Despite my gripes and quibbles, photographing the Mass Effect: Andromeda universe is a damn fine way to spend an evening.
Mass Effect: Andromeda hasn't officially shipped with a photo mode, which is all sorts of sad given how lovely the environments can be at times. But if you're playing on PC, there is one saving grace: Andromeda shipped with day one support for NVIDIA's Ansel, NVIDIA's bespoke tool for in-game photography.
Some of the settings you get for Andromeda through Ansel, which is activated by pressing ALT+F2
It's not explained - honestly, why isn't their a tooltip for controls somewhere NVIDIA - but WASD controls regular movement, Z and X moves the camera up and down, while left click and dragging lets you freely rotate the camera.
Ansel isn't as exhaustive as a fully-fleshed photo mode, like something you might find in The Last of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn. There's no time of day controls, you don't have the ability to hide Ryder or their companions, and there's no ability to control bokeh, depth of field or exposure.
But the basics are pretty solid: brightness, contrast, vibrance, vignetting, a basic colour enhancer and a FOV slider that goes from 10o to 140o. And like with other games, Ansel's crown jewel is the ability to take super resolution shots depending on your graphics card: the GTX 1080 I'm rocking at work, for instance, will let me take 63,360 x 35,640 screenshots. Or 30.8GB sized JPEGs.
Here's a bunch of 4K, 8K and 12K shots I took journeying through Havarl, downsampled to sizes that won't torture those on mobiles:
Ansel isn't always a perfect recreation of the in-game visuals, either. A number of times on my home rig (i7-4970K, GTX 1070) I noticed that once Ansel was enabled, images seemed a touch washed out. Others spotted this online as well:
Not sure why, but when I go into Ansel on Mass Effect Andromeda, it seems to be loosing some shading and atmosphere. Any idea why? pic.twitter.com/KMqDhasZZR
— Cinematic Captures (@BFCaptures) March 25, 2017
But you can correct some of that with the basic tools, and in some instances there was no difference between the in-game image and that captured with the Ansel overlay (at least with the screeners I captured with DXTory).
Ansel also won't let you capture shots during dialogue or cut-scenes, so you won't find any 8K snaps of Addison's frozen face lying around. But it has proved a great way to show off the environments, which are probably Andromeda's best feature. You can also use Ansel to clip through walls and capture things you can't ordinarily see, like the outside of the Tempest when you're surveying planets or asteroids:
Or the Tempest itself:
— Iliyan (@newlian_ig) March 22, 2017
But for the most part, people are using Ansel to show off the best of Andromeda, rather than the jank. Here's some of the other great shots people are taking:
— JIGGSYonHULABEAR (@jiggsy) March 25, 2017
So I've just discovered that Ansel + Mass Effect Andromeda = screenshot heaven. This game is so pretty. pic.twitter.com/O6Rp1s7lV6
— David C. Simon (@theleast) March 25, 2017
Probably my favourite so far though:
If you've got the latest drivers for an NVIDIA card, fire up Andromeda and hit ALT+F2 outside of a cut-scene to get started.