Few things generate appetite amongst fans quite like Star Wars, and after the first two games released under the EA publishing umbrella were multiplayer-focused Battlefront titles, a lot of those fans knew exactly what they wanted next. A modern story-driven, single player Star Wars game.
Cue Respawn Entertainment with 2019's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a third-person action-adventure game that delivered just that with a whole new story set in the years after the Jedi were all but wiped out by the infamous Order 66. Players are given the chance to fully learn the ways of the force, as former Padawan Cal Kestis, on a quest to become a Jedi and re-establish them in the battle against the Empire.
- FALLEN ORDER // GOOD VS EVIL -
It is in many way, exactly what people were asking for and, despite some cumbersome level design that never fails to remind you that this is a video game, Fallen Order was a big hit with a story that does a great job of embellishing the usual good vs evil tropes with some well placed perspective and accountability.
Better still was the addition of a photo mode a few weeks after launch, allowing players to engage even more with the multiple worlds, iconic enemies and interesting characters with a little virtual photography. It has to be said too, that is was a pretty good photo mode that boasted a large free-camera range, mostly intuitive controls, and a placeable spot light back in 2019.
"Engage even more with the multiple worlds, iconic enemies and interesting characters..."
With the imminent release of a sequel then in the shape of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there is much anticipation around how Cal's adventure will continue, but also whether a previously good photo mode will be treated to some upgrades to become a great photo mode that is even better equipped to capture it.
Assuming of course that Respawn do follow up on the popularity of their previous camera tools, here are 7 things from the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order photo mode that it would be good to see changed for the sequel, as well as 4 things that absolutely must remain.
7 Things to change from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's photo mode:
1. Camera Crane Control
This may just be a pet hate of mine, but it always seems bizarre to see any form of major camera movement assigned to a digital I/O input when there are perfectly good analogue options that give much more finesse. Fallen Order puts vertical camera craning on the L1 / R1 shoulder buttons, presumably because the L2 / R2 triggers are used for fine adjustment of the UI settings, but that precision is much more valuable when positioning the camera and would avoid twitchy adjustment, especially at longer zooms.
2. Lack of Motion Blur
For a game that features lots of dynamic combat with colourful glowing laser swords, there is a distinct lack of any sort of motion blur options in the photo mode. Of course, this is not unusual and very few in-game photo modes take on this challenge even today, but it would be great to see Star Wars Jedi: Survivor try to push some boundaries here, whether it is with basic control of the game's motion blur effects or a more advanced simulation of shutter speed.
- FALLEN ORDER // ACTION -
3. Character Posing
Using game animation to get the right stance or piece of action is very much part of the fun when it comes to virtual photography, but there are many occasions where the characters aren't quite in the perfect positions, or a blank facial expression completely ruins the mood. So why not fully embrace the potential of freezing time – it is one of virtual photography's greatest luxuries after all – with adjustable character positions, poses and expressions. While we're on the subject, maybe even add on-the-fly access to Cal's & BD-1's customisations at the same time?
4. Focus Distance Indicator
Getting accurate focus is a critical part of photography, and Fallen Order actually includes a thoughtful feature intended to help visualise exactly where the plane of focus is. The problem is that this visualisation, in the style of a blue hologrammatic wall, is far too intrusive and covers up the background, actually making it harder to judge the depth of field.
- FOCUS INDICATOR // FALLEN ORDER -
The idea is sound though, and a more refined example can be seen with Codemasters' implementation in DiRT 5 which uses a subtle zebra pattern to identify defocused areas and a laser line to show where the focus plane. Oh, and it isn't dazzlingly bright when viewed in a dark scene at night either.
- FOCUS INDICATOR // DIRT 5 -
5. Cinematic Aspect Ratios
Star Wars is 100% rooted in cinema, and few things say cinema like a nice wide aspect ratio. All of the Star Wars movies are shot in an anamorphic format and presented with theatrical aspect ratios like 2.35:1 or 2.4:1, but unfortunately the Fallen Order game is stuck with just the standard tv ratio of 16:9 (1.78:1) – at least on console anyway.
The photo mode is no different with all shots being taken in the same 16:9 screen format. I just leaves me wanting a wider field of view with a 2:35:1 aspect ratio that would instantly transform shots with a more cinematic feel.
"More than one light would naturally be a transformational upgrade..."
6. More Image Adjustments
The Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order photo mode does include some useful options to add or remove the likes of film grain, vignette, and chromatic aberration, but when it comes to adjusting the image itself, there is nothing beyond a simple exposure slider and some preset colour filters.
As a result, I always find myself trying to adapt the exposure with some vignette and one of the better filters just to add a little contrast to the image. Some dedicated sliders for things like contrast, saturation, and colour temperature would do a much better job and afford much more input to the final appearance of the shot.
- FALLEN ORDER // GIVE ME MORE -
7. Advance Lighting Options
The fact that this game even has a custom spotlight at all is impressive given that it is a photo mode from 2019, though the basic implementation does leave some room for improvement. More than one light would naturally be a transformational upgrade, while greater control over the colour, beam angle, and intensity at distance would make the setup way more versatile.
"To use the photo mode in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, it must first be activated in the settings menu..."
4 Things to keep from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's photo mode::
1. Shortcut Access
To use the photo mode in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, it must first be activated in the settings menu, but once it is, you get a handy shortcut for quick access via the L3 & R3 buttons. The value in being able to seamlessly jump to the camera mid-action without faffing about in menus or via some awkward button sequence should never be underestimated – and it certainly shouldn't ever be removed when a photo mode gets an update or a sequel. I'm looking at you God of War Ragnarök!
2. Camera Range So many good photo modes are held back by extremely limited camera range or an awful orbit swing that is tethered to the character, and thankfully Fallen Order has none of that. The free-camera can be positioned easily within a large bounding area that makes it easy to pull back for a wide shot, find the ideal angle, or get in on the action that is happening around the corner. That analogue crane input would be nice though...
- FALLEN ORDER // LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU -
3. Operating the UI While Hidden
Something that I always love to see, and is still a surprisingly rare feature, is the ability to adjust photo mode settings while the UI itself is hidden. So many times the two are mutually exclusive meaning that you never get a truly unobstructed view of the resulting image while making changes.
Thankfully Respawn seemed to understand this and gave full access to alter every setting in the photo mode with the image in clear view, not that the minimal UI takes up that much space anyway. Let's hope that the same is true in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
4. Custom Spotlight
Just a reminder that even if the lighting options don't see any major upgrade, even that single spotlight is a huge plus. Obviously more lights expand the options greatly, though a single lamp can provide many uses as a hero light to better define portraits, a handy fill light in dark areas, or even to accentuate the effects of an on-screen light source. One way or another, some form of custom lighting absolutely must stay.
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