REVIEW: FSX LANDCLASS BATTLE PART 3

BUDVA, CRNA GORA (MONTENEGRO)

montenegro_google

Crne Gora is a stunningly beautiful mountainous country in the Balkans. Budva is a town of 18.000 inhabitants not far from Tivat Airport which has one of the most spectacular approaches of any airport in Europe. Above Budva lies steep mountains partially covered in dark pine trees.

montenegro_fsx

FSX has really given Montenegro a dreadful treatment. The coastline isn’t even recognisable, and as for landclass it is an almost complete miss. The dark green mountains that has given name to the country is turned into a beige sandy landscape, and the city of Budva has been displayed as farmland.

montenegro_p3d

Prepar3D has done a bit better than FSX with the landclass assignments and with a little less farmland up in those mountains it would have been very convincing.

montenegro_cloud9

While Cloud9 has understood what Montenegro means, they have completely left out a town of 18.000 inhabitants. The default P3D scenery is way better!

montenegro_scenerytech

Scenerytech’s rendition of the area is very similar to that of Prepar3D. Budva is there, but it does look more like a village than a town.

Conclusion: Ultimate Terrain X Europe doesn’t cover this area, hence no UTX screenshot. Best of the bunch is Prepar3D, with Scenerytech as a close second. Both Cloud9’s XClass and the default FSX scenery is unusable for this area.

Tomorrow we’re moving further south to Sicily. Stay tuned!