Makuri Islands: Two Village Loop

Rain persisted for the second day in a row, so indoors I stayed, and on Zwift I once again ventured. No bad thing, truth be told, as although these endurance sessions are quite boring, they are the exact kind of lighter riding that I need to help my calf with recovery.

Firing up Zwift today I was greeted with the option to ride their latest world – Makuri Islands. This just so happened to launch about three months ago now, on the very day my previously 2 year uninterrupted subscription came up for a pause.

Anyway, I’d heard this was easily the nicest looking world Zwift have yet released, and my initial impressions were in agreement. You have to realise with Zwift that you’re not going to get Unreal Engine 5 tier graphics. It’s more, well, the original Unreal Engine. The one that came out in about 1995, but I guess if I’m being kind, it looks more like how games did towards the start of the millenium.

Hey, 5 years is a lot of time in PC land.

I picked a route that looked like I’d see a fair chunk of the map, which in this case was the “Two Village Loop”, all of the clues as to what this route might entail are in the title.

The route consisted of ~12.8km of road, and ~88m of climb per lap, as best I recall.

However, given that I was doing this as a workout, I wouldn’t be feeling any of the gradients, nor any of the road surfaces.

There are a variety of sections on this map that feel like other parts of Zwift. There are sunflower patches and some watery bits that feel like France, and there’s a small climb into the first of the villages, with its boxed in feeling, that reminded me of London’s Keith Hill.

When you reach the top of that little climb, I would have to say you are greeted by the most visually impressive sight on Zwift.

They really nailed the distinctive Japanese style. Having never been to Japan, I can’t vouch for how realistic any of the decor would be, but it’s a computer game and I liked the bold colours and stuff to look at. There’s lots of pedestrians around, lots of houses to look at, and no doubt a few hidden Easter egg type details in there I missed.

That first village was probably the highlight of the map for me.

Oh, and it was paved, which quite a lot of this route was not.

Leaving the old town / traditional village, we ended up in a woodland area.

The colours here were really nice, and it was in stark contrast to the previous section. It felt like a natural transition, and just generally really gelled well with the map.

However, on my first trip around I noticed a lot of lag and graphical stuttering in this area. I put it down to Zwift sometimes being a bit… well, buggy. But it happened again on the second lap, so I suspect there’s some small glitch with this section that sends my frame rates tumbling.

Leaving the forest-y bit, the final landmark on the lap was the other village. Remember, this was the Two Village Loop?

Well, whilst this one felt more like what I’d imagine (and have seen on e.g. James May’s TV show on Amazon) a modern day Japanese village to be like, it wasn’t anything like as inspiring, or really, feeling as though it had received as much love as the first village.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice bits. I liked the walled sections, and some interesting side sections (not ride-able), but it didn’t feel particularly exciting.

Anyway, after that I was pretty much done.

Having what I assume is Mount Fuji off in the background was pretty cool. There were some Olympic cycling events in the foothills of Mount Fuji, as best I am aware, but the closest we get is having it off in the distance.

It seems quite a lot of this route was gravel, which I don’t particularly like. Also, it seems others don’t, as whilst there were ~2000 riders on Makuri Islands when I was riding, most people seemed to be carrying on the paved stuff when I went off road. Lucky them.

Anyway, a fun and different adventure today on Zwift.

I’m looking forwards to checking out the rest of the routes. And if the weather continues to be wet and miserable, that may very well be as early as tomorrow.

Who knows.

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