HST’s xAmbience review

xAmbience, one of the latest weather enhancement plugin is finally out. Among great clouds and lots of sliders to play with, waiting still seems to be the best choice.

The key word behind the massive work done at HST must be: customization.
Indeed, their new plugin xAmbience allows the use to customize almost each parameter of the atmosphere, from lights to waves.

Before we go deeper in the review, let me thank X-Planer that produced a very good mountage for our review. You can watch it later on into this article.

Clouds

xAmbience features several cloud textures that the user can set through the menu, all of them have a good detail.

The clouds are very customizable as you may see in other competitors like UltraWeatherXP, indeed the settings are almost the same.
You can edit the maximum distance within the clouds are visible, its opacity, brightness, scale and shadow detail among other settings.

An interesting feature, that I saw only in xEnviro so far, is that the clouds are lighted during the night (as in real life they reflect artificial lights below), resulting in a good brown sky view.

During the day, the clouds are pretty realistic, while the effect they generate when flying through can be adjusted to more realistic standards in my opinion. Nevertheless this has no impact in terms of quality of the atmosphere.

The performances are not very good if you want to achieve a good detail, indeed the overcast situation steal me around 20 fps, that’s something High Sky Tech should work on to make their  product available to a larger public as competitors are doing.

Presets

Before we go through the main settings it’s worth mentioning that the plugin features seven presets to edit your atmosphere quickly.
I found that the first one is pretty good, but the other six are too dark, judge by yourself.

Lights

A great choice of options is available also for the lights.
Some sliders are a bit useless, at least the value they reach is, for example you can set the brightness (and visibility) of lights up to 140% and from Fiumicino I saw lights almost until Tuscany. A bit too much, don’t you think?

While you set the sliders in the best way, each pc is different, it will change your experience completely!

For example I’m leaving two pics to let you see how much you can change with a few seconds (and I didn’t even move the sliders that much)

The lights are a very critical, maybe even more than the clouds, aspect to care about.
It doesn’t mean if you fly at night or not, you will always deal with lights in X-Plane. So I recommend you to waste a couple of minutes more to find the better set.

Atmosphere and water

There are some curious things, among the usual ones, that worths a bit of letters.

First of all xAmbience allows to control the upper and lower level of the atmosphere, as xEnviro used to in its previous versions. But it does in a particular way.
In fact you can also set the RGB rayleigh tones creating sone funny sceneries and either a more realistic atmoshpere.
My advise is to keep the slider on AUTO, so that xAmbience will do everything for you in different weather conditions.

Of course this plugin comes with a custom post processing feature that makes the visuals more realistic and it controls the shaders too.
During the tests we made it seems that you have to keep HDR on in order to view outside the plane, otherwise X-Plane will crash, let us know if you will experience this behaviour too!

The water settings are kind of fun, I spent a lot of time looking at how each slider changes everything.

You don’t only have control on the usual things as water texture, reflection detail and so on, but also on the behaviour of the waves, water detail level and sun glitter size.
I find curious the fact about the waves, I had fun looking at how they were implemented with the sliders, at low altitudes it changes a lot.

Seasons

The seasons textures package, to be downloaded separately, it’s about six gigabytes compressed. Just heavy.

Anyway, as you manage to install it into the plugin package, the control of seasons it’s better than TerraMaxx, a very good work.

It has to be clear that the seasonal textures won’t work over Orthos, but the developers are planning to introduce this feature very soon (this will be a revolution in X-Plane).
I don’t know how the plugin controls the seasons, but I guess (as I noticed) that it’s all about temperature.
Also other plugins worked like this, but xAmbience is more trustable. I mean, last week it was freezing in Rome and cold does not mean tonnes of snow as X-Plane thought!

I’m very satisfied with they work they did, next is a picture taken around Arlanda.
By using the plugin you will notice that also the textures of the streets and the light quality changes as the snow’s on the ground. Insanely good!

Conclusions

I’m here to say if you should buy it or not. The answer actually does not exist.

It’s a busy moment speaking about the weather enhancement/injector plugins, a lot of news and new products are being released and xAmbiance isn’t even the last one.

We know thatxEnviro 1.10 is coming, it’s not around the corner but it’s near.
xVision now works fine with X-Plane 11.30, UWXP is getting a major update and SkyMaxx is still there.

I must tell the truth: I prefer xAmbience over the previous ones for the cloud textures and light settings.
I’m still with xVision for the water textures/effect, environment effects and the sun (that I found unrealistic in xAmbience), but it’s my personal taste.

Every weather plugin has got its unique point of strength, and xAmbience features a wide range of settings, a stunning cloud rendering and it’s fully compatible with FS Global Real Weather/Active Sky XP.

If you have a good machine and you look for a great rendering of clouds and sky colors then go and get it.
But I’m not in the condition of giving a final answer as I want to know how the competitors (especially xEnviro) are going to look in the near future, for now waiting is more than a good choice.

 

We thank High Sky Tech for providing us a review copy, as always it didn’t influence our judgement at all.

 

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