Thursday, October 17, 2013

ADX FirstLook: Orbx Damyns Hall!

P3D. Now this is a very interesting product. It's very small and budget priced with few objects. There is just not much to see. At least, at first glance, that's the impression. The fact is, these UK grass strips were not meeting the sales expectations Orbx had set for the UK product line. As a result, we have seen a major price drop on these airfields and the institution of a new "budget" airfield series starting with Damyns Hall. So I made my way over to EGML aerodrome and the moment I stepped out of the parking lot and onto the airfield, I quickly realized my first impression was terribly flawed. As I looked around, I was reminded of why I was so desperate to get FSX working on my system. But when that venture failed, dejected me went back to FS9 till Lockheed Martin, like an angel, flew down and delivered P3D. Russ White's latest work represents every reason why I jumped into the advanced platform in the first place. Come with me and i'll explain why Damyns Hall is the hallmark of what we love about VFR flying.

When I arrived on the airfield, I was completely astonished with the environmental immersion Russ created. I was told I would find a helicopter where I could better get the areal perspective. I was not sure why I needed an airal view on Damyns Hall. It seemed perfectly to me that everything I needed to see was right here on the ground. But nonetheless, I never miss an opportunity to climb aboard something that fly's.

Getting back to why I switched to P3D. 

At some point a few years ago, I became interested in VFR flying. For me, flight simulation was all about the PMDG 737, CS757 etc. props were just too low and slow. I call it my n00b flying days. I am referring to FS9 here by the way. 

I think it all started with FlyTampa's St. Barthélemy scenery. There was just something about that steep challenging approach that always appealed to me and the only way to land there is on a visual approach in a prop driven aircraft. (Although Bill Ortis' Epic Victory does very well there in P3D.)  So I set out to find a good prop aircraft to start with and after practicing with many freeware addons that included the TBM700, I finally mastered the approach from both ends.

Finally, I decided on Carenado's PA34 200T SENECA II as my first purchase of a prop aircraft. This led to other payware prop aircraft including PMDG 1900D and my VFR world just expanded from there. Second up was SABA. I just can't count how many times I flew off or into the cliffs of that island.

But I should also mention actually, now that I think further, it was Aerosoft's Lukla that was the very first airport that got me into props I believe. Challenging approaches are in my blood. I have difficulty sleeping when I don't get it right. The issue however, was a strong lack of proper aircraft to fly into VNL2. So TFFJ became the first small airport that I had ever taken seriously. 

As my interest grew in VFR flying, I  became a scavenger of quality VFR airfields for FS9. Finally I started to look at those 3 GA airports that came with my FlightZone 02 Portland package. I never even glanced much less cared about these airfields before. But upon discovering the high quality of Carenado and Lionheart aircraft, I quickly fell in love with the FZ airfields so much that I rarely used PDX anymore. I also found myself turned on to Georender, FlyLogic Swiss airports and a few German airfields packs. At some point, I became aware of Orbx, but given the fact that this team had no interest in FS9, I had no interest in them. But i'll admit, falling leaves and all that crap was very intriguing. 

Then a group of Hungarian dudes appeared on my radar. LHSim's Pecs Pogany was by far the very best small airfield scenery ever created in FS9. My opinion of course only surpassed by their own Gyor. The grass, the trees, the foliage, the autogen... I could go on and on. Never before had I seen such a realistic scenery in FS9. I was totally amazed. But I had nowhere to fly to once off the ground till I discovered a very talented freeware project so good, I wrote an article on it:

This little Pipis-Hegy scenery was so lovely I used it to train my wife to fly. Even posted a video of her doing touch and go's at LHGY in the Lionheart WT9. 

For the first time, I realized, this must be what Orbx sceneries must be like. So Dom shot me a couple of his Orbx products and I started out to get FSX running. As I said, with all the bugs and editing I had to do, I just found it too unstable for me. So I gave up. Prepar3D was just too damn expensive to justify. But then, only a week later, the academic license was released. I felt as if God himself was saying, D'Andre, you need this! I made it reachable to you now go get it!

P3D worked beautifully. My first install was Orcas Island. I needed something to compare with the my old Georender. Once the scenery loaded, in an instant, my life changed.

It was very clear in a sudden moment. I couldn't ever go back to FS9 VFR flying. In my opinion, the features in mega airports between FS9 and FSX are minimal. It's the aircraft that make the real difference with commercial flying. But on a VFR scale, there is just no comparison. LHSim really opened my eyes to trees, grass, weeds, plants, and the like and since then, I have made digital flora&fauna a big deal in nearly all my reviews.

After my visit to Orcas, life only got better for me as I slowly discovered more and more Orbx sceneries. As I have said before, it's the likes of Orbx and Carenado that forced my hand to migrate to the advanced platform of P3D and I could not be happier. Which is why this ADX FirstLook of such a tiny budget scenery is damn near morphing into a full review. 

The sheer quality of the environment and immersion of this scenery is incredible. Unlike all the other grass strips that were released in the UK, Damyns Hall really stands on it's own. If realism was Russ White's plan when he set out to develop this new "shrubnology" he succeeded! The other point I was pleased with was performance.

Note the above photo-terrain. Crisp and realistic with tire marks and all. In regards to performance, Russ's own Elstree is in my opinion a work of art. Even the ground and roof textures are the best I have ever seen in FS. But the Achilles heel of that product is a performance hit due to it's vicinity to the London City center. In my review of Elstree, I discovered that the default Elstree generated about the same performance as Russ' Elstree leaving me to conclude whereas this is a perfect FS destination, those of us with midrange systems will not have much of a good time. Hopefully the release of P3D V2 will help with this.

In the case of Damyns Hall here, the distance to London is only a difference of about 3-5 miles in comparison to Elstree. In the case of performance, I found that I could leave all that beautiful grass, trees, and shrubs activated with good stutterless frames. I even activated the high def clouds you clearly see in my screenshots. All the while enjoying my helicopter flight around the scenery. This time around, London and the grass had no impact on performance. 2 elements that killed my experience at Elstree.

Another really cool feature I will now point out is the terrain. Be careful where you taxi! Here we see the terrain appear exactly as it does in the real world. The attention to detail is the reason why I made the switch to P3D. The effort, time, and passion is so obvious in this work. It screams! My thought is, how many simmers will really stop and admire these little details. Smell the plants, activate their sinuses, and sneeze on their screens.

As always, it's not just the airfield that's included. A large surrounding area is represented in good detail as well.

Putting down the chopper, I finally get a closer look. This is where I stop rambling and let the screenshots take over!

Fences are always a big deal in every review I write. I was left no reason to complain.

I just cant get over the ground image. It's so real looking! I created some nice zombie weather. I'll admit, I was watching "The Walking Dead" when I took these shots...

The building textures are spot on. Very good on-site photography implemented into the sim.

And there is London in the background.
Decent night lighting. As for winter snow textures, I learned there is only snow in FTX EU in the month of January. FYI. As if the textures were not good enough, we saw summer, we see winter, autumn is also included.

Final thoughts. 

Now this is a very interesting product. It's very small and budget priced with few objects. There is just not much to see. Does anyone believe that statement now? Just the foliage alone represents thousands of objects.

People usually need me to say something negative in my reviews so what I did not like about the scenery makes the whole thing an absolute failure. My rotor blades did not chop off the trees and the grass did not smash underneath my wheels when I drove over it. I tried to plow down all of Russ' hard work with no avail. Damn.

This product has truly so much to offer. The other UK grass fields pale in comparison and finally, I have a grass strip I can truly enjoy without an aircraft. The airport is budget priced leaving little excuse not to buy it. As Damyns Hall starts a whole new series of low priced Orbx sceneries, I am super excited to see how the next one will fair out.

Go get your copy now!

Happy Flighting!

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Anonymous said...

Really great review Andre, you captured it all so beautifully.... I can almost recall when I was there falling into those gullies and getting my shoes soaked...

There is another grass strip I photographed for Orbx that has all the charm and more as Damyns Hall... ;)

George LGAV said...

Sorry if it's somewhere that I missed, but can you please write your specs and the FPs you usually get?

George LGAV said...

Ignore the specs question, just saw it. How about FPS though?

DAndre Newman said...

Great photography work John! At some point, you need to be recreated as a people flow model walking around and taking pictures! You deserve just as much credit! Someday, I would like to compare your real world photos into the review!

DAndre Newman said...

With the clouds the 20's without the clouds 30's with my crappy specs.

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