First Impressions of DCS World 2.7
After months of waiting, the much awaited 2.7 update for DCS: World finally dropped on April 14th following a couple of delays. The major addition that this update brought are the new cloud and weather systems alongside an almost uncountable amount of fixes and quality of life (QoL) improvements to the sim.
We took a couple of days to let the changes sit in just so we could give a better perspective on what our thoughts are as there is a lot to go through.
Clouds with a side of new propellers!
As seen in the deluge of screenshots that have been taken within the first week, the clouds' visual impact is undeniable. But viewing wonderful pictures is different from experiencing them. From inside and outside the cockpit, they look stunning.
With there being 24 presets total, using the Mission Editor is the easiest way to get hands-on. Their wonders and dangers are immediately apparent from flying high above scattered clouds or doing low-level canyon runs in near-zero visibility overcast. Even something as simple as cloud surfing, playfully dipping in and out of them, can cause icing on the aircraft. And this was in a peaceful, free flight setting, clear from the rigors of combat.
The only minor problem we found while testing everything is what we called “puffing”. At distance, clouds seem to puff-up into cotton ball-like mass. Here, have a look:
Another feature that was added with this patch was a new propeller rendering technology. I won’t go into the details of how it works, but all we need to know is that it accurately calculates the position of each blade to accurately render then in a way that looks natural to the human eye. Here’s how it looks on the TF-51, quite the change!
Performance impact, or lack thereof
Although very far from being scientific, as there are no built-in benchmarks, we asked several of our friends which had varying levels of hardware. Interestingly, against all of our predictions, performance seems to have had an overall improvement no matter the level. The lowest spec GPU we “tested” on was the GTX 1060 6GB and even that one showed either higher or the same average fps than it did when running DCS 220.127.116.11 at 1080p with mostly the same settings as it had prior to the update.
The graphics cards we have at the moment are both a GTX 1660Ti and a RTX 2060, with the first one being Cubeboy’s and the latter Ribbon-Blue’s. Cube’s card showed the same average FPS over Dubai while flying the same route in 10 different runs (~75FPS), while the average FPS at altitude was reduced when compared to 2.5.6 (Ultra clouds, Overcast 3). High preset clouds showed similar results with a noticeable reduction of frames which might indicate that optimization efforts were directed at the Ultra preset for this initial release.
Combat impact and thoughts
Admittedly, the perception of just how much harder clouds make combat is somewhat skewed for now. With AI units being unaffected by clouds' presence or intensity, these non-player controlled units currently have an advantage against human players. This is a known issue that is already set to be fixed by Eagle Dynamics, but this is a factor for hosts of multiplayer servers that feature AI-controlled units. As mentioned in an earlier article, which mused about the possible impacts of clouds, this temporary unfair advantage may be yet another delay in the employment of clouds by server hosts on their multiplayer servers.
After hours of server hopping to get a general feel for the number of servers that immediately enabled the cloud presets, it was a pleasant surprise to see that a majority of the servers our staff visited were using one of the presets.
Improved rearming menu
The changelog for DCS 2.7 Open Beta is long but distinguished. One of these updates is slightly more detailed information about the weapons and equipment that are loaded onto hardpoints. The refuel/rearm function in the ground crew radio communication menu has often been the cause of quick web searches to confirm a few specifics about them. Things like whether or not they're laser-guided, semi-active radar-guided, capable of bunker penetration, etc.
For veterans of this simulator, this information is everyday knowledge. But for those learning new modules or still learning DCS as a whole, the addition of just a few more words in the text box has an impact. Simple tags like "GPS Guided Bomb", "IR ASM" and "Active Rdr AAM" will become a vital part of planning for players. This doesn't replace the need to learn how these weapons operate, but it does prevent accidental weapon-type mixups that could impact a sortie.
Get those IFR skills in shape!
For the first time in a long time, players might be finding themselves revisiting navigation system tutorials. With so much of DCS' flying being done in VFR-friendly conditions, there wasn't a pressing reason to become an IFR guru. But now depending on whether or not the mission creator decides to throw storm clouds your way, you will need to know how to navigate in the sea of white with your instruments alone. So get practicing!
Also, for mission planning in online servers, paying attention to the topography along the ingress, egress, and in the objective area is a slightly higher priority. While information about the exact type of cloud coverage that will be encountered may not be available, knowing the maximum height of the terrain is helpful in avoiding ground collision even in cloud obscured areas. Setting custom warning altitudes in the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) data sublevel could now be just as life-saving as it is in the real world.
Much like update 1.5 and 2.5, DCS World open beta update 2.7 has changed the simulator in such a way, it almost feels brand new again. Similar sentiments are being expressed by established content creators and players that have flown in DCS for over a decade. A secondary effect update 2.7 has had is a noticeable spike in interest by people that have never heard of DCS before or were on the fence about ever giving it a serious try. This sudden burst of interest coupled with the Sping Sale could result in a new wave of players to further expand the overall player base and eventually populate multiplayer servers even more.
After a few more adjustments and minor updates that are bound to happen within the next few weeks, by the time this update reaches the stable build of DCS World, there’s little doubt that 2.7 will go down as one of the pivotal updates within this simulator’s history.
About the co-author
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
About the co-author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
The Director of Operations for Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |