Microsoft Flight Simulator - Stockholm Arlanda Airport (Orbx) Review - Nordic Beauty

Published: June 22, 2023 10:00 AM /

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Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda With SAS Airbus A320 Parked at Gate 42

Orbx has released another major Scandinavian airport add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator, and it's Stockholm Arlanda (ESSA) serving the capital of Sweden. 

Considering that it's one of the most relevant airports in the region, it's definitely a desirable add-on for those who enjoy flying close to the Arctic Circle. On the other hand, it does have a hurdle to clear in terms of value because Microsoft and Asobo themselves have released a hand-crafted version with World Update 5. This means that this add-on doesn't just need to be great in its own right, but it also has to be exceptional in order to be worth a separate purchase.

The airport is developed by Marcus Nyberg, well-known for his work on other add-ons in the Nordics like Gothenburg Landvetter and Stockholm Bromma, with Jetstream Designs also providing their expertise in scenery design.

It's currently available on Orbx Direct for $23.76, meaning that installation and updates are a breeze thanks to the publisher's industry-leading Orbx Central client. The client also lets you customize a few options to shave off a bunch of polygons at the expense of some detail if you need to optimize your performance.

Starting with functionality, all SIDs, STARs, and approaches work perfectly. The ILS glideslopes and localizers will lead you down to each landing zone without a hitch, and the PAPI lights available for all runways are set at the correct angle if visual approaches are your drift. 

The same can be said about the gates and taxiways, all of which are mapped and labeled correctly according to the charts, meaning that you won't have any issue navigating to and from the gates by following the ATC's instructions. Ground services are mostly functional besides fuel trucks, which have either been omitted or overlooked. That being said, it's almost exclusively a cosmetic issue.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda Terminal 2
Terminal 2 in all its glory.

An element that I always appreciate is that AI traffic works perfectly. It's obvious that the developers did the proper testing and AI airliners land, take off, and taxi as they should despite the relatively complex layout of the airport. On top of that, the gates and ramps have been labeled with the proper airline codes and types, so each airline will park approximately where it would in real life, including freighters (which are often overlooked by developers). Incidentally, all the screenshots included in this article portray AI traffic with a mix of FSLTL and FS Traffic. The airport itself doesn't have static aircraft besides a few retired old ones at peripheric aprons and a helicopter. 

To complete the functional features, all gates and ramps have working visual docking guidance system (VDGS). I absolutely love the fact that the developers did not place the system just at the terminal gates, but also at the ramps at the satellite aprons and cargo center. This is something that many developers for Microsoft Flight Simulator overlook, and I'm absolutely a fan of having it available anywhere is appropriate. 

Moving on to visuals, the airport is built on high-quality orthophotos (to the extent the simulator's engine permits), but the real star is the terrain mesh. The developers did a great job at modeling Arlanda's somewhat uneven terrain, including ponds, sunk roads, tunnels, and even a quarry. The overly flat terrain is another common flaw in most MSFS airport scenery, and it's one that the developers of this add-on avoided in style. The sloping of all runways is also correctly modeled.

The only issue I have is that the orthophotos have been only partially cleaned, with plenty of areas in which equipment and construction materials are just painted on the ground. That being said, this is still better than the many you see which haven't been cleared at all, I suppose. 

The airport's perimeter is fully fenced, which is something I certainly appreciate, albeit there are plenty of areas in which the fencing doesn't negotiate the terrain perfectly, creating a "jagged" effect that is less than appealing. Of course, this is much better than having no fence at all or only partial fencing. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda - Night Lighting
The Airport looks beautiful at night. 

The textures of runways, taxiways, and aprons are for the most part superb, and match all the recent photographic sources I could gather while researching the airport for this review. The markings are perhaps a bit blurry and faded in certain areas (especially the stop bars at gates), but this tends to be a widespread weak point in Microsoft Flight Simulator and might be due to engine limitations. On the other hand, the weathering and the look of materials are pretty much spot-on.

Speaking of weathering, it's certainly one of the spotlights in the texturing of all the buildings of the airport. Marcus Nyberg has a very distinctive art style that can be easily recognized for the hyper-realistic weathering and dirt on walls and surfaces. Combined with the skillful use of PBR, it creates some of the most lifelike presentations in the industry. 

The 3D models of terminals, warehouses, and hangars are equally impressive and detailed almost everywhere across the airport, also extending to nearby buildings. The complex structure of the glass roof of Sky City is one of the best I've seen so far. 

The one puzzling element is the ATC tower. While the external model is perfectly fine, the windows are opaque and hide a modeled but untextured interior. I have no idea whether this is an oversight or an intentional omission. Perhaps it has been left unfinished for a possible update, but this is just my personal speculation.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda Cargo Center
The cargo aprons are busy today.

The jetways look fantastic and beautifully detailed and even come with dedicated sound effects. They also correctly represent the different types present at different terminals. Unfortunately, this comes with an issue due to the fact that some of Arlanda's obsolete jet bridges are really limited in terms of movement. It's obvious that the developers made a valiant effort with the animations, but there is only so much you can do in this case. This means that if you park at the older jetways, you'll need to be very careful on where you stop if you want them to connect, and some will still fall a bit short depending on the aircraft you're flying. 

While most of the textures are great, there are instances in which they are much lower in resolution and feature a lot of compression artifacts. Luckily, most of these cases are quite far from the apron or on the roofs, so you won't notice them during normal operations. They aren't pretty, but they're forgivable. 

A bit less forgivable are the really obsolete static models used for the few retired aircraft on the peripheric aprons. Both their 3D mesh and textures are frankly really poor, to the point that I'd rather them not be included at all. On the other hand, the Swedish Maritime Administration search and rescue helicopter is quite good.

Speaking of static "aircraft," we also get the iconic Jumbo Stay hostel, built within an old Boeing 747. It's quite well done, and the developers went as far as correctly texturing its increasingly worn-out paint job. Its real-life counterpart really, really needs a new coat of paint. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda - the Jumbo Stay Hostel
The Jumbo Stay hostel is one of the most iconic sights at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

The interiors of the terminal are also really pleasant to the eye, providing plenty of details in both models and textures and conveying the atmosphere of each terminal nicely without being overly extravagant and weighing excessively on performance.

An additional shoutout goes to the antennas, airside equipment, spotlights, and general clutter, which are absolutely beautiful and contribute massively to the immersion. Not only the developers created appropriate ground service vehicles and buses with the correct liveries (including a few rare ones you don't see often like the lifts used for passengers on wheelchairs), but they also drive across the correct dedicated lanes, which is a rarity in this simulator. The baggage handling carts even get dynamic covers to protect the luggage when it rains. Talk about attention to detail!

The only small criticism I have for this element of the scenery is that not all default vehicles have been replaced with Arlanda-specific ones. Catering trucks haven't been replaced at all, while the custom pushback tugs are only static. The moving ones are default. Since the custom model for them exists and Orbx has included custom dynamic tugs in its excellent Oslo Gardermoen scenery, I hope this will be addressed in a future update.

Night lighting is really impressive. This includes the ground lights on the runways, taxiways, aprons, and ambient lighting in general. I always appreciate airports that use lights featuring different hues and intensities. A lot of airports have not yet replaced all of their lights with the latest ultra-bright LED bulbs, and Arlanda certainly fits the bill, adding to the atmosphere. This is enhanced even further by the headlights and rotating signal lights of the custom ground service vehicles as they drive around the airport. 

Moving on to weather implementation, this scenery looks great in the rain. Snow coverage has always been one of the biggest pain points of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Stockholm Arlanda isn't perfect (no airport really is) but it's better than most, with most aprons and taxiways clean as they should be. The scenery promises dynamic snow-plowing vehicles and snowbanks appearing at the edges of the tarmac when it snows, but unfortunately, I couldn't manage to make them work. Marcus Nyberg has pioneered the snowbanks and they look really great in his Gothenburg Landvetter Airport, so I'm positive it's either a problem on my side or a release bug that'll be easily fixed.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda Review Framerate - Orbx Version showing 55 FPS

Microsoft Flight Simulator Stockholm Arlanda Review Framerate - Asobo Version showing 64 FPS
Orbx's rendition (above) versus Microsoft's version (below). A small difference in framerate but an astronomical difference in detail.

While the airport is heavier in terms of performance than the one that came from Asobo with World Update 5, the overall frame rate is very good, losing only about 10 FPS compared to the rival on my PC (i7-13700K with GeForce RTX 4080 and 32 GB DDR5 RAM at Ultra Setting and DirectX11 with DLSS Quality but no Frame Generation). Considering that the level of detail is absolutely on a different planet in favor of Orbx's scenery, I'd say it's well worth the slightly lower frame rate. 

While it stops just shy of perfection, this is certainly one of the best airport add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Whether it's worth purchasing over the free default version probably depends on how much you fly to and from Scandinavia, but the difference in quality is so massive that this is a very easy recommendation and I can't see anyone regretting the purchase. 

Ultimately, Stockholm Arlanda by Orbx, Marcus Nyberg, and Jetstream Designs is a superb scenery that places itself firmly around the top of the industry and confirms a string of excellent add-ons released under Orbx's label in the past few months.


TechRaptor reviewed Stockholm Arlanda Airport for Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The add-on will likely also be made available for Xbox Series X|S in the future. 

Review Summary

9.5
Stockholm Arlanda by Orbx, Marcus Nyberg, and Jetstream Designs is a superb scenery that places itself firmly around the top of the industry and confirms a string of excellent add-ons released under Orbx's label in the past few months. (Review Policy)

Pros

  • A fantastic airport that precisely reproduces Stockholm Arlanda in great detail
  • Marcus Nyberg's signature textures look great and very realistic in most areas
  • Functional VDGS at all gates and ramps
  • The modeling of the jetways is superb and they even have dedicated sound effects
  • Excellent interiors without going overboard
  • Great lighting across the airport
  • Beautiful custom ground vehicles

Cons

  • Some of the textures are not consistent with the overall quality
  • The ATC tower's interior is unfinished
  • Some of the static aircraft are really poor

 

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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
Developer
Asobo Studio
Publisher
Xbox Game Studios
Release Date
August 18, 2020 (Calendar)
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