With its titanic box office success and dedicated fanbase that waited thirteen years for a sequel, it’s clear that there’s a lot of love for James Cameron’s Avatar series. And with that love, there comes high expectations, so there was some pressure on Ubisoft to deliver with their recent video game adaptation, Avatar: Frontiers of the Pandora. Thankfully, they nailed it, with the game not only managing to capture the vibe of the movies perfectly, but also offering a rewarding open world gameplay experience that has some really special moments.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Taking place somewhere between the first and second movie, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora puts players in the role of a Na’vi who had spent their life in captivity aften being captured by the RDA as part of a program to rehabilitate them to become more ‘human’. The events of the first film led to this program getting shut down, and whilst the RDA intended to kill you, you’re instead put into cryogenic sleep for sixteen years. And when you awaken? You find the facility being raided by Na’vi and RDA defectors, where you’re able to escape and venture into the picturesque world of Pandora. Joining your rescuers, you’re finally given the chance to take the fight to the RDA.
At its core, the best way to describe Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is as… well… a Ubisoft game. An open-world setting? Check. Plenty of side activities to dive into (that can sometimes be guilty of being busywork)? Check. Collectibles to find scattered across the world? Check. A skill tree that’ll see your abilities continually improve as you progress? Check. All of the hallmarks you’d expect of a Ubisoft developed title are found here, so if you’re a fan of the open world gameplay loop that they have established, you’ll enjoy what you find here.
Despite that sense of familiarity, there’s something incredibly refreshing about the game, which I put down to the luscious and unique setting. Pandora looks absolutely fantastic, with the vibrant colours and remarkable sights of the setting really bringing the world to life. The movies put some high expectations in place as to what you might expect when getting to actually explore Pandora, but it’s recreated authentically here, with it standing out as one of the most visually impressive and imaginatively designed open worlds that I’ve explored across gaming. It makes exploration in the game an absolute delight, which is important given that there’s so much to do across it.
“The movies put some high expectations in place as to what you might expect when getting to actually explore Pandora, but it’s recreated authentically here, with it standing out as one of the most visually impressive and imaginatively designed open worlds that I’ve explored across gaming.”
I should point out that Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is actually more streamlined than similar open world Ubisoft titles, with it easily beaten in under twenty hours (and that’s after clearing the vast majority of the side missions too). Those who have played the likes of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, or Far Cry 6 might have been expecting something that’ll take them over fifty-hours to beat, but it’s a lot more reasonable and adopts more of an ‘all killer, no filler’ approach. It works to the game’s benefit, with missions feeling less like they’re there to pad things out but instead complementing your progress throughout the adventure. And don’t get me wrong, there are a few side missions you complete that don’t pack as much punch as others, but there’s a lot more good than bad to be found across this more streamlined open world. It was something I really appreciated when playing, whilst it’ll also make the experience for accessible for those who are unfamiliar with gaming but love Avatar.
It’s also worth noting that the game doesn’t have a conventional levelling system. Rather than simply earning experience points and levelling up, your level is dictated by the gear you have equipped (though you’ll still earn points by completing missions to build up the skill tree). Some of this gear will be given to you as a reward or simply found in the environment, but there’s also an emphasis placed on crafting, meaning you’ll have to scour the world for valuable resources if you hope to progress. These resources come with different values that’ll determine their proficiency, whether that’s when putting together some cool new piece of gear or a meal to give your Na’vi a quick boost.
Crafting is simple but rewarding, with the game telling you what you need and typically where to find it. However, actually acquiring the resources can take some effort, with some of the flora and fauna required to craft new gear corrupted by enemy facilities in the area. This means you’ll have to clear out these facilities before you’re able to get the resources you need, which adds a worthwhile incentive to what can often be an unrewarding task in other open world titles. It makes for an addictive loop where I actively found myself clearing the area of any side activities I could find before moving on in the main quest, which isn’t typically an approach I take. It always felt worthwhile though, and, perhaps more importantly, enjoyable.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It helps that combat in the game is satisfying, with a blend of all-out gunplay and more stealthy action on offer. Whilst the bow and arrow will ALWAYS be my favourite weapon to use (especially when sneaking through an outpost), your guns and explosives can be even more effective when facing off against souped-up enemies. And smashing the human enemies with your big stature? It’ll always bring a smile to my face. Add to that some action-packed set pieces that make up some missions, and you’ll find there’s a lot of fun to be had taking out enemies that only gets better as you improve your gear. Admittedly, it can be guilty of feeling a bit ordinary by first-person shooter standards, but it does what it needs to.
The biggest takeaway I got from Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was that it’s just so much fun to be a part of its world. I’ll admit, my expectations were slightly low going in, but I found myself completely immersed in everything it had to offer. Besides it looking gorgeous and offering plenty of opportunities to forage and hunt, there’s also plenty variety to be found across the game’s side quests that flesh out the narrative and world in meaningful ways. I’ve already mentioned how clearing some outposts feels worthwhile, but the other side activities bring with them some memorable instances too (even IF the reward for completing them isn’t always quite so significant). And then moments such as soaring through the skies on an Ikran for the first time? It’s simply mesmerising.
That being said, there were a few little flaws that stood out to me when playing. Stealth could be a little cumbersome early on, especially since the Na’vi don’t always feel equipped for it. It’s all well and good to take out enemies silently with a bow, but when enemies are seemingly super alert to your actions and there aren’t many places to hide your presence, it often felt easier to just go straight into a gunfight and hope for the best. There’s weren’t masses of enemy variety either, which could make some areas feel a little repetitive to clear out. Some might tire of the crafting in the later hours of the game too, and whilst it never stood out as a problem to me, I could imagine that looking for specific ingredients might get tiresome for some players when they just want to progress through the game.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a mesmerizing experience that manages to capture the beauty and essence of the movies perfectly. The gameplay is a lot of fun too, and whilst it does fall under the typical Ubisoft open world design formula, some refreshing explorative elements and action-packed set pieces ensure it never gets tiring or repetitive.
It can be guilty of being a bit more ordinary on the combat front and there were some little flaws here and there, but Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora really does live up to the high standards set by the movies. It’ll be a treat for fans who have been excited to play a part in the fascinating world of Avatar, but I think even those who are fresh to franchise will find their experience to be pretty special.
Platform(s): Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PC