Path Finder is the latest free update for No Man’s Sky, adding a substantial amount of new content including planetary vehicles, ship classes, and Steam Workshop support on PC. But it’s the addition of a photo mode, designed in collaboration with videogame photographer Dead End Thrills, that’s really captured my imagination this week.

Combine this with the Foundation update’s Creative mode, which gives you infinite fuel and resources, and No Man’s Sky becomes an incredible space photography simulator. Not only do you have fine control over the camera, but you can change the environment itself, altering the time of day, cloud layers, fog density, and even the position of the sun.

A quick glance at Steam shows that I’ve played No Man’s Sky for eight hours this past week, and almost every minute of that was spent taking photos. It’s a powerful tool, and has given me a newfound appreciation for the game’s vivid universe. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe but, thanks to photo mode, these moments won’t be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

Space

The striking use of colour in No Man’s Sky is a dramatic departure from the subdued palettes of most contemporary science fiction, especially in space. There are no monochrome starfields here, but vivid oceans of dazzling colour scattered with looming planets and immense battleships.

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Flight

Photo mode gives you a fantastic sense of scale if you activate it while in spaceflight. Pull the camera back and your ship becomes a tiny speck against the vast cosmic scenery surrounding it. It also lets you coo over that new ship you’ve just spent all your hard-earned units on.

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Planets

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but the planet generation algorithm seems to have been throwing up much more varied, interesting landscapes since the update. Being able to position the sun in photo mode, which is as easy as pointing at the sky and clicking, is a photographer’s dream.

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Exploration

There are three flavours of exocraft in the Path Finder update. There’s the Nomad, a nimble hovercraft; the Roamer, an off-road buggy with enjoyably bouncy suspension; and the Colossus, a lumbering hauler with an enormous cargo hold. They make exploring planets both faster and a lot more fun.

Flora

Before experimenting with photo mode, I never paid much attention to the plant life in No Man’s Sky. But taking a closer look at the flora on each planet I landed on was very soon turning up some bizarre, beautiful plants. You miss a lot of these details when you’re playing the game normally.flora5

Fauna

And, of course, there’s a whole variety of procedurally generated wildlife to point your camera at as well. Beforehand you’d struggle to frame them well because they were constantly moving, but photo mode lets you freeze time to carefully compose the perfect shot.

The Article First Appeared In kotaku.co.uk