Ok. So I finally had the time to do a proper flight in AFS2. Let me share with you the good, the bad and the ugly.
I decided to fly the route that Mitch suggested, Phoenix to Vegas. And there the first problem arose: there is no search function on the Navigation map, not for ICAO codes but also not for cities or airport names. So I had to Google for the places and also for what specific airport I should be looking at and after a while I found the proper airports. Not too good, in fact I found this a bit bad. What I did like was the ease with which you could select your runway and if it was the departure or destination. I do find it a bit odd (and slightly confusing at first) that you have two maps, one for Location and one for Navigation. I don't understand why they aren't combined. That would make the feature quite strong. And although the planning isn't too good the actual map and how you can use it to select a location, direction, altitude, etc. is pretty good. Anyway, the map shows VORs but you can't add them to your plan and when you select the destination runway it simply adds a FAF to the plan. Very simple but well, it does work. It's better than no getting no FAF at all and only a Direct to the airport.
So I set the time.Turns out it is UTC only... Bad. I find this very odd for a sim like this. Had to change the time again.
I decided to fly the Airbus because that is my favorite airliner and I know it from FSX/P3D so I know how to handle it. Started the flight and was greeted by mono sound. Yes, I am not kidding. MONO. Bad. (Maybe even ugly but well...) Truly amazing to hear mono sounds in such a new 'next gen' sim. I also quickly found out clicking on knobs etc. didn't give any sound. Odd.
Oh, almost forgot: loading times are TOTALLY AWESOME!!! GOOD! Very good! One of the best AFS2 features. I have to add the VC looked pretty nice too. I won't mind calling it good.
Well, I won't dive to deep into the systems because we all know everything is very basic. Still, I'd like to share some oddities. (Yes, 'odd' is a word that came to my mind often!) Like: you can turn off almost all buttons on the ELEC and FUEL overhead (the rest is inop apart from the lights) but... it doesn't have any effect: you can still fly! Odd. It would be better to not enable those buttons then.
Ok, take off. Some options could be set before take off, like Autobrakes (surprise!) and Ground spoilers (surprise!) and of course flaps. Even T.O. config worked! Surprise again! However, the throttle had no detents (didn't really surprise me). What I did find a bit odd but not surprising was that the throttle stayed in TOGA all the flight, at least after enabling A/THR. The latter only could be engaged after take off btw. All in all a bit of a mixed bag... Some good, some bad.
After take off I enabled the AP (and A/THR) but the plane wouldn't follow the flightplan. Odd. What did work, surprise, were managed and manual modes (forgot the right wording): pulling and pushing the knobs works and that's quite nice for such a basic plane. But well, as I said, pushing the HDG knob had no effect so I used the manual HDG option. However, after a few minutes the managed mode suddenly kicked in and the plane followed the flightplan. (Which you do not have to load btw: you set it up and it is automatically loaded in any plane you use. Easy.)
The MCDU showed a Take off page all the time: nothing you can do about that one. The choice is a bit odd though because it showed empty brackets for Vref etc. and you would never take off with a page in that state... I'd rather see a more generic page like navadate info: would also be fake but would make more sense. I won't call all this bad because we know AFS2 isn't a systems sim.
And now comes my first ugly... The weather system. Or lack of it. Apart from it being EXTREMELY basic (and by that I mean EXTREMELYYYYYYY basic) it looks like **** because it only shows cumulus in a VERY VERY VERY small circle around your plane. Everywhere around you you see blue skies up to the horizon and only a little group of cloud is flying along with your aircraft. I seriously cannot understand that those who do love AFS2 are NOT utterly annoyed by this. The circle is SO SMALL that when I reached my FL of 320 I couldn't even see clouds in front of me!!! And I had everything set to the max!!! Ridiculous. Again, ugly. I said elsewhere that I would be happy already if Orbx would release a photoreal region with 3D stuff everywhere but I take that back: I cannot be really happy with AFS2 until it gives me clouds up to the horizon (or where visibility ends) and a weather system (not necessarily real weather) is really needed too. The current system is UGLY.
Having said that: the view on the scenery was pretty nice... This is where photoreal shines. Well, at FL320 anyway. (More on that later.) Good! The white horizon and the odd blue of the sky were less stellar though but still, it was enjoyable! I can imagine people liking this a lot. Surely beats seeing repeated generic textures down there!
The system behaved a but erratic during the flight: sometimes I got overspeed while still using autothrottle but all in all it went pretty well. Of course there was no TOD so I had to manually activate descent. That went quite okay, the plane even slowed down before reaching FL100. the LOC button didn't do anything (although the mouse went red over it) but APPR did work and quite fine too. I even let the plane fly on AP until the GS was intercepted. After turning the AP off I could keep on using A/THR which worked a bit but not completely so I turned that one off before touchdown. Flaps and gear I had to take care off on my own. Well, again, a mixed bag but that was to be expected.
O, one more bad. Vegas. It took me a while before I noticed I was almost near Vegas. It looked like nothing, really. From a distance it looked like some sort of greenish field in the desert. Only when I was almost there I noticed the ground textures showed buildings. There were no autogen buildings at all. What were there were trees. In the most odd places. I can't help it but this is not just bad, it is ugly. Not only should there be buildings but the trees should be properly positioned. There were everywhere, on (flat) houses, streets... very bad. No, very ugly. The heart of the city did show 3D buildings but frankly, having buildings only there makes the difference even bigger: those buildings stick out too much from a distance.
Anyway, when I had almost landed I could see buildings on the airport and parked planes: that was quite nice.
Another thing that was okay, let's call it good for now, was the lighting and shadows. No cloud shadows though, as far as I could see, but I disabled the clouds after a while because that circle of cumulus was absolutely horrendous... If you see a good looking AFS2 screenshot with clouds they simply did a good job on taking the shot with the clouds in the proper position and angle...
Final conclusion: even when I accept that this is not a sim with deep systems, which is fine with me, a few things that should be the selling point of AFS2 aren't quite there yet. I really hope that Orbx can do wonders in that regard (not so much with airports but with the photoreal regions JV talked about): that would really save AFS2. But it won't be enough: specially the weather needs serious attention, from iPacs or another developer. AI and ATC, which iPacs is thinking about, may be nice and all, but please, work on the weather first... And if you can't handle it, at least make the circle of clouds larger, preferably up to the horizon (in other words: get rid of that circle).
I can see myself doing occasional quick flights with the Airbus: it's quick, it's easy, it's fun. I can't see myself really enjoying GA that much because of the lack of 3D buildings and oddly placed trees. Flying low just doesn't cut it. It looks too bad. The circle of clouds doesn't help here either. However, in area's where there aren't much buildings, like the Grand canyon, it might work out okay so all is not lost.
AFS2 is nice for a quick flying fix. It is sorely missing key features which it should have out of the box but I am hopeful things will improve over time. It has some nice things going for it and well, it wasn't money spend extremely well but I also do not really regret the purchase. Mainly thanks to Orbx looking into things... It's an odd sim, that's for sure.
P.S. or Disclaimer: this is by no means a complete review. It is based on very short flights during the past few weeks in which I didn't have much time to try things and mainly on ONE >200nm flight I did this evening. But given the simplicity of the sim and the little amount of options etc. I think it is possible to give a good and honest review after using it not for too long. If I come up with other opinions during the coming days and weeks I will post them here. (Yes, I am indeed planning on flying in AFS2 more often.)
Totally forgot one good: the performance. Although... it was good but 1. without vsync, so with tearing: vsync made things choppy, and 2. I mainly flew above empty photoreal.... But for now performance seems good (i7 4790K@4.5, GTX780, 16 GB RAM, 1920x1080 res) with everything completely maxed out.