There are a handful of items that I consider an absolute necessity for making the sim experience as “realistic” as possible. Terrain Mesh enhancement is right up there in the “must have” category. A fine job indeed was done by the folks on the ACES team over at Microsoft, but still, even though the mountain ranges were more or less in the right places, they all seemed to be rounded off more than they should have been.
The folks over at FSGenesis have been “meshing” around in the flight sim world for quite a while now! Since 1996, the FSGenesis team has been at work, enhancing our flight sim world with more accurate terrain mesh. Terrain Mesh is a compilation of digital information that is used to describe the contours, hills, valleys, and mountains that are found in the simulated world. The information that the FSG team used came from the following sources; United States Geological Survey National Elevation Dataset, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and Canadian Digital Elevation Dataset, to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI) from Mexico.
In order to produce an affordable product that still looked good, MS had to sacrifice some detail (resolution) in order to give the entire simulated world a decent amount of terrain features. “Resolution” is the term used to describe the measurement in between given points on the surface of the terrain. For example, if the resolution is 1 Kilometer, and you are looking at a very steep cliff, there is 1 Km between measuring points, in this case, the peak of the cliff and the base of the cliff. Since this is such a larger unit of measure, the simulator will see this as a hill, not as a sheer cliff. Now if you were to use a resolution of say, 1 Meter (a significantly smaller unit of measurement) to view this cliff in the sim, you would see a much more accurate rendition of the terrain. The lower the resolution, the better the detail. In the above example, I want to reiterate that the measurements used were 1 Kilometer versus 1 Meter. FSGenesis renders the terrain at a resolution of 19m, which is far better than the default resolution used in MSFS.
Finally, the mountains had peaks, the deserts were not so flat, and valleys could be seen just about everywhere! There’s certainly a lot more to creating terrain mesh than I can cover here, but if you do want to know more, visit the FSGenesis Site for a simple and very understandable explanation of just exactly what this process entails.
Installation and Documentation
Downloading the Mesh from the internet can be a bit lengthy, depending on the region that you are purchasing and your internet connection. This is due to the large size of the files. The option of having the product sent to you at a small charge for the media but with free shipping is also available. I downloaded a total of 6 areas, and on the average, it took approximately 15-20 minutes or so, for each of the files to be downloaded.
After downloading, installation of the files was as easy as a few clicks, and took only a few minutes. The option to have FSGenesis listed in the Start/Programs is recommended, as it has the uninstall utility for the areas as well as a FSGenesis Forum link and a link to the FSGenesis Store, just in case you simply have to have more! Remember that these are very large files, so make sure you have the space on your drive. This is usually not a problem these days, but still something to keep in mind.
The Forum is an informative and well organized way of staying in touch with the developers, following up on what project is being worked on, or simply if you have any problems.
There is no documentation or user manual for the product, except for a reminder to set your Terrain_Max_Vertex Level from 19 to 21, which comes at the end of your installation and is displayed on your screen. This change is located in the FS9.cfg file under [Terrain].
I’m a big fan of General Aviation aircraft, especially the “low and slow” types, which are perfect for site seeing. I’m experiencing some new found favorite places and views with the addition of FSGenesis Terrain Mesh. Even with “high and fast” flying, it is still easy to see the appreciable difference the mesh files make.
Flying at certain times, such as morning or late afternoon, you can almost feel the terrain jumping out at you. The enhanced environment of the sim world has me exploring areas that I had previously been “bored” with! This is one of those reviews where the screen shots can tell most of the story of how the product “looks”. But it also “works” fantastic within the sim. Frame rates are not impacted by the use of this product (on my system).
The mesh is compatible with other scenery or mesh add-on products (just make the FSGenesis Mesh a higher priority in your Scenery Library). The only “odd” thing you may see is that airports are sometimes raised on a slight plateau, or below ground level, in a sort of shallow “tub”. This is not a problem with the product, but is due to the fact that the airports within FS are rendered upon “flattened” terrain, and will stay this way, but the mesh will display the actual terrain features around the airport. This was of no consequence, and very minor, but worth mentioning since it does stand out at certain airports or fields.
The areas that I have covered in this review all have some outstanding areas to explore, but the one that stood out in my mind the most, and have the most fun flying in, is the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. The difference between the default terrain and the FSGenesis version is to say the least, breathtaking.
In just this area alone, one can spend hours upon hours exploring all the fingers off the canyon, or just follow the great Colorado River as it winds through this vast and remarkable landscape. The possibilities are almost endless. I had thought that they should have added some pre-made flights to show off particular areas, but that would be a long list of flight plans indeed! If it sounds like I’m excited about this new addition into my FS Scenery Files…you’re right!
FSGenesis makes it extremely easy, and affordable to upgrade your Mesh Files with theirs. The above regions that I have reviewed each have a price of $11.95. At the time of this writing, these were just offered as a download.
This is one of those products that make it relatively easy to build up your virtual world a little bit at a time, starting with the areas that you fly in the most. Much of the globe is covered, some areas with a slightly lower resolution than others. If you do in fact go whole hog and cover your entire world with FSGenesis, you will be spending a chunk of change, but there are special rates for you all or nothing simmers.
GalaxyPlus Lifetime Membership is one way to “get it all” whenever you wish. There is a long list of areas to choose from, and I’m sure you would find something there covering your area, and if not, they are probably working on it!
There’s a way to “see” before you buy at FSGenesis. They offer free Terrain Mesh for the areas of Lebanon and Israel. Although these are desert areas, they do have a fair amount of terrain features. I think this to be an excellent way of displaying what they can do, even with an area that is somewhat flat.
Summary / Closing Remarks
There’s a long list of reasons why one may enjoy the world of Flight Simulation, but I do believe that one of the reasons that is shared by just about all simmers, is that they enjoy “looking out the window”. With a scenery review, there are some factors to consider, but not nearly as many as an aircraft review!
How it looks, how it works, compatibility, support, and cost of course, are all top considerations. The team at FSGenesis has met each of these points admirably! That’s probably why they have been around for so long!
Each of the above Terrain Mesh Files is $11.95 USD. A price that I think is more than fair, considering what it does for the simulator environment! Visit their website at for information on package deals, FSX products, and to see for yourself, just how “meshed up” the world is over at FSGenesis!
My thanks to Flight1 for Flight Environment and Ground Environment Pro, which are the utilities used to enhance the ground and sky textures.
What I Like About FSGenesis Terrain Mesh
What I Don't Like About FSGenesis Terrain Mesh
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