• Review: Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    Taking In The Sights

    Up to this point I have spent hours flying over TrueEarth US Washington, predominantly from the cockpit of the excellent Carenado Cessna 172SP. I have found that flying "low and slow" gave me the best opportunities to drink in the sights around me as I toured some of my favorite flying haunts around the state. While I purposefully looked around for several of the well-known buildings and landmarks (especially around Seattle), I was actually more interested in getting into the mountains and more remote locales in the state. Washington is so much more than just Seattle!

    Many people who don't live here and have never visited the Pacific Northwest are often encumbered with the preconception of tall trees and mountains, leaden skies, and rainy weather. While that is somewhat true here on the west side of the Cascades where I live, Washington is an extremely diverse state geographically and it doesn't always rain! In fact, summer is generally very dry here and this should be very obvious by the light brown shade of grass evidenced in the satellite imagery used in the scenery package. Orbx calls it "color balanced summer imagery." This description fits what I observed very accurately.

    Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington     Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    Washington's rugged coastline, the broad Puget Sound trough, and majestic Olympic and Cascade ranges really only define the region of the state west of the Cascades. Once you cross to the east side, forests dominated by dense spire-like firs give way to more openly spaced Ponderosa pine woods and large expanses of rolling plains, fertile river valleys, and rocky sage brush country. Much of central and southern Washington is characterized by such terrain and is very suitable for growing produce. Northeastern Washington near Spokane and the Idaho state line is wooded and mountainous and very typical of the northern Rockies in terrain features. If it isn't obvious, I am very fond of Washington and love living here.

    I was initially concerned that the Orbx developers may have overlooked something when designing the scenery and left out some key details, but that hasn't been the case at all. TrueEarth US Washington looks eerily photo realistic from every corner and in between and I couldn't be happier with how it came out. The city landscapes and custom buildings, bridges, dams, lighthouses, heck...even aircraft carriers look shockingly realistic and are perfectly placed! I love looking down from the cockpit at the shoreline and feeling as though I can see through the water to the bottom. I love flying over glacier-capped mountains and through idyllic, peaceful valleys speckled with perfectly placed trees. When scenery looks this good...this accurate, one is completely immersed in the experience. I even flew over my house!

    Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington     Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    Something in how I approach flying in X-Plane 11 has permanently changed as I feel as though I am not just immersed in flying an aircraft, but that I am flying for real. I have never experienced anything like this with any type of interactive form of entertainment. It is a startlingly visceral experience that trumps the logical side of my brain that knows I am sitting at my desk in front of my computer.

    I would love to tell you that TrueEarth US Washington looked perfect and for the most part it absolutely does. An unfortunate side effect, however, of utilizing any kind of ortho-imagery on a scenery package is that it generally looks much better from the air than it does on the ground. While all of the airports within the package look like they do by default within X-Plane 11, the ground textures will look a little worse, in my opinion, and look more like ill-defined blobs of color. This is not at all a critique of the efforts put forth by the development team, just an honest observation of this type of scenery for those who may be unfamiliar. Outside of custom modeling every airport in the state, I don't see any way around this. Fortunately a good number of high quality Washington State airports are in development as I type this and are coming soon! I can't wait!

    Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington     Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    Conclusion

    While I have already mentioned that this scenery package is a very large file, I have not yet got into how it performs graphically. From my mid-range 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7 iMac, and modest rendering settings in X-Plane, I honestly didn't notice any drops in frame rates from what experiencing before I installed the product during my typical flying routines. When I flew over some of the large cities, however, with their abundance of buildings and custom rendered objects, I did notice some speed reductions, but they weren't nearly as bad as I expected. I was, frankly, shocked with how well TrueEarth US Washington performed and can easily recommend it for people running superior machines to mine. As always, though, make sure you've got the space for such a large download and the "oomph," to get it to run.

    Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington     Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    The price of $48.83 USD is shockingly good in my humble opinion considering that this is a near picture perfect rendition of an entire state done in exacting detail. This really is one of the finest products I have ever had the pleasure to review. If you are a Washington resident, like me, I consider TrueEarth US Washington a "must have," file and fully recommend the investment. You will absolutely not regret it. Even if you don't live in Washington you should still strongly consider purchasing this scenery package as it just looks so darn good and is a fantastic place to fly airplanes. This is the kind of scenery that, in a perfect world, would be included with every flight simulation platform for every region of the earth. Unfortunately for us, that just isn't possible yet. In the meantime, if you're interested in flying in a truly beautiful and awe inspiring corner of the planet, however, I think forty eight bucks is a small price to pay for what this package has to offer. It is, simply, "WOW!"

    Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington     Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington

    Shawn Weigelt

    Purchase Orbx - TrueEarth US Washington


    1 Comment
    1. johnnybbmorgan's Avatar
      johnnybbmorgan -
      Shawn,
      Thanks for your thorough review of what I also believe is one of the best addons I've ever spent $$$ on! I was born in Seattle, and have been a Washingtonian for the bulk of my life. TE Washington is simply amazing and beautiful! I was fortunate to finally get my 'dream' dedicated for flight simming only 'hot' setup earlier this year and I'm able to jack up my flightsim's settings to pretty much maxed out, and what can I say...TE Washington kicks butt! I live on the Oregon coast nowadays and love this state's natural beauty as much as my beloved Washington! And...wouldn't you know it...another dream came true! Orbx just recently released TE Oregon and it's superb too! I'm spending a lot of time flying around both great states, and I'm enjoying every minute of it! Thanks Orbx!

      John
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