The Maldives is one of the most amazing areas of the world to visit. It is full of beautiful beaches, incredible sea-life, varied vegetation and fantastic weather. The Maldives is in fact not a single body of land, but a whole group of 26 Atolls (groups of very, very small Islands), located to the South-West of India. If you were to count every single Island in the Maldives, you'd end up with a number nearing 1,200. Yet, despite all this, even if you visited each and every Island, you'd never get higher 2.5 metres above sea level.
The Maldivian Islands also play host to an incredible climate. It has never reached below 17 degrees in the Maldives, and usually temperatures soar above 30 degrees. When it rains, you will feel tropical precipitation running down your face at 15 degrees – that's hot rain, hotter than an average British day!
Male Airport, the only International (and only major airport) within the Maldives, is also an amazing place to be. It is one of the few places in the world where you'll see both commercial airliners and float-planes regularly operating within 1 kilometre of each other. Male Airport can cater for aircraft as big as a Boeing 747-400, and aircraft as small as a De-Havilland Twin Otter Float-plane.
Me and the Maldives
Throughout my life, I have visited the Maldives many times and would gladly go back again. I first visited Male and the Island of rumathi (it only takes 20 minutes to get from one side to the other of Kurumathi!) in 2002, where I had the experience of staying in a forest villa. In fact, the villa was situated so deeply within the forest, that there was a coconut tree growing right outside my outdoor shower. Unfortunately, one of the coconut tree's branches managed to find its way across directly over the top of my shower. This is bad news, as the coconuts have been known to kill within the Maldives due to their hardness. During my 2002 visit, I also had the pleasure of experiencing the tropical rain mentioned in the second paragraph. Whilst in words it may seems surprising, in real life it is quite incredible to have hot rain streaming over your body.
My next notable visit to the Maldives was in 2006, after which the Maldives had faced the devastating blow of the December 2004 Tsunami. The damage to the Maldives was valued at 400 Million $, which is well over half of the entire GDP for the Maldives. To imagine the damage, think of waves 10 metres high, on an Island where the highest point is 2.3 metres.
During my 2006 visit, I had the luxury of staying in a “water-villa”. These are villas that are literally suspended over the sea. If you fancy a quick swim, just dive out the edge of your balcony and immerse yourself in the underwater haven.
Another nice gesture was the fact that the Maldivian staff that worked on these villas managed to cover my bed with tropical fruits and flowers – a custom applied because I had previously visited the exact same Island (Kurumathi). I found the people there to be extremely friendly and more than willing to help out!
When I first noticed that Aerosoft has released Maldives X, I was naturally rather excited (owing to my real-world experiences!). I was a little upset that it only included the North Male Atolls (the Island of rumathi where I visited doesn't fall into the region!), however relieved as I was notified that Aerosoft are planning further Maldivian releases covering more of the Atolls.
Maldives X is priced at 17.95 Euros, with a slight price premium (19.99 Euros) for the boxed version, in my opinion a very reasonable price.. It can be purchased from Aerosoft's download or boxed shop, of course depending on which version you wish to buy. After downloading/installing the product, entering your email and registration key, and firing up FSX, Maldives X is completely set up on your PC for use, a very simple, quick and easy process.
Immediately I noticed that included with my install were not only the product and a map of the area covered, but documentation in PDF format. I was pleased to see this, as some developers are neglecting such documentation for their products. Included in the manual is an installation guide, tuning guide, and a troubleshooting section.
I am more than impressed that Aerosoft have taken the time to hand-craft each and every float-plane base in the northern Atolls, because it allows for an extremely enjoyable “base-hopping” flight, in which you fly from base to base, taking in the beautiful surrounding scenery. These flights allowed me to get up close and personal with the scenery, letting me analyse the detail more closely.
So just how detailed is “detailed”? The main island of the Maldives, the capital island of Male, is painstakingly replicated in this product. I took a screen-shot of the entire island of Aerosoft's Male, and compared it to a real-life picture of the island. Whilst the ground-detail may not be absolutely spectacular (this does not matter anyway as you are not paying for a VFR photo-graphical scenery product), the architectural differences between the hand placed autogen and real-world objects were quite small. I enjoyed the accurate representation of the Rasmee Dhandu Stadium, Male's only major sports stadium.
All of the islands included in this package contain realistic autogen in the correct places. This is really quite remarkable compared to what the default FSX provided – a splash of autogen on a few tiny islands. With Maldives X you get a full autogen boost for the entire Northern Male Atolls. Wonderful.
Most of the float-plane ports come with complete scenery sets of their own, with the exception of some of the much smaller ports. When landing at a particular port, you must be careful not to crash as Aerosoft have put in the real-life wave barriers present at the shores of the island. In addition to all this, Aerosoft have supplied accurate ATC annotation. This means that the float-plane ports have the correct “runways” marked out to be recognised by Air Traffic Control, allowing for a more realistic experience (and challenging experience for that, some of the approaches are quite difficult to get right!).
The mesh provided with the package (the mesh is the “ups and downs” in the FSX scenery – it is what defines the mountains and hills within the simulator) is nice too. Even though you won't really be too interested in detailed mesh in an area which doesn't rise above two and a half metres, you can clearly see some of the very small elevations in the Maldivian scenery. Overall, whilst a very small part of this particular scenery, the mesh is very detailed and more than adequate for this part of the world.
Night lighting is extremely important in all scenery products, as pilots do not just conduct their flights during the daytime.
|As with most other aspects of this scenery package, the night lighting is extremely impressive. As you fly low over the small islands, you'll see a lovely amount of warm ambient lighting.
Aerosoft have also managed to illuminate the tennis courts on the islands at which they are present, another example of the detail and skill that has gone into making this add-on!
Furthermore, the main island of Male looks spectacular during the evening. It is really quite interesting to see lots of very small lights leading up to a large mass of illumination at the heart of the Maldives.
Again, Aerosoft have captured the contrast of lighting between the smaller and bigger islands with ease.
Male International Airport
Of course, the highlight of the product for most simmers will be Male International airport.
As always, Aerosoft have done a fantastic job on the airport, probably owing to their experience in major international airports. The airport has been completely stripped and rebuilt to overcome the drab, gloomy mass of buildings that the default FSX provides at Male. Every single building is correctly placed at the airport, with custom designed autogen making everything look so real.
All the taxiways markings, gate markings and runway markings are spot-on. They match the real world positions and all link up correctly.
The terminal at Male, and the nearby major float-plane base, have all been modelled excellently. All buildings are where they should be, even the signs on things like the main airport entrance are there!
I looked around the Male float-plane base too, and it was exactly how I remembered it from real-life. The thatched waiting rooms, the piers from which the Maldivian Air Taxi Twin-Otters operate from, the hangars – they're all there and looking fabulous, thanks to the job of the Aerosoft development team.
When approaching the airport at night, things get even better. The lighting of Male Intl both from a distance and close up is great, and the terminal buildings and hangars are illuminated as appropriate. Taxiway and runway lighting look gorgeous at twilight, a great little bonus when landing and taxiing when the sun goes down.
One thing I am extremely pleased about is, is that Aerosoft have very kindly given VRMM Male Intl supplied in this product free “AES” Support. AES is another product developed by Aerosoft, which stands for Airport Enhancement Services. Basically, you download and install the product for free, then you buy “credits” and unlock airports for certain scenery packages (such as Aerosoft's Mega Airports range). However, when using Maldives X and the Male Intl within it, there is no need to buy any credits as Aerosoft have allowed Male X customers to have the airport for free.
AES provides enhancements to the airport of which it is installed in. For example, a follow-me car, de-icing truck, re-fuelling truck, catering service and interactive inter-phone are just some of the features included.
As previously mentioned in the review, the ground textures on the main island of Male aren't fantastic high-resolution, but they don't need to be for this product's purpose. The product attempts to deliver a good quality makeover for the Maldives in FSX.
The textures used universally in the product are of a fairly high standard. Considering the North Male Atolls, whilst having a small land mass, covers more than 4,000 square kilometres, Aerosoft have done a good job.
It is evident that Aerosoft have managed to pull off some top-notch textures for things like the piers, local houses, tidal barriers, and guest villas. A great advantage to this detail is that you can pull right up to the shore in your float-plane aircraft without having to suffer from horrible blurred textures.
The beaches present on most of the Maldivian islands look great too. The textures applied give a great impression of realistic sand, and they have been expertly blended in with the rest of the scenery.
I experienced zero texture tears, flickers, blurries or anything like that when using the Maldives X scenery, which unfortunately is not the case for the rest of FSX's default world. Some people may complain about the fact that there isn't really any seasonal variation in this product, ie the texture do not change weather it is winter or summer. However, since the Maldives has never dropped below 23 degrees before, and the only precipitation there is rain, there is hardly the need for wintry textures! Texture changes like that would just add unnecessary and realistic detail.
Whilst a scenery add-on may be excellent in appearance, it really doesn't mean much if you're getting awful FPS with it.
Fortunately, Maldives X is a fantastic product even for people with low-end computers. You are pretty much guaranteed great performance with any settings, but if you are struggling (unlikely), then Aerosoft have included a comprehensive tuning and settings guide in the supplied documentation.
With the “Scenery Complexity” settings on “Extremely Dense”, and with “Autogen” settings set to “Dense”, I get an average of around 75FPS when the FPS limiter is configured to “Unlimited”. However, I just lock my FPS limiter at 35 and it never drops below that when flying around the Maldives X scenery.
Even when used with FPS-intensive add-on aircraft such as the Captain Sim 757 and Level-D 767 you will get brilliant results.
Reviewing Maldives X has been an absolute pleasure for me. It is one of very few scenery products to deliver such universal detail, whilst still having a very mild FPS impact. br />
Its fantastic value for money is really a reflection of the kinds of add-ons Aerosoft are producing. For just under 20 Euros you get a product which not only supplies a fully-detailed international airport, but a product with gives you over 5,000 square km of pure detail which looks beautiful in FSX.
Even the little details like soft night lighting, accurate pier placement and realistic mesh are designed with great care. Nothing has been left out during the development of Maldives X which is why I am so impressed with it.
I would like to thank Aerosoft for allowing me to fly in such an accurate replica of one of my favourite areas of the world. A very well done to everyone involved I this product, and please get cracking on the rest of the Maldives!
No FPS impact
Free AES support
Very realistic representation of the North Male Atolls
Sand Bays look beautiful
Value for money Male International airport included
None really that I can think of!
I award this a Mutley's Hangar score of 10/10