After the comprehensive demolition of the entire pantheon of Greek Gods, it was kind of inevitable that God of War would need to find a new direction if it was to return. The shift to Norse mythology was certainly fascinating, though it was really the way that the game grew that succeeded in giving Kratos a whole new lease of life.
While I still love the original titles, the greater emotional maturity of the reboot endears the characters to you much more than all of the fun but shouty rage. When a photo mode was added soon after launch, I already had a strong bond with many of the cast and this, along with the exquisite visual fidelity, is no doubt the reason that God of War (2018) quickly became a firm favourite with virtual photographers on PlayStation and later on PC.
- GOD OF WAR // SANTA MONICA STUDIO -
The photo mode did lots of things right and was particularly well-suited to taking advantage of those glorious details, but there were definitely some areas in which it was lacking too. Mostly, these became apparent when trying to capture combat or to show the journey of the characters, though with Ragnarök imminent and even more of The Nine Realms to explore, the photo mode will need to do more to get the most out of them.
So, here are 7 things from the God of War photo mode that should be changed for God of War Ragnarök, and 5 things that really should stay.
"The camera prevents you from taking a step back..."
7 Things from God of War's photo mode that need to change:
1. Camera range
By far the biggest limitation in God of War's photo mode is the uncharacteristically pitiful range of the camera movement. Confined to a bounding sphere of <4 m radius, the camera prevents you from taking a step back to portray the scale of the characters in their surroundings or to capture a wider view of the epic action that the games are known for.
No surprise that the first mod on PC is almost always to remove limits like this, and it is time that native photo modes did the same, especially when already well within an area that is fully rendered on-screen.
2. Pan & Tilt in portrait
When rolling the camera through 90°. for a full resolution portrait, the pan axis (←RS→) is flipped to match while tilt (↓RS↑) is not. As a result, both inputs end up doing the same thing and tilt cannot be added to a portrait. Flipping both or neither of them would solve the problem, just not one without the other.
"This absolutely should not occur..."
3. Field of view AND focal length?
This is more a matter of clarifying the UI than changing any functionality, but it's something that I have seen cause confusion before because these two settings are essentially duplicates. Field of view is the viewing angle that results from changing the focal length, so adjustments in one are naturally mirrored by the other.
I could make a case for it letting people use the value that they can most relate to, lens length or the resulting angle, but most are just left wondering why two opposing settings do exactly the same thing.
4. Screen darkening at wide apertures
One of the strangest quirks with the God of War photo mode was that the entire left part of the frame darkens slightly when using apertures that are wider than f/4. This absolutely should not occur and, given that wide apertures are desirable to create a shallow depth of field, I really hope that this particular mystery is solved by the time Ragnarök rolls around.
5. More light
The photo mode's single exposure compensation setting struggled to cope with many of the game's darker areas, not being able to properly expose low-light scenes. Increasing the effect of this basic setting would be a good start, but adding in fully customised lighting rigs is where things can really be transformed. With Marvel's Spider-Man, The Last of Us Part I, and even Kena: Bridge of Spirits boasting this sort of feature now, it has got to be the gold standard going forward.
6. Motion blur
The ability to generate motion blur is one of the most important characteristics when it comes to conveying movement in a still image, and yet it remains one of the least common features found in photo modes, God of War included.
- GOD OF WAR // COMBAT -
Whether going all in with simulated camera shutter speed, or just blending the in-game motion blur effect into the photo mode, adding movement can take action shots from being static and difficult to interpret to something much more dynamic.
7. Adjust settings with UI hidden
This may sound minor but being able to actually alter settings while the UI is hidden can be extremely useful as it lets you see the actual result without anything blocking the view. Like many games, God of War will simply make the UI reappear when changing any setting, but it doesn't have to be that way.
5 Things from God of War's photo mode that should remain:
1. Camera Inputs
Despite the limited movement range, the actual input controls for placing the camera are pretty much spot on. Lateral truck (←LS→) and dolly (↓LS↑) with vertical crane on the L2 / R2 triggers make it easy to get the camera into position, while 360° pan & tilt mean that there is no limit on the direction that the camera can be aimed in.
Simple and effective, it makes you wonder why anyone would do anything else!
2. Realistic camera settings Simplified sliders and 0 - 100 scales may make certain things more approachable for beginners, but there is a lot to be gained from using photographic terms and settings that match those found on real world cameras.
- SETTINGS // IN STONE -
It inherently leads things towards more authentic images that align virtual captures with the optical characteristics of traditional photography, and experience in one becomes directly transferrable to the other. Before you know it, you will be starting to select a setup that you know will produce the desired results and not just approximating with trial and error.
3. Focus and depth of field
Speaking of authentic behaviour, and disregarding point 4 above for the moment, the focus and depth of field options are quite nicely implemented in God of War. With precise focus with optional lock-on and fully simulated aperture values, a shallow depth of field can be used to isolate a subject with both foreground and background defocus. There is no need to mess around with separate settings for near and far regions, this is near true to life aperture behaviour. It would be nice to see some beautiful bokeh rendered on distant light sources though.
- ROTA // VALKYRIE -
4. Subject matter
From spectacularly detailed character models and mythical beasts to the distinct biomes of each of the Nine Realms, God of War has some of the most compelling content that you can aim a photo mode camera at. It goes without saying that the new game will up the visual stakes, and I can't wait to literally see more of everything. More enemies, more armour sets, more weapons, and of course those last remaining realms!
5. Shortcut button
Last but certainly not least, the shortcut button for fast access to the photo mode is a must. The 2018 game did have this as an optional assignment on the left side of the controller touch pad that made for a quick and easy to reach way to freeze the action and open the camera. Hopefully this is something that returns because it is a crucial feature that is all too often overlooked.
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