Here’s my review of Kraków John Paul II International Airport (EPKK) by Drzewiecki Design.
The package may seem slightly on the pricey side at first sight, but it includes a secondary airfield (which is actually a fully-modeled aviation museum with all of its vintage military aircraft) and basically a full-fledged city pack for Kraków, which many developers would sell on its own for 10-15 bucks.
Drzewiecki has improved its quality massively with their latest releases, and this one raises the bar further. I’d actually go out on a limb and say that IMHO, this may very well be the best airport scenery released for MSFS as of now, combining both exceptional quality and a lot of content.
The madmen modeled the tracks of the train station in 3D lol, and despite that, performance is great. This is the level of quality I would expect from top devs on a small GA airport, but Kraków isn’t small.
The only real issue is the quality of the human models, which is a bit low, but I’m sure many will consider it a nitpick (and it kinda is). Some may also not like the presence of static aircraft, but they’re by far the best-looking statics in the industry at the moment. They wouldn’t look bad as AI aircraft, to be honest.
Of course, this is just my opinion, and there’s plenty of video content in the review to make your own opinion
To be honest I am torn on this one. I got the scenery and it brings a lot for the price, but the drawback is the low quality in many areas. I guess for the price it is understandable so I do not really complain, just point out. The airport itself looks pretty darn good. But elsewhere, not so much anymore. Drzewiecki Design’s style (also SamSecene) is to make simple 3d models and slap photographic textures on them, while other developers play more with materials and 3d models (for example landmarks from ORBX). I think Drzewiecki’s approach is less time consuming and gives better performance, whiile ORBX’s looks better, especially up close.
I think the closest competitor to this scenery will be the upcoming Bromma Airport that comes with the airport and over 100 POIs in the city, then we will judge what can be done in terms of the size of the add-on and price/quality.
Low quality? Sorry, but I have to disagree. IMHO there’s no “low quality” here (besides the human models, those ARE low quality). There’s scenery that’s optimized for performance, but a lot of the models are very detailed for the distance they are intended to be looked at.
As someone who knows quite a bit about texturing, I can easily tell you that there’s a lot more going on here than “simple 3d models and slap photographic textures on them” (that’s a really reductive way of describing people’s work, you know?). Not only a lot of the models are not that simple, but while there is the use of a photographic base, that’s heavily hand-edited to clean it up, line it up perfectly with the model (no photo base is perfectly orthogonal with the model), and make it fit the colors and mood of the simulator. Then there’s work with shaders on top of it, like PBR and more. It’s far from just slapping a texture on a simple model, I guarantee that.
The other dev you mention is closer to that definition, but they have a very different approach. They make up for the lower quality of the single asset with coverage. Their cities have a TON more bespoke models and do a great job at actually representing the original skyline due to the density of non-landmark buildings, getting closer to photogrammetry level of coverage. What they really need is to focus on is upping their airport game.
Orbx doesn’t do it that differently from Drzewiecki. They have a number of “hero” assets that are more detailed, and a much larger number of lower-detail assets that aren’t made to be seen from up close, which is pretty much industry standard and the only way not to tank performance. The difference is that they charge for them separately from the airports (which Drzewiecki normally does as well, so this is pretty exceptional and I certainly hope they keep doing it), which is justified by the higher number of both hero assets and normal assets. I just wish they made sure to pair their packages with a high quality airport (even sold separately), because to enjoy some of them we’re stuck with rather low-quality ones like Dubai or Frankfurt.
Different approaches don’t mean that one approach is necessarily better than the other. Orbx uses less photographic bases (they still use them), but this causes many of their landmarks to be a bit more cartoony and their weathering to feel a bit less natural, which they make up for in other ways. The debate between the use of photographic bases is as old as the sun, and it mostly boils down to matter of taste, at least on buildings.
That being said, for now, this is definitely the only package (that I know of) that combines this top-notch level of quality in the airport with this level of quantity and quality in the city. It’s also what I see as an optimal balance between the two aspects.
Other packages that I know of have more quantity in the city but no airport, or comparable level of quality in the airport but no city or much less coverage of it.
And yes, Bromma seems to be similar in scope (even if Bromma is a much smaller airport, which isn’t a negligible difference), and that’s great and very promising. Incidentally, you’ll notice from the screenshots they have shared so far that they use photo bases as well. That developer is really talented and I definitely hope they change their mind about shelving their Arlanda project due to the world update.
Then we have to agree to disagree on this matter. I personally think ORBX stuff looks much better. The Cracow main square roof titles do not blend with the rest very well and stand out too much as the roofs are clean and much brighter than the surrounding buildings. I still consider the whole package to be good, but far from the best I have seen. I guess a lot of personal preferences play a role here.
That’s because those tiles do not use photo imagery as a source. And that’s something that applies to most orbx buildings (most of them look brighter/cleaner than the surroundings), so I’m not sure why it’s being applied as a demerit only on one side. Color matching is extremely difficult for everyone because what works in one lighting condition doesn’t in others.
That being said, we can certainly agree to disagree. Personal preference defeinitely does play a role.
Calling it an “immersion killer” seems a massive exaggeration to me. Custom taxi lights are still a very rare feature, but more importantly, do you actually have specific information indicating that the real taxi lights are sufficiently different from the default ones to make custom ones warranted? Because I honestly can’t find sources on that.
Honestly I don’t know how the real lights look like. However, if the real almost the same as the default, then it won’t make sense but if they are different, it would have been nice to implement these, especially now they are supported by the SDK unlike before, the developer had to place them manually. There are few paywares that implement these (Aerosoft for example) and I think one freeware that I saw implement the custom lighting.
I agree that if there was a significant difference it would be worth it. It’s worth mentioning that not all of Aerosoft’s airports have custom lights, mind you. It depends on the individual developer (I believe Stairport did with Berlin).
I’ve actually managed to find an image (or better, a split second in a video. Finding this kind of details is true hell and I don’t envy the developers haha) of the blue lights, and they look reasonably close to me. Not far enough to warrant a completely bespoke model.
The overall shape is the same, with a tall yellow stem topped by a blue bulb and no additional frills. The bulb is a bit fatter, but that’s a negligible difference. Most of this kind of equipment is fairly standardized in 90% of airports.
Now, I totally understand in Berlin’s case, since the lights there are radically different from the default ones, as you see below.
I’ve just got this in the marketplace sale. 10 quid and I think it’s an absolute bargain. Arguably the best one I’ve purchased so far, it’s really impressive and the level of detail is brilliant. With it being 40% off in the marketplace I don’t think there’s an excuse not to get it.