DCS: South Atlantic first impressions

RAZBAM have at long last taken the wrapper off their new DCS: South Atlantic map project and given us our first taste of this new scenery and map pack for DCS World. I’ve spent a couple of hours zooming around different parts of the landscape and these are my first impressions.

What is DCS: South Atlantic?

DCS World has, to date, covered some interesting but also somewhat predictable locales. The Caucasus map covers the Black Sea and can be used as a kind of sandbox for both hypothetical and very real combat zone. It’s the classic DCS World map.

Following that we saw a third party effort later get taken on by Eagle Dynamics in the form of DCS: Nevada. There was also DCS: Persian Gulf, Ugra Media’s DCS: Normandy and DCS: Syria and Eagle Dynamics DCS: The Channel. The most recent map to release was the free DCS Marianas Islands. That’s the very abridged history of maps and scenery for DCS and now we arrive at DCS: South Atlantic.

When RAZBAM first revealed this project it was primarily centered around the Falkland Islands. Later it grew and then grew some more until RAZBAM essentially packed in the whole of the southern tip of South America.

There are benefits to having this immense size of map. 3.1 million square kilometers of terrain are represented including the windswept city of Ushuaia in the south and the rugged Puerto Santa Cruz in the north. Dominated by mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, and rocky terrain, there is quite a bit of variety to the southern tip of South America.

The map also has ample water coverage making this a potential candidate for naval duel scenarios that don’t feature carrier battlegroups already on top of each other right away.

How does it look?

I had some concerns going into this and I fear that those concerns have largely been realized.

Satellite imagery is difficult to get right and DCS: South Atlantic highlights it. Up at higher altitudes, the stunning mountainous regions on the tip of South America and the stark beauty of the Falklands stands out and works well. Stay at those higher altitudes zooming along in a jet fighter and you will be relatively pleased with the outcome.

Fly a helicopter or get down low with those high flying jets and the whole thing starts to look a little less convincing.

I’m not new to reviewing satellite ortho imagery based scenery. Some of my favourite scenery packs from the likes of Orbx have done a phenomenal job of giving a region high quality satellite imagery and autogen. In many ways, DCS: South Atlantic reminds me more of a Orbx TrueEarth project than it does a conventional DCS map. But there are limits to how well that process works and this scenery pack is definitely running up against them.

When comparing it to those other scenery packs, the satellite imagery here is definitely of a lower resolution. That’s no doubt a constraint of either hard disk space or a performance consideration with DCS World or both. Other maps in DCS World tend to use even lower resolution ortho but back it up with high quality “painted” on scenery textures that they blend in. This is why DCS: Persian Gulf looks reasonably good most of the time because it uses both methods. DCS: Syria too.

The map also doesn’t currently have much or any work done on the coastal regions or the innumerable lakes and streams. DCS: Syria and Marianas Islands, by contrast, have very detailed transitions but this map doesn’t currently have them or if it does they don’t stand out well.

There are some great custom assets that have been created of the scenery. Those include some Killer Whales (I haven’t seen them yet) and animated lighthouses and construction cranes. There’s also plenty of airport assets and lots that I haven’t seen yet.

How does it perform?

Here I have to also, unfortunately, give middling grades here. My first experience with the map was supremely disappointing. With my new system packing high spec CPU, GPU, and RAM, there’s little that DCS can throw at me these days in 4K resolution that causes it to even consider having a little hiccup. This map, however, was a challenge out of the gate.

I did solve a great deal of that by rebuilding DCS’ shaders. Deleting the ‘fxo’ and ‘metashaders2’ folders is a common performance increasing method when jumping between updates and that did solve a number of issues with performance but it didn’t fully alleviate them.

I still see performance declines over areas with dense buildings. Declines that I don’t see with Persian Gulf or Syria. It doesn’t run badly but it could, obviously, be better.

What is this map for?

I’ve been pondering too what DCS: South Atlantic is all about. It’s a bit of a complex question. First, RAZBAM have stated repeatedly that they aren’t simulating a specific conflict with this map. And to that end they have created a modern version of the area rather than creating what existed during the only conflict to have occurred there in the last 40 years – the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina.

On the other side of the coin, RAZBAM are building an asset pack that is included in the purchase of the map, that will give us many of the vehicles and warships required to simulate that. And they are also busy building assets that may become either AI or flyable modules for the future that would enable us to simulate that 1982 scenario.

It’s an interesting mix of purposes that sometimes feel a little at odds with each other.

That said, DCS World has definitely marketed itself and has been hailed as being a sandbox experience and so there are plenty of fictional scenarios that could easily play out here. Chile and Argentina have had both hot and cold relationships and with both countries having a presence on the map its possible for a scenario to be created out of that.

There’s also a tremendous amount of ocean area enabling naval operations on a large scale. Modern modules could easily be shoehorned into a clash between China and the west over fishing rights in the area. Or any other number of fictional scenarios could be created based on the map.

From that perspective, DCS: South America offers quite a variety of scenery and places to fly. BVR duels over and between fjords could certainly be gripping. Defending the Falklands from an aerial assault with modern aircraft is just as possible as a historical scenario.

Final thoughts

I have mixed feelings about DCS: South Atlantic. I appreciate that RAZBAM is playing what is likely a very long game here with plans for additional content (and possibly modules) to support this project over the long term. Between the ships, vehicles, and the scenery, there’s potential here to simulate combat scenarios that just haven’t been covered by a major simulation.

I also appreciate that this is an early access release and there are things that aren’t done yet. RAZBAM have already said that mountain textures and elevation data will be improved. I have confidence that the performance of the map will also improve and that there are going to be some efficiencies found as they continue to develop.

I worry a bit more about some of the visuals that might be harder to fix. It’ll be hard to turn this into the kind of visual masterpiece that Eagle Dynamics has managed with DCS: Marianas Islands (albeit at a performance cost) or DCS: Syria where Ugra Media have managed some sort of miracle there. Ugra Media, of course, have the early version of DCS: Normandy to look back on where there were no doubt many lessons learned and the upgraded version 2.0 of that product really helped change the whole way that we look at the map. This map may follow a similar trajectory as RAZBAM learn more about the map building process.

DCS: South Atlantic is an ambitious project. I don’t think it’s fully realized yet and I have to give kudos for doing something new and different. This project has a ways to go to become a more satisfying product but I’m ok with walking that road. You will have to decide if you are too.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on further developments as this progresses!

Screenshots

17 Comments Add yours

  1. I have not bought the terrain yet. It is not far enough along to completion to convince me to part with such a large chunk of cash. I had my doubts when viewing screenshots and am glad to read that many of my doubts are justified.
    This product is not ready and the community, by and large, are viewing it through rose tinted glasses and the “possibilities” for the future. I expect far more from a DCS terrain these days. I have love for Razbam but I will be keeping my cash tucked away for a while with this one *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

  2. CanadaOne says:

    This map was squarely aimed…at me. 🙂

    As a true sandbox flyer, this is some good stuff. It’s big and it’s new and it’s different. In some ways it’s a bit of a test case. Performance is all over the place. Textures range from poor to very good. But the overall feel of the map is the key, I think. And the feel is great. When you hit the sweet spot for lighting and weather and texture appearance, the map is very, very good. That is the future of the map. It needs work, no doubt, but it’s an impressive start. What’s most impressive is that they made it at all.

    I fully understand that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. People have good reason to want (more) finished products with appropriate assets and realistic missions/campaigns in the pipeline. if that’s how they fly, then that’s that. But for us hardcore sandbox types, this is a good map.

    As I always say, “I’m a flightsimmer. Gimme a Sopwith Camel and a map of Neptune and I’ll figure out what to do with it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Urgent Siesta says:

      VERY well said and agreed entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ALA22_JuanC says:

      If CANADAONE get a Sopwith Camel and a map of Neptune, he complain it not F15.

      Like

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Slow the roll just a bit. I can’t speak for Canadone personally but I’m all for everyone looking forward to their favourites. At the same time it’s important to set expectations with the best information available. It’ll take a bit longer for the F-15E and it’s been a long wait. But it’s getting here.

        Like

  3. TOP GUN MAVERICK RULES THE WORLD says:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times with this one… Day one Early access buyer and the map is all over the place… It does have the most impressive high altitude felling of all DCS maps but… low level flight is miles away from the new standard bearers (that would be Syria and Marianas, no doubt about it!).
    It’s been amazing to fire up the old sabre through the Andes… but for now, with the relative lack of airfields, some rough texture patches and this feeling of a work in progress in the performance area, this is strictly a hardcore affair for now…
    But anyway… If we are blowing up stuff in our Hornets and Warthogs aren’t we all hardcore????!!!!!???

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Blue 5 says:

    Of all the warzones in all of history…..why?

    There are no – yes, you heard me – NO – suitable aircraft for the one-off and very short war that ACTUALLY occurred in this territory. Nor ships, nor anything else (there might be an object or two, but who cares).

    What the fridge? There are small countries in middle Africa that have had larger wars, and certainly better represented by the DCS aircraft and object collection. I would love a proper Battle of France, maybe a 1920s Poland vs. Russia or something else out of left field. But release a map on the premise of total irrelevance to the platform set is….am I missing something here in their business development?

    DCS approach: open an ice-cream parlor and forget to order any cones. People are getting bored with this. Damned if I’m buying it.

    Like

    1. LD88 says:

      IMO, none of the maps are a perfect for the aircraft we have – so we make do. Bf-109k4’s were not rampaging through Normandy. Thankfully we haven’t had a full on A2A conflict in a looong time. Sure, Syria and Caucasus are the only ones that fit the bill for anything other than training for modern aircraft. PG along with the others make good “what if” maps. South Atlantic map is a major strategic point, as is South Africa. If Suez or Panama canals were not available for some reason, it would be very relevant. I would much rather have the varied terrain options (and non-desert) of South altantic map to create a lot of varied scenarios, in keeping with most everything else we have in SCS using a “what if” approach.

      I haven’t stumbled into the the bad performing areas of RB’s map as of yet. Would say fps performance I’ve experienced exceeds Marianas and meets or beat Syria for the modest amount of time I’ve spent in it. Lighting and low level improvements are needed the mainland. Definitely an EA product, but thankful for something different for new scenarios.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 216th_Cat says:

    Not for me as it stands. A fully fledged 1982 plane set and map would have been sorely tempting, but the prospect of pretending that the Andes are Norway for the Mosquito isn’t enough to part with such an large sum of money.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris says:

    It’s not the lack of realistic conflicts for me. I’ve had lots of good times flying over the older maps in scenarios that involved a bunch of suspension of disbelief. Heck, anyone who flies a Viggen over the desert has shown a willingness to ignore history and embrace fun. But Razbam is asking a lot of money for a very uneven product. They promise ongoing improvement, but I worry that hard drive footprint will limit how much better the textures can get. And I am positively allergic to noisy satellite photo sections that show clear mismatch where they join. I still might be tempted to take the leap, because ‘Who doesn’t like flying over new terrain?’, except that I’m having trouble seeing this map ever getting traction with the multiplayer servers I patronize. For now, I’ll stand back and see how it develops.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. PHANTOM1 says:

    Personally waiting for the F15E instead, may revisit the Falklands map in a year or so (if it goes on sale, gets updates etc.) Already need to get more use out of Syria and the Channel map as it is so it’s not like another huge playground is desired at the moment. Yep it’s got its quirks, doesn’t look great close up and it’s to be expected for any early access so Falklands gets a pass for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      So much good content out there right now that people definitely don’t need to rush into this. Syria and Persian Gulf are still my modern map recommendations and The Channel is excellent too.

      With time and development I think we’ll see this map emerge as a favourite too.

      Like

  8. Urgent Siesta says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the Ugra / Normandy reference.
    Normandy was the red-headed stepchild of DCS maps for quite awhile, and Ugra, too, by extension.

    And now, just a couple years later, Ugra’s Syria has become the de-facto Gold Standard map. And as mentioned, Normandy got quite an optimization pass and it’s now a very good map as well.

    Based on the steady, progressive improvements we’ve seen with Mirage & Harrier, I’ve no doubt South Atlantic will become another great map.

    As to all the folks who can’t figure out how to make use of the map without an IRL historical scenario, I’m sad for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      We definitely have to bear that in mind. Ugra’s first outing was not good with Normandy and while I wasn’t reporting on DCS at the time, I was still around and remember well the outcry from the community.

      It was also a time when DCS was very fractured with different alpha builds in the 2.0 and 2.2 range running these different maps. When 2.5 came and Ugra released their significant updates to Normandy we really saw things come together.

      I have hopes this will come together too!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rhino says:

    This seems like a truly pointless product, to my eyes anyway. At least at this stage.

    I’ll likely buy it, because I’m a dirty junkie and can’t help myself, but I think I’ll wait a bit.

    If anything, it might be good for hypothetical conflicts at least.

    Now, let’s have that Mud Hen!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ALA22_JuanC says:

    Vert happy to see South America.
    This is great map with F1.

    Like

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