The hype around PropStrike’s first payware scenery has been quite big. No wonder considering the screenshots they have been releasing. Is it as good as we expected?
After the release of the freeware Machmell Fisheries, PropStrike Studio started showing their work on the new project: Quatam River project.
From the early screenshots, the team has been showing they mean business and that they were ready to up their game after they got their feet wet with Machmell.
On their Facebook page, screenshots have been appearing and every new one was somehow better – or tingled our curiosity even more – than the previous one.
That’s all we want, right? Pretty screenshots. That’s the stuff scenery is done. Not with PropStrike, though. These folks go above and beyond.
The landscape – not the physical landscape
Their screenshots are not just about great modeling and gorgeous textures (which are, of course, present on their work).
They set an environment, a landscape. And I’m not talking about trees, mountains and buildings. I’m talking about setting a background for the scenery; a purpose for being there. And they give it live.
From the moment you open the manual (and, please, do yourself a favor and actually open it and read it) you understand that PropStrike worked hard to get you involved on the backdrop of the region they created.
The manual is not only nicely produced, looking like a bound book that has been folded and, perhaps, carried on your back pocket, but you start to realize the small little details PropStrike developed for this scenery. Stuff that, honestly, they wouldn’t need to. The sheer beauty of their models, their textures, the layout and the challenges of the locations and those layouts would be enough to put a smile on every bush/helicopter pilot’s face.
But they went further and further. And then they went a bit further. A bit more on that later.
First things first.
Installation is simple and straightforward. You will get a zip with 2 folders that you need to copy/move to your Custom Scenery folder: 1 - Quatam River Airport and zzz_Quatam Mesh.
When you enter X-Plane, the sim will pick up the two new folders and add them to the scenery_packs.ini file in the appropriate order. You might want to tweak it (or not) if you plan on having all your mesh folders on the bottom.
This is not necessary though, and it should work out of the box.
Quatam River Airport is actually not just an airport but a small region with a few interesting features. In reality, you have 6 separated areas (although the manual only mentions 5 of them and X-Plane recognizes 2 of them as being the same).
Quatam River Airport
This is the central piece of this scenery and the one that has 2 physical separated areas, although they are all “bundled” in the same area inside X-Plane.
The airport is comprised of a 762-meter (2500 feet) dirt runway, some buildings, a helipad and some props scattered around as well as a digger that goes around (it’s actually animated) and makes the place look more alive.
The strip is beautiful, and the buildings and textures show the expertise of the team. Everything looks weathered, beat down, rusty, old. It’s exactly how I’d expect things to look like in this place.
Medical unit helipad
Just NE of the airstrip you will find a shack with a helipad and a wind socket. This is one of the challenging pads added to the scenery by PropStrike. You will need to be very careful on the approach as you have some trees around it.
On windy days I would expect any patients to be carried down to the airport and evacuation would be made from there.
Deep Valley climbing camp
Further down the east, you will find a mountain right in the beginning of a curve to the left (North). On top of the mountain you will find another helipad. The pad is very small and in the middle of the trees, so it might be hard to find.
According to the manual, this is a helipad used by companies that fly supplies and tourists to the top of the mountain.
There’s also a pad on the base of the mountain which can be used to transport climbers to the area. PropStrike helped us find it by adding trees with a slightly different hue so look for a spot on the foliage. The helipad should be right in the middle of it.
Fire lookout landing
This is the 6th area that I mentioned above, and which is mixed with the airport: the fire lookout landing.
This is a large, relatively clear area with an old, rusty rescue propeller plane and a STOL challenge (not much of a challenge for helicopters, though).
It’s positioned up to the North, very near the Powell watchtower.
That’s the first thing that came to my mind and, as far as I was told, one of the guys of PropStrike is a huge fan of the game and used it as inspiration for the watch tower itself.
It’s positioned further North from the Quatam River airport and it comes equipped with its own helipad and a wind indicator (I’m not sure I can call it a wind “sock”) as well as some props nearby.
The helipad’s position presents another challenge although not as bad as the medical unit helipad placed outside the Quatam River airport.
Moh Creek airstrip
The last part of the scenery is placed even further North.
Moh Creek airstrip is another dirt strip airfield with a shack/container, some logs and a truck travelling along the road. The strip itself is a challenge for fixed-wing aircraft as there are trees very close to it so you’ll have to do some steep approaches and takeoffs. You’ll have to be careful here.
Obviously, it’s not as dangerous for helicopters but you’ll still need to watch out for any sudden wind changes or wind shears as you can be pushed into the trees.
The cherries on top of the cake
Quatam River airport comes with a few great features that really sets a mood, makes the place feel more alive, fun, challenging and visually impressive.
Before taking of and landing, do make sure the runway is clear. You may sometimes find logs and other obstacles in the middle of the air strip. Workers there seem not to fully understand some folks need that place to actually take of or land.
Before landing, it’s a good idea to do an orbit or two and reckon the place. You never know what might be happening down there and, in this scenery, this is something you should really worry about.
Not much of a hazard but more of a (very) cool visual effect, PropStrike Studio added puddles to the air strips.
You see, the poor strips are very much beaten up and filled with holes and depressions. One would imagine they would fill up with water when it rains.
And so, they do. It’s another one of the cool details the scenery has.
Like that spooky rocking chair moving by itself. I like to think it’s still moving after my buddy Bel Geode spotted a redhead lady arriving on her Cub and, like the gentleman he is, ran out to assist her.
I couldn’t find him anywhere, though…
STOL competition and practice
Did I win???
Another cool thing and yet another example of how crazy these folks at PropStrike are. Because, let’s face it: they didn’t have to add all these cool little things into the scenery.
It’s. Already. That. Good.
But they did.
On the first of every month, there’s a VTOL competition setup at the air strip. You have cones spread out for 200m and your goal is to land as close to the first ones as possible – which means, use the least runway as possible.
Where’s the people?
OK time for a couple of complaints. One of them is an old beef: where’s the people?
Where’s. The. People? I mean, come on… You guys spend so much time bringing this place to live and then we get no people around it? Seriously?
Well, yes. Not right now. Karl from PropStrike told me they WILL add people in the future, but they didn’t want to delay the project much more.
You see, modeling humans is not easy for a number of reasons: the human body is odd to model on its own. Posing them realistically is a nightmare and, if you combine this with the fact that you need to try and reduce the amount of polygons on the screen – so that you get better FPS – things can get hard and sketchy.
Speaking of FPS…
PropStrike worked hard to decrease frame rate and you can notice it. The amount of stuff they put on your screen is insane and it doesn’t take as much of a toll as I thought it would, but it still takes its toll.
The number of trees, custom models and animations in the area can make things get very intensive and, using my GTX 1060 in VR, I get in some trouble very fast around the main airport. Especially around the helipad, where you have the animated digger as well as other objects scattered around.
The rest of the scenery is not that bad, though, and you could probably get away with a fast takeoff. Still, if you are using anything less than a 1070, you might have some issues with frame rates, if you are using VR. If not, even my 1060 could handle it well.
It could be much, much worse, so I can only imagine PropStrike has gone through a lot of work to try and optimize the scenery.
PropStrike’s second scenery – and first payware – is a mirror of how serious these guys are in the market and it shows a lot of their background. Karl is actually HappyCamper so he’s a helicopter fan.
Luciano is also a GA fan and these guys gathered to make this small amazing team of bush flight fans that are, obviously, making stuff they love.
Quatam River airport covers a bit more than just the airport and it settles a background for both you as a pilot as well as the place. I couldn’t help thinking about the stories behind the rusty boats and aircraft lying around or hidden inside a shack. Or even the spooky rocking chair.
PropStrike is offering a bit more than just a scenery. I felt it more like an experience and a place where old adventures took place and a space where we can have our own.
And for helicopters? A dream, folks. It's like a dream.
- Amazing environment of a rough, weathered region;
- Feels very much alive;
- Not only confined to the airport;
- Has quite a few helipads and lots of challenges;
- Comes with some surprising, cool features;
- Frame rate can become troublesome for lower end graphic cards in VR;
- No human models -- but that can change in a future update;
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