Recently, Microsoft Flight Simulator add-on developer SamScene3D released the “Seoul City Wow” package featuring the capital of South Korea.
The Asian country is one of the major nations included Microsoft Flight Simulator that has received the least attention from add-on creators, including freeware.
On top of that, the default local scenery in the base simulator is far from stellar, making the Republic of Korea look a lot more boring than it actually is.
Funnily enough, I was able to find more (freeware) add-ons portraying secretive North Korea than the whopping zero I found enriching its southern counterpart.
One of the reasons behind this issue is that South Korea’s political situation dictates part of its legislation, including some really strict regulations about maps. This is the reason why no Google Maps 3D view exists of Seoul, despite the fact that it’s a massively-relevant capital city home to almost ten million people.
Luckily SamScene3D has come to the rescue to improve what’s otherwise a rather dull landscape. If you want to take a visual tour of what Seoul City Wow offers, you can find a lot of images here, and a flythrough video just above.
This package is rather different from the usual airports we reviewed before, as it beautifies a much larger area which isn’t designed to be seen from as close. Overall, it’s more of a backdrop for your flights.
Seoul City Wow, which can be purchased from SamScene3D’s own website for $16.95, comes with no installer. Luckily, Microsoft Flight Simulator makes installing this kind of add-ons very easy. You just unzip the folder in the Community folder of the simulator, and you’re done.
The package promises over 200 landmarks plus 500 Korean-style apartment buildings covering the area of the city. That’s quite a lot of stuff.
The first thing you’ll notice when flying over this new Seoul is that there are a lot of apartment complexes that look very much the same. Almost too much. Those who aren’t familiar with the city may mistake this for a flaw of the add-on, as its skyline is rather unique.
The truth is the opposite. This is actually what Seoul looks like in the real world, as you can see in a few aerial pictures. SamScene3D made a laudable effort to recreate many of these apartment building clusters and their positioning, creating a very authentic feeling.
Starting in the late sixties, the Korean government enacted a military-style plan to solve a dramatic housing crisis left by the war, combined with a massive population boom. This resulted in a lot of bulldozing and the building of the large, uniform apartment complexes we see today, which are correctly reproduced and rather precisely placed in the addon.
Of course, there are plenty of unique landmarks to discover, from the Sebitseom Seoul Floating Island to the Little World Magic Island, passing by Seoul Sky and the iconic Namsan Tower.
I’ve spent several hours exploring, and I don’t think I’ve found all of them yet.
The models and textures are a bit on the low-polygon, low-resolution side, but this is very much justified by the number of objects in the scenery.
This kind of package tends to be an extreme resource hog, often tanking even powerful gaming rigs by 30 frames-per-second or more from some developers who go overboard with detail.
As you can see below, Seoul City Wow only eats about 10-12 FPS from the performance of my PC (RTX 3070, Ryzen 9 3900x, 32 GB RAM) at 1440p resolution and Ultra settings. That’s remarkable in perspective.
Yet, the detail is definitely good enough to enjoy the city unless you fly very close, which you shouldn’t do unless you want fighters on your tail. Yes, I know: interceptors don’t actually come after you in Microsoft Flight Simulator if you fly where you shouldn’t. But you get my drift.
That being said, I’d have appreciated a bit more detail at least for a few major landmarks.
Yet, this scenery add-on improves on the default representation of the city massively. Microsoft Flight Simulator usually does a decent job in portraying the skyline of urban centers, but due to the lack of data, it gets the elevation of the apartment complexes I mentioned above completely wrong. As a result, Seoul looks nothing like its real-world counterpart. It’s really, really bad.
SamScene3D’s package restores the skyline to what it should be without the need of photogrammetry (which likely doesn’t exist, or at least isn’t accessible), creating a definitely recognizable version of the city without bringing your PC down to its virtual knees.
The add-on also does a good job at illuminating the city at night, even if I’d expect a bit more color here and there.
There are rare instances in which a few skyscrapers have their night and day illumination inverted and I noticed a couple of flickering textures, but SamScene3D tends to be rather active at updating their addons, so I expect those issues to be fixed soon enough.
The interaction with the weather is also great, creating some very dramatic sights with heavy cloud coverage. Only snow causes an issue, but this is a general problem on the simulator’s side with its coverage that doesn’t stick to certain surface, leaving add-on building bare. It’s Asobo and Microsoft’s responsibility to fix that, rather than any fault on the part of SamScene3D.
Now we just need someone to reproduce Seoul’s hubs, Incheon International Airport, and Gimpo International Airport. Especially the latter would work perfectly with this add-on, considering that it’s very close to the city and would result in rather spectacular approaches.
Ultimately, Seoul City Wow is a much-needed package if you want to fly in South Korea’s most-heavily urbanized area with any sort of visual satisfaction.
It’s one of the few areas in which Microsoft Flight Simulator fails to deliver graphical spectacle, and SamScene3D’s add-on is an excellent way to fix the problem.
- Very good reproduction of the unique skyline of Seoul.
- Large number of landmarks to discover and explore.
- Good performance for this kind of add-on.
- Almost a must due to the poor default state of the city.
- A few small issues in the texture work.
- Some major landmarks could be a little more detailed.
- A bit more color at night would improve the package.
December 11, 2020