Unlike other simulation based genres such as agricultural sims, trucking sims (just to name two) these have very little choice and are ruled by two different developers with GIANTS controlling the ag sim with Farming Simulator and SCS ruling the trucking space with American and Euro Truck Simulator. This lack of competition, while good for the developers is of course bad for us consumers. But the same can’t be said for the choices available in the flight simulation space.
In recent weeks, Laminar Research released X-Plane 12 in early access. Of course Microsoft Flight Simulator surprised everyone in 2019 and released MSFS 2020 during the summer of 2020 and Lockheed Martin of course has their Prepar3D version 5 (unclear if there will be a v6), so the flight simulation community has choices when it comes to selecting a platform to build around. But which is best and which platform is the right one for you?
In the year 2022, it’s really difficult to specifically state which flight simulation platform is the absolute best. It’s much like Coke versus Pepsi. Each have their loyal, dedicated fan base and each produce a quality product. But of course we all know that Coke is the best and certainly the one I prefer.
For many of us who have been in the hobby of flight simulation for many, many years we grew up with the various offerings from Microsoft. When Microsoft abandoned their popular Flight Simulator way back in 2009, the only two choices were either to make the move to Prepar3D or move to X-Plane. For me, and I’m sure many like me who had made a sizeable investment in FSX add-ons, the clear choice was to go the way of P3D as most add-ons for FSX would work. Developers made their products available for P3D as quickly as they could and some didn’t charge for the update. Of course others made the jump to X-Plane and never looked back.
Certainly before Microsoft re-entered the scene with Flight Simulator 2020, both Prepar3D and X-Plane were very similar in what each offered and many 3rd party developers were supporting both platforms. But this has certainly changed in recent years and from what I’m seeing the vast majority of 3rd party developers have completely shifted their focus to MSFS and have slowly decreased their development efforts away from P3D and in some cases X-Plane as well.
Now it must certainly be said that prior to MSFS, X-Plane had a much more active community driven focus towards the freeware development of add-ons than the P3D community. With P3D everything pretty much shifted to payware as the only option for enhancing the simulator. Of course in the past two years since MSFS has been around the community focus has returned and we’ve seen some really awesome add-ons released for the new platform as freeware with lots more to come.
With all that said, what advice can I give to those trying to choose a flight simulation platform? In all honesty, I believe of the three platforms I’ve mentioned (MSFS, P3D and X-Plane) really it boils down to just two choices with the first being Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane. But allow me to explain why I’ve removed Prepar3D from the list.
Prepar3D has never been intended to be used in the home/personal entertainment category. From the very beginning, Lockheed Martin was unable to market/distribute the P3D flight simulation platform for anything other than commercial and flight training purposes. While this never stopped anyone from purchasing the sim (I’m proof of that), the very simple fact is P3D has always been intended as a training sim. Regardless if Lockheed Martin introduce a version 6 of the sim, I don’t feel P3D will ever be enhanced to the point of what we’re seeing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and since the debut of MSFS along with the quality of add-on, study level aircraft from Fenix and PMDG (more will come) Lockheed Martin is losing a lot of their customer base which used P3D as an off-ramp when FSX was no longer a viable option. As already mentioned, many 3rd party developers have fully embraced MSFS and are moving full steam ahead in developing quality add-ons for that platform. Of course, many users will stay with P3D and I’m sure Lockheed Martin will continue to support the platform regardless if there is a v6.
As I mentioned at the top of the writing, X-Plane 12 has just released. From what I’ve seen, read and heard….this latest version isn’t going down as I’m sure Laminar Research had hoped. As I’m not an X-Plane fan, I have no intention of purchasing the sim. But from some of the videos I’ve watched, those who are showcasing the new sim have mostly been disappointed in what they are seeing. Of course, it must be said that this is a early release version and most likely things will change.
Now I know there are a lot of unbelievers when it comes to Microsoft Flight Simulator. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog postings, even I had my doubts regarding the new platform. But over time, I believe the sim has matured into a quality flight simulator that I believe to be the “Gold Standard” of the available flight simulation platforms available today. Both Microsoft and Asobo are committed to the project and I believe what we’re seeing from MSFS today is only the beginning. In addition, from a cost perspective, MSFS requires a lot less investment to make the ground textures mirror that of the real world.
The 800 lb Gorilla
To address the 800 lb gorilla in the room, many will argue and say that X-Plane (at least historically) has always featured the best, true to life flight dynamics of any of the available sims. I personally can’t argue either way on this statement. I’m not a real world pilot, I’m not training to be a real world pilot and personally unless the difference gap was huge, I really don’t care. It simply means nothing to me. The aircraft I primarily fly in MSFS (Fenix A320, PMDG 737) compensate for any weakness in the flight dynamics department and I enjoy every single minute of my time in the sim and in those aircraft.
But What About…
Yes, there are two other flight simulator platforms that I have yet to mention in this posting, specifically Aerofly FS4 and DCS World. DCS World, of course is an awesome flight simulator if you enjoy simulating military flight ops and honestly has some of the very best visual simulations of any platform. I personally don’t spend a lot of time in DCS, but I do use it from time to time. If military ops is something you really enjoy, then DCS World will be your best bet.
Unfortunately, I personally don’t have any experience with Aerofly FS4. While the platform does have some 3rd party development support with some add-ons, I don’t consider it broad enough to be considered above P3D, X-Plane or MSFS. In addition, unlike P3D, X-Plane or MSFS, Aerofly FS4 does not include the entire world as part of the base package. Additional regions must be purchased separately.
In closing, if you’ve been in the hobby of flight simulation for some time and are already using and enjoying Prepar3D or X-Plane, then I certainly understand why you may choose to remain on those platforms. But if you are new to the hobby, I highly recommend you do your homework and give consideration towards Microsoft Flight Simulator as I believe this is the very best and certainly will be for many years to come.
Thanks for reading and as always….Happy Flying!!!