We had high hopes for this file going in, and, in some ways, the file lives up to these expectations – yet in others, particularly texture quality at medium settings, it’s been a bewildering disappointment. So, we need to digress…
Back in v.1 of this blog, when Jack’s (Fly J Sim’s) Dash-8 Q400 first came out, we used that aircraft to make a series of runs up and down the Norwegian fjords region, and not only because there were a bunch of fun little airports to use along the way – and with not bad image quality by XP9 standards. No, the main reason was that the region is justifiably famous for its almost outrageous natural beauty, and the visual impact of these regions isn’t half-bad in XP. Add to that a network of neat little airports and you could easily stir up an afternoon of immersive fun, flying in one of the best training grounds you can imagine. These are airports, by the way, with old NDB approaches, and with sheer vertical cliffs on either side of the approach, so with little margin for error. We made our own ‘custom’ charts back then and flew the Dickens out of the area, but one of the things we didn’t have was a payware ENBR to anchor our flights, so we ended up using ENGM Oslo as our terminus, a bit of a letdown after chewing up that rugged coastline for a few hours. Still, the Oslo freeware file was the among the best airports in XP, so it worked out, yet what we needed then, and still do, was our chain of Norwegian airports to be updated. Now, with XP11 claiming the high ground in image quality, that need is more pressing than ever.
Yet here we are, finally, with a payware ENBR – and from AeroSOFT, no less – so yes, expectations were running a little high when we saw they had just released a new, XP11 compliant file. Let’s just hope our expectations haven’t colored this analysis too much, because after looking at it more than a few times over the past several weeks, we’re a little disappointed with what we’ve found. But first, let’s cover the basics before we get into the negatives.
ENBR Bergen is a small international airport located on Norway’s southwest coast, at approximately the same latitude as Oslo (60 degrees North); that’s a similar latitude to Tallinn, Estonia, and more than five degrees north of Moscow, or in more familiar terms to folks in North America, it’s about the same latitude as the southern tip of Greenland. It is, in other words, “up there.” Not quite perpetual night in winter, but real close.
This area is also regarded as the southern extent of Norway’s fjord region, and the cruise ships that ply these waters routinely call at Bergen. Of more importance, particularly to people flying in X-plane, Bergen is a major jumping off point to Norway’s vast North Sea oil production platforms. As such, this is helicopter country, and not just any helicopters, for Bristow, CHC and Braathens operate a huge variety of medium & large flutterbugs from here (the SuperPuma and the Sikorsky S-92 chief among them). More than a quarter million helicopter passengers transited through ENBR last year, second in Norway only to Stavanger.
The Oslo-Bergen corridor is the seventh busiest in Europe, and the Bergen-Stavanger route is the busiest in Norway. Norwegian, SAS, and Widerøe are the dominant players in this market, though BA, KLM, Finnair, and Wizzair carry a substantial percentage of passengers to other European gateways. Currently, no North American carriers fly here, so US and Canadian passengers must rely on connections through Heathrow and Amsterdam. As a result, there is a large business aviation ramp on the south end of the airport. I would imagine, on any given day, a lot of jets from Houston are parked there…
And speaking of…let’s take a look at the airport layout, starting with the view overhead, under a southbound DHL Kodiak.
And starting from the south, or from the left, end of the airport, let’s look at the four main areas modeled.
First up, the aforementioned business aviation area. In AeroSOFT’s ENBR file, random biz-jets pop up here, notably long-legged Challengers and Gulfstreams.
The next major area in the file is the new terminal construction site, and it’s busy with all kinds of earth moving equipment – night and day – assuming World Objects is set to MAX. Lot’s of movement, immersive.
The main terminal is next, and it usually has at least one static acf at a Jetway, and if World Objects is set to MAX it will look like this…with 3-4 static acf parked there.
The north end of the field has a wide variety of facilities, so let’s break these down one by one:
- Air cargo, though some overflow passenger jet ramps are here as well;
- The helicopter terminal. I’ve not seen a large (static) passenger helicopter on these ramps, only smaller, S-76 class helos;
- Coast Guard, helos and fixed wing;
- General aviation and maintenance.
(above) the view on final in the file, and below, the Kodiak taxiing up to the air cargo ramps…
…perhaps unloading crucial spare parts destined for an oil platform in the North Sea.
Below, the Helicopter terminal area beyond the Kodiak, as well as the tower.
And next, let’s drop the FF752 onto the ramp, with textures etc in the moderate range. FPS ranges from 10 to 16, with World Objects in the mid-range.
With these settings, note the numerals on the Jetways (e.g., 32) and their sharpness. The Jetways here are beautifully modeled.
With World Objects set in the mid-range you’ll see few moving vehicles, and it’s not an impressive show.
Set World Objects to MAX and the number of vehicles on the ramp jumps dramatically, while framerates drop precipitously.
You’ll also note that at these mid-range settings, the ramps are dark and the terminal looks dim, almost bleak.
The terminal building looks good at XP11s highest settings, but even with HDR active you’ll not see those amber colored starburst lights that you see at so many other v11 airports. Now, let’s move settings up a bit.
Note, AA and shadow rendering are active now. The text on the building is legible now, too. Not so at lower settings.
The panel construction on the building comes alive now, too, and the text above the upper row of windows is clear now, but look at the numerals on the Jetways…? Also, note the glass atrium atop the building…but more on that in a minute.
Also, note there’s very little change to the lighting intensity “inside” the terminal at night even with settings now at MAX.
Yet Jetway details are crisp…other than the numerals mentioned…
…and main terminal detailing looks good.
We’ll look at the new terminal construction site next, as well as the airport hotel and parking garage. First up, the new building, still under construction.
What’s absent here, in this still image, is the movement going on in the scenery. This feels like a construction site, and while it adds to the realism I think it possible a large share of the bad FPS we found here may be attributed to this part of the scenery.
I have no idea what happened to this parking garage, but even at MAX settings, this is not impressive. At high settings, it’s simply bad, and by medium settings, it detracts from the file. First, at MAX…and it looks like it too is under construction.
And again, at MAX settings from another vantage. I assume this building is “under construction” because there are no light towers, yet lots of light tower bases, yet the sides of the building are simple textures, and image quality break down fast at lower settings.
Here’s the view, below, at “high” settings. Note the smeared appearance? Go to medium settings and it only gets worse.
Other than the main terminal building, all other buildings here suffer from the same image quality degradation as settings are lowered. At lower settings, some look good from a distance but the visual quality breaks down fast as you get close…yet…if you keep image rendering settings at MAX your FPS are going to tank, and hard. Like between 2 to 6 fps on my rig in a 737.
The problem? Well, let’s take a look at that atrium roof again, from another vantage.
On the right side, you can just see some structural details inside the building.
And again, above, even more interior details emerge, and you can also begin to see some other strange details inside. So, what’s under that atrium glass?
Well, I was speechless when I found this, if only because it’s invisible from anywhere outside the terminal building, even from the pedestrian entry at street level. I mean…why include this – other than it’s interesting, even beautiful – but this is a flight simulator, for goodness sakes, not an architectural walkthrough visualizer. And there are little details in here, too. WHY?
Yup, 3 FPS here, and these built-up interior areas, while nice, are all but invisible from outside, e.g., while pulling up to the gate in your 737. Why do this? There’s almost no lighting inside, so it’s simply too dark to see interior details from outside, and no matter whether its day or night…so again…why include these details if they’re not going to be highly visible. If the developers want to include them then, by all means, do so, but make them visible! Make the FPS expenditure mean something.
The same thing applies to this nicely modeled Clarion Airport Hotel. Nice model, at MAX resolution, anyway, but dial down rendering quality and this too quickly devolves into a smeary mess.
And that about sums up my experience here. This file, when opened at MAX rendering settings, is very good – not great – but certainly a worthy addition for fans of Norwegian airports in XP. The parking garage should be rethought, modeled more like MrX did at KABQ, as seen in this image from our review.
Mind you, KABQ is a masterpiece, simply the best file in XP – as of December 2017 – but that’s the nature of competition. What hurts us, when we use files like these two side-by-side, is that ENBR has FPS ratings worse than KABQ. Poor file optimization may be to blame, but also adding a lot of extraneous nonsense hurt this effort, too. Even main building textures break down fast, and in order to get really decent FPS – like high-20s –you’ll end up with a bunch of buildings that look like old v9 files.
And that’s not progress.
Using the default Cessna 172 at medium/high settings, and with MAX objects, we still managed 17-23 FPS here and, oddly, in the v10 Carenado Baron we saw 19-24 FPS in the pattern. Flying was smooth and the scenery gorgeous; however, if there are custom buildings in the city itself we couldn’t tell. The roadway network around Bergen is a riot from above, with all kinds of elevated roadways along rocky stretches. In other words, it’s fun. The entire Norwegian fjord district is fun, and it’s still among our very favorite regions to fly in XP.
Still, our guess is this file needs a v.2 makeover in order to compete against newer v11 files, and the sooner the better. File optimization and reducing nonsensical interior scenery elements would be a good place to start, as it would be nice to use medium-high settings and have decent textures on all the buildings, OR, if interior elements are needed, make the lighting better so we can at least see them. And that parking garage? Trash can, redo. Make it something of a centerpiece because it’s very visible, and the smeary textures at medium settings are just painful to look at. Improve the new terminal, give it some jetway construction, make it look like a part of the airport, not a warehouse.
As it is, if you really need ENBR, get it – but you’ll probably only be happy if you can run this file at higher settings – and you’ll need lots of Vram to do that with any kind of complex acf. If you don’t absolutely need it? Well, if they improve the file anytime soon we’ll let you know, but I’d hold off for a while. Subjectively, it’s an 7 out of 10 file, with KABQ and EDDF the current best large payware airports in XP, subjectively 10s. Warsaw, Riga and Tallinn are better, too, with Warsaw a marvel of optimization. With all the improvements to textures and lighting brought by XP11, this file just feels old, more like a v9/v10 file. Lighting effects not dramatic, textures dull – it could be better, in other words, for the competition easily beats this one.