While Paris came with a few relevant monuments and points of interest out of the box, like the Tour Eiffel and the Louvre, the city certainly isn’t as detailed as many would like.
The Blackshark.ai tech used by Asobo does a reasonably competent job in reproducing the map of cities not enhanced by photogrammetry, and it’s a large step ahead compared to previous simulators, but it’s not very good at portraying a city’s flavor and skyline.
For example, Paris is a city of many churches, and Microsoft Flight Simulator’s AI simply portrays the most elaborate Gothic cathedrals as weirdly-shaped buildings. Even the iconic Notre-Dame was inexplicably left empty in the sim, almost as if the AI simply gave up. Its shape is “painted” on the ground and it’s very underwhelming.
Orbx’s package sets out to change this and more. If you’d like to know what it looks like, you can check out a full flyover video showing the city in different lighting and weather conditions.
As with all of Orbx’s products, Landmarks Paris can be installed via the Steam-like Orbx Central client, which makes the process really painless. It’s also rather affordable, available on the publisher’s store for $11.57.
This kind of add-on doesn’t aim to reproduce the whole city like photogrammetry would do, but instead it brings forth the mood and flavor of Paris, breathing life into its otherwise rather boring default skyline.
Of course, photogrammetry has the advantage of full coverage at the expense of the level of detail, while a package of hand-crafted landmarks like Orbx’s wins in terms of the beauty of the most relevant buildings, but doesn’t cover everything.
The further perk is that, if Asobo and Microsoft ever add photogrammetry to Paris like they’re doing in a few days for London, the hand-crafted landmarks are still likely going to be a great addition on top of it.
There are basically two tiers of quality in the landmarks included. 15 “hero assets” like the Notre-Dame cathedral or the Centre Pompidou that are reproduced with the highest level of detail. They look absolutely gorgeous and they’re basically the centerpiece of the city’s renewed flavor.
Interestingly, Notre-Dame has been reproduced in its fully restored form instead of its current damaged state. Its famous spire is back and its roof is whole once more. I’d call this an artistic choice where realism took a backseat to charm, which I happen to agree with. It’s certainly much, much better than the default version. Whether you agree with the choice or not, anything is better than nothing.
Yet, the package doesn’t stop there, as it includes 200 landmarks with less detailed models, including many more churches, skyscrapers, bridges, stadiums, stations, and other iconic buildings.
Despite the lower polygon count, they look really good thanks to the generous and proficient use of physics-based rendering and the great texture work that fits the rest of the scenery really well, without clashing with the surrounding default buildings.
Orbx also did a rather good job terraforming the banks of the Seine, restoring their realistic elevation as opposed to them being flush with the river’s surface in the default Microsoft Flight Simulator scenery.
While this isn’t always perfect, it’s a large and much-needed improvement, and also enhances the portrayal of many of the major bridges crossing the iconic river.
While the city looks great during the day, it shines even brighter at night. Paris is affectionately nicknamed “la Ville Lumière” (the City of Lights), and Orbx did a great job not only with the lighting of the additional landmarks but also adding better lights to those already pre-existing in the simulator. The sight from above at night when taking off or landing at nearby airports like Orly, Le Bourget, or Charles de Gaulle is really mesmerizing.
The additional landmarks react well to various weather conditions, including snow, which blankets them without any glitches or issues.
Performance and optimization are excellent. On my PC (RTX 3070, Ryzen 9 3900x, 32 GB RAM) I lose only about 1-3 framers per second at 1440p resolution and Ultra detail settings compared to the default scenery
It’s really hard to find any fault with this add-on, which comes with great quality at an affordable price. The value of the purchase will likely depend on what you enjoy in the simulator. If you like exploring low and slow with general aviation aircraft, this is a very safe bet.
If your flying is limited to airliners, approaches and landings around Paris will still benefit from the package, but to a lesser extent, considering that the Orly and Charles de Gaulle aren’t too close to the city.
That being said, Landmarks Paris City Pack is certainly one of the best city add-ons on the Microsoft Flight Simulator market today.
It’s a giant improvement over the default scenery, and it does a great job in restoring the iconic look of one of the most romantic cities in the world.