Thursday, 30 Jun 2022

Sable’s New Photo Mode Makes The Landscape Come Alive Again

The sand rolls away before you as you crest a particularly large dune. Suddenly, you’re faced with a gargantuan skeleton of some long-extinct creature. It probably had claws twice as big as a human and a foul temper, but now it’s nothing more than a crumbling rib cage that protects a small town of nomads who have taken up residence where its lungs used to be.

For some reason, you look past this mammoth structure and stare at the horizon. Is that… Smoke? The skeleton town will have to wait, there’s something new that’s piqued my interest.

In many ways, Sable is the only game that has nailed the Breath of the Wild-style open world since the Zelda game’s release. It understands that what makes these worlds so special is the personality and interest of every unique location or point of interest. Every broken down spacecraft or ancient structure is a joy to explore and, crucially, no two places feel the same.

I once spent an entire day sitting at the base of two enormous dueling statues because I just felt that the setting sun glinting between their clashing swords would open the locked vault in front of me. It did, and I got some great pants as a result. They don’t offer me a buff or make my character any better, but they look cool. And they will always remind me of the time I spent sitting there, soaking in the atmosphere of this dilapidated monument to forgotten warriors. They too, I had glimpsed on the horizon on my travels.

Sable’s lack of a pesky checklist or urgent missions helps your exploration of Midden feel so good. So too do the Navigators in their hot air balloons who will offer vague directions to something that sounds eerie and interesting in equal measure. They won’t mark a point on your map – nobody will – they’ll tell you to go east from the giant sentinels who shepherd the lightning farmers. Where is that? Who knows, but you bet the moment I saw lightning strike the horizon, I boarded my hoverbike and made a beeline for it.

The only thing that beleaguered my playthrough of Sable (aside from some forgivable bugs that didn’t hamper my experience) was trying to get a good shot of my adventures. All seasoned travelers will know that taking good pics is important – to capture the special moments, to show your friends, and to induce jealousy from your enemies. Millennials will probably throw the best on Instagram, whereas a generation of baby boomer dads are still making feature-length slideshows made up exclusively of slow panning shots. I wanted to do the same in Sable, but maneuvering the camera as well as Simoon was practically an impossibility. Sable’s head was always in the wrong place for off-bike screenshots, too, and I often felt that I hadn’t quite captured the moment as I experienced it.

I was excited to hear that an update last week added a photo mode to Sable, and a good one at that. I jumped back in to snap some new shots and see if I could capture the vibe better than my previous attempts, but experienced something else entirely.

I headed to a couple of memorable spots for my snaps: aforementioned skeleton surrounding the town of Marrow Bone Station, the celestial machinations of The Watch, and the Dune-inspired Wyrm were top of my list. The mode itself is great, and the resulting snapshots give a sense of gravitas and scale to the world of Midden that I just couldn't capture with a regular screenshot. There's enough options to get just the right shot, and some nice extras, too. I like being able to change the time of day, and the toggle for Sable and Simoon is a nice touch if you want pure, unrelenting lansdscapes. But as I traveled to each of my intended photo spots – by bike, fast traveling in Sable defeats the object – I encountered the same excitement as my first playthrough.

I spotted more sights on the horizon. Some unlocked previously buried memories, dredged from the sands of my mind, and others were new entirely. I completed Sable, snagging the Platinum Trophy, and still there were whole areas I’d missed and great locations I’d passed by. With every area of Sable so unique, exploring Midden just to take some better snaps felt like I was playing DLC, the camera lens giving me another reason to explore further into the world that Shedworks perfected when designing the game. No new areas or POIs were added in the update, but there’s always something else to find. That’s the beauty of Sable.

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