A first look at DCS: Marianas, the new free map for DCS World!

When the price is free, it’s hard to turn it down and that is very much the case for DCS: Marianas. This new map for DCS World was released just today and I’ve spent about 45 minutes flying over the map in an F-14 and a Mi-24 to get two very different experiences with this map. Let’s go!

The basic layout

The first thing you need to know is that DCS: Marianas is mostly water. This 1,500 km x 1,500 km map covers a lot of territory but 95% of that is going to be water. That means two things. First, all of the detail has been focused into the tight confines of each of the islands on the map. Second, this is a naval playground like we’ve never had before.

Touring the islands in the Tomcat

I thought the best way to get a good experience of the islands while flying a jet that feels at home over large expanses of water is to fly the F-14 Tomcat and that was absolutely the right way to get around and have a look at DCS: Marianas from the low and fast and high up perspectives.

I started at Andersen Air Force Base and flew around Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. These are the four main islands featured on the map and are the key locations in the island chain.

The level of detail presented here is a step up from anything we’ve seen before with a greater density of objects and details than ever before. Eagle Dynamics is pushing the envelope further than ever before and that really pays off in the look of the map. From the coastlines and coral showing from beneath the waves to the detailed cities, towns, shopping centres, and golf courses (there are a lot of them), there’s just gobs of detail to be found everywhere. The airports are particularly impressive with detailing that rivals the some of the better scenery packs in Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane.

Check out these screenshots from my F-14 tour.

Low level with the Mi-24

My second flight over the islands was in the Mi-24 Hind and here I wanted to get a different perspective with something flying slower and lower. This flight was only over the island of Guam but I think it helps tell the story. Here you can see more of the individual details of buildings and facilities.

What we know about what comes next

DCS: Marianas is not yet done as a project and there are some key areas that still need work. First, VR performance is a serious issue. While I had no significant issues myself while playing in 2D on my older system, VR users and commenters both here on Stormbirds.blog and on the DCS World forums have noted that performance is not currently very good.

The answer to that is that Eagle Dynamics are still working on optimization for this map and that’s definitely going to be a good thing over the long haul. Here’s what ED Community Manager NineLine had to say:

Despite being an island map, you can expect similar performance to the Syria map; this is due to the very dense object population of the islands that includes trees, buildings, rocky coastlines, and other objects. At the time of release, optimizations is still ongoing, and we expect performance to improve in later updates. That said, please review the system spec requirements.

NineLine

You may also be thinking that there are a few islands north of Saipan and you’d be right. In the Q&A offered by Eagle Dynamics today, we’ve learned that they are going to be included at a later date. These are small islands so their impact will be negligible when added aside from adding a layer of completeness.

Yes, we plan on adding more of the island chain north of Farallon de Medinilla. No timeline, but it is coming.

NineLine

There are also a few other issues such as missing map levels and details for some aircraft and for the Garmin GPS system. The Mi-24 Hind for example doesn’t have a map displaying at the larger sizes while the Hornet and Warthog have the opposite issue. These are bugs that will be resolved soon according to the Q&A.

There are also features that will be added later such as breaker waves which is a new technology coming to DCS World. The WWII version of the map is also being worked on and will come later on as well.

A few final thoughts

It’s rare that DCS World gets a map for free and I am curious about the reason why and on that I can only speculate.

It may be because the map offers such a small territory and mostly water. That said, the intense detail levels seems to suggest that they didn’t cheap out at all on this map. I think instead that this map is a testbed for future efforts. Increasing the detail levels to new levels, adding new technologies, and building assets that support future scenarios in this part of the world are all new to DCS World and this map provides Eagle Dynamics with a less complex and more contained map than say Vietnam, the Philippines, or somewhere else in the Asia-Pacific region.

On that note, I think the reason that this map exists is to provide a springboard for future content in both the modern and historical time periods. Eagle Dynamics appears to be planning to make a bigger push for Pacific based content in the future and this would definitely help. They may also offer some sort of new content that focuses on the naval warfare aspect and having a good map as a launch point for that will help too.

It may take a few years to realize the vision that this map appears to be laying out. I’m excited to see that happen.

More content

Curious about Eagle Dynamics plans for DCS: Marianas, check out the Q&A. Having trouble getting the map located on Steam, there’s a thread for that. Trying to sort out VR or frame rates in general? There’s some comments located here that may help.

Other content creators have already put out content on this too so check out these videos:

8 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    I’m liking this map. Some of the detail is very impressive. I landed at one of the airports while sightseeing, can’t remember which, and the quality of the airport was very, very good. And there are a few places where the rocks go out into the water, and someone definitely put some extra effort into those bits of scenery.

    Getting good FPS, granted all I’m doing is sightseeing at 1080P. But frames are high enough so that adding in some action should still allow for good framerates.

    This map is definably a gateway map for some serious Pacific action, WWII and present. Fine with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dmitriy Kozyrev says:

    “It’s rare that DCS World gets a map for free and I am curious about the reason why”

    Also, it’s kinda hard to attract new players when your base map (Caucasus) looks like something from the 2001.

    As for the performance, I think it’s the SuperCarrier story all over again: gazillion complaints, NineLine’s upgrade suggestions, eventually “reported”, but never really fixed. So we’ll have to just suck it up, and accept this as the new norm.

    Like

    1. Dmitriy Kozyrev says:

      P.S. The performance hit is even more irritating when using targeting pod.

      Like

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Supercarrier was a solid early access release. I don’t remember a huge amount of trouble when it was released so I’m not sure if that’s a close comparison or not. I’d more quickly compare it to DCS: Syria map which did have performance issues at launch but it seems to be running better than ever now.

      Like

      1. Dmitriy Kozyrev says:

        Oh, I remember it very well, being the one who reported this issue and made a detailed analysis. It wasn’t a “bug” per se, but a huge performance hit, experienced by dozens (if not hundreds) of other users. We’ve waited for months, hoping for a remedy, but eventually the topic was marked as “reported”, then closed, and people had no other choice but to accept this. Because yeah, it wasn’t a catastrophe, and the module was somehow playable.

        Now, I’m not saying that Marianas won’t be optimized (although I don’t expect any miracles). It’s just funny to hear the exact same narrative from ED (and they already closed the topic regarding this issue).

        Syria is running better only compared to earlier versions. It can still eat up 32 Gb of RAM without even blinking. But here this kind of performance is totally understandable, giving the size of the map. And FPS drops occurs only where they should occur (e.g. in densely populated areas). Marianas, on the other hand, are four tiny patches of land amongst the ocean. And yet they perform worse than Syria. And the only explanation we’ve been given is some yada-yada about “the new tech” (just as it was with the SuperCarrier).

        Like

  3. Gretsch_Man says:

    A beautifully looking map, which gets that Pacific island vibe just right. I think this is currently the best looking map for DCS.

    Unfortunately I can confirm that VR performance is indeed an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It does seem VR is a major issue with this map. I’m sure that will be a focus area.

      It may also be further impetus for the team to get their new engine update finally moved into place. *fingers crossed*

      Like

  4. CanadaOne says:

    I finally took a fly around Saipan this morning and it’s quite something. The object placement is very dense and well done. It’s good enough to be a driving simulator, which I’m definitely going to try. Going to set up some “Kaboom!” action and see how the FPS holds up, but so far no complaints.

    And all those golf courses and so few JDAMs.

    Liked by 1 person

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