Ugra Media and Eagle Dynamics released the newest map for DCS World this week, a busy one to be sure in the history of this hobby, and I wanted to weigh in with my own first impressions on this new map along with plenty of screenshots.
Real world hot-zone through the centuries
The east coast of the Mediterranean has seen many conflicts stretching from the ancient world to the modern day. DCS maps have tended to either be placed in real world hot-zones or have predicted them on more than one occasion and DCS: Syria follows in those foot steps with locations and places that could have been ripped from the headlines at almost any time. Tragedy and burdens of the real world aside, DCS: Syria provides ample opportunities to explore and fly combat missions in this region.
In the south you have the city of Haifa, the Golan Heights and Ramat David airbase operated by the Israeli Defense Force.
Travel further north and the map becomes more arid inland over the Syrian capital of Damascus, the Lebanon capital of Beirut, and other key locations such as Homs, Aleppo, and the port at Latakia where the Russians have significant assets.
In the northern reaches of the map are the Turkish city of Adana and Incirlik airbase where the United States has significant assets at stationed.
This range of locations from northern Israel to southern Turkey provides for plenty of territory to be covered. There’s also just enough water out in the Mediterranean to ensure that carrier operations are supported.
Not included on the map at present is Cyprus which Eagle Dynamics has confirmed will be worked on with Ugra Media to find a way to add the island and, critically, RAF Akrotiri base which should again up the realism and tactical flight operations. For now, however, the bounds of the map are enough to provide for plenty of options.
Beautiful detailing down low
If there’s one thing that is immediately apparent with this map, it’s the fine detailing at extreme low altitudes that this map does so well. From the roads, to the light fixtures and hydro poles, to the parked cars and small villages and the expansive cities and from the tiniest shrub and rock to the thick forests, this map really delivers at treetop height.
Although if you compare satellite imagery to real world locations, there’s only a few key landmarks in each area represented, the overall layout of each area is reasonably well captured and there’s more than enough to spend some serious time just doing VFR flying about taking in everything. In-fact, that’s almost entirely what I’ve done with DCS: Syria so far.
This is all good news as its a regime that aircraft in DCS World spend far more time flying in than in other sims.
More average looking up high
Flying up to 25,000 feet the details of the map fall away and it becomes a little more bland though certainly not bad looking. This isn’t entirely the fault of the map creators as its just something that happens to DCS World maps. The satellite imagery overlay ends up not being quite as impressive up high as it does down low – with the one exception. It does capture the variety of scenery in the region exceptionally well.
Plenty of scenery, assets, and options
Perhaps the best thing about the map is all of the extra effort that Ugra Media put into it. Let’s start with the airports of which there are many and which all, as near as I can tell, are represented absolutely accurately as best as is possible in DCS World. There’s unique buildings and structures everywhere including some absolutely fantastic hardened hangars.
Scattered throughout the map are notable landmarks. The hydroelectric dam near Raqqah, Haifa university perched on a hilltop, the ancient city located inside Aleppo, or the port at Latakia, it’s all present on the map and it’s clear that great care went into each landmark.
Night time lighting is also good by DCS World standards. DCS World is still struggling to produce good night lighting but it is getting better and this map seems to take advantage of the same technology that DCS: Persian Gulf employs which is at the top tier of what’s currently available. Airfield lights are modeled carefully and city lights and even country roads are lit appropriately which adds both atmosphere and an extra layer for pilots navigating around the region.
A brief note on performance. With all of these details you’d expect performance to suffer somewhat, however, I haven’t found that to be the case. The map performs about as well as DCS: Persian Gulf and my frame rates stayed consistent down low and up high with hardly a stutter in sight.
This was tested on a clean map with no units on it aside from my own aircraft so performance may suffer with more going on, or in multiplayer, which is something a longer term test will need to discover.
With the third desert map in a row for modern aircraft, you may be feeling a bit worn out on flying over the sand all the time but fortunately Ugra Media has put their best foot forward here showing a wider variety of scenery types in a single map than I would have otherwise expected capable. Along the coasts, up in the north and down in the south you’ll find sprawling farms and ample trees and forests to green up the terrain. Cross a few mountain regions into the rain shadow and you can see dry lakebeds and more typically arid regions instead. That transitional phase between the two is well represented too and you never feel like you accidentally crossed into a different map.
DCS: Syria at this early stage looks like a knockout hit with a gorgeous map that satisfies fast jet flies with its numerous mountain ranges and deep valleys and helicopter fans alike who will appreciate all of the little details.
The map is currently in early access and that means that there may still be things for Ugra Media to incorporate into the map, the previously mentioned addition of Cyprus notwithstanding, but I don’t think there’s much else that can be done. Some have mentioned the short draw distance for some scenery such as trees and shrubs although it wasn’t significantly noticeable as I was flying around.
I can easily recommend DCS: Syria as a superb add-on map for DCS World. The impressive detailing, varied geography, overall aesthetic and wide variety of appeal make this a hit.