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Does it make sense to use particles instead of meshes to program in a SimCity-esque sort of game?

What I am trying to ask is: are particles more efficient(cheaper) than meshes(anything that needs triangles) for programming in some graphical representation of SimCity-esque behaviors into a 3D environment? I am interested in developing a program kind of similar to Ancient Cities, but am concerned that 3d characters may become too expensive on the hardware, so am wondering if it is possible to use particles instead, since they don’t have any triangles or need animations. Does that make sense?