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.
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: