The most obvious new feature in Bryce 6 is the tighter integration with DAZ Studio, a rival to the figure-posing application Poser.

While not as powerful as Poser, it's a very competent program and with Bryce 6 you can import static and animated scenes from DAZ Studio directly into your landscapes.

Substantial work has also been done under the hood to rework the old Bryce code into something more optimised and extensible. While DAZ claims this produces a speed improvement of about 30% over version 5.0 (although not 5.5), this isn't uniform across all tasks.

Though all rendering is at least slightly faster, the most processor-intensive render tasks derive the least benefit from the improvements. Other behind-the-scenes changes matter less from a user perspective, as they make the program easier to develop and repurpose for other platforms.

Natural light

Top of DAZ 's list of new functionality is HDRI image-based lighting, enabling you to create more naturalistic lighting that closely resembles what the eye sees when it views a scene.

It can produce great renders, but is perhaps not as important to the target audience - budget users - as it would be in a pricier package.

The documentation is also very superficial in its description of the purpose, application or benefits of using HDRI imaging, instead pointing you to links on other sites.

In fact, the entire software manual is frustrating to use. Although it's been significantly extended, with over 1,500 new images having been added since the last version, it's not provided in a searchable document format such as PDF or even a Word file; instead it comes as a series of HTML pages.

If you don't already know what you're looking for and where it's roughly situated, finding the right information can be very tedious and time-consuming indeed.

The Terrain Editor has been improved, with better support for ready-made images. You can, for the first time, load your own 16-bit greyscale image to use as an elevation map for the entire scene, or you can load images for use as brushes, although the latter feature would be even more useful with the option to rotate and rescale imported brushes.

Furthermore, the entire Terrain Editor would be friendlier if it were populated with the pop-up tool-tips that now grace other areas of the program.

Falling short

Their absence seems indicative of the way Bryce 6, in general, has been developed. It has many excellent features, but the way in which they've been implemented sometimes leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the way they'll be used in the real world.

A classic example is the new Random Replicate tool, which enables you to create a user-specified number of duplicates of the current object. Each clone will be randomly rotated and positioned in space within a radius of your choosing.

It seems obvious that there may be times when you wish to add a random scale element, or randomise the colour, but neither of these options is available.

It's a useful feature, but a little thought and a few more hours of programming could have made it a hundred times more powerful.

As always, Bryce is an incredible program, especially at its price point. The new HDRI options increase the quality of its rendered output, and new features such as DAZ Studio animation import, the Random Replicate tool and the changes to the Terrain Editor extend its functionality.

Yet many of these features are so much less useful than they might be, simply because of the way they are implemented. In its current state, Bryce 6 is an application that delights and infuriates in equal measure.