Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – Review in Progress

The world of Pandora is vast, and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora offers up a lot to explore. I’m not convinced I’ve explored everything the game has to show me yet, so in the interest of not judging the game until I understand the whole picture, here are some thoughts-in-progress, based on around ten hours spent in the shoes of the Na’vi. 

The world of Pandora is, as expected, beautiful

True to its legacy, the game looks stunning. There are some parts of the world that are covered in pollution, and they are notably upsetting to walk through, partly as representations of the blight humans are on the world, but also partly because once you’ve seen Pandora in all its glory, it’s depressing to see a bland, brown version of it. It’s maybe the most effective representation of the horrors of deforestation and destruction that I’ve seen in a long time. But when it’s good – oh man. The detail in the plants, animals, even the Na’vi themselves, is truly as beautiful as everyone has come to expect from this franchise. 

Everything is better with an Ikran

Ikrans, the winged beasts that are both the Na’vi’s trusted companions and an efficient way of getting around the world, are – so far, at least – the best part of this game. Everything that comes with them makes the game better. For one – I’m of the belief that there’s no such thing as a bad animal companion, particularly one that you can make choices about that allow you to make it your own. When you tame and bond with your Ikran in-game, you’re able to choose a name for it from a pre-determined list, along with the pattern on its skin. It’s a beautiful moment, preceded by a beautiful sequence, and as soon as the Ikran was introduced, my enjoyment of the game went up about a million percent. 

Riding an Ikran also allows you to experience the world of Pandora in third person – the way I wish I could experience the whole game. While it does help to really immerse you in the life of the Na’vi, I can’t help but wish I could see more of the way they move through the world, instead of through the first person view the game offers. It would have at least been nice to have a choice, and I think would have eliminated some of the issues I have with Frontiers of Pandora – most of which are around movement and navigation. Scaling a cliff-face, for example, can get quite disorientating – your character will latch onto more ledges than you expect, but sometimes they don’t quite grab the way you want them to, and you end up plummeting downwards with a wall directly in front of your eyes.

This game REALLY wants you to explore

Though the game offers a guided mode that will give you a quest marker that’s supposed to tell you where to go next, it can still be a little confusing to find exactly where you’re supposed to go – particularly if you want to move quickly. The only way to see your objective is to activate your Na’vi senses that help you learn more about the world around you. Using your Na’vi senses, you can inspect flora and fauna, identify threats, and see an outline around characters you can interact with in the world, but you simply can’t go fast. You can set yourself a waypoint at the location of your quest marker, which will put a marker on the compass at the top of the screen – but it’s all a little fiddly. 

The Avatar ~vibe is very present

If you’re hoping that this game is going to have the same feel as the Avatar films, you’re going to be pretty pleased with Frontiers of Pandora. It hits on many of the same themes, and it’s clear that the team have worked closely with the team behind the film franchise – it has the heart of Avatar front and centre. The extensive lore of Pandora is explored here in what feels like even greater depth than the films have managed so far, and there’s a real reverance for the culture of the Na’vi. If you didn’t feel drawn in by the world shown in James Cameron’s offerings so far, I’m not sure the game is going to change your mind. But if you did, and more Avatar is what you’re looking for? You won’t be disappointed. 

Survival is not easy

Your character levels up by putting points into five different groups of skills, and the way you choose to invest those points could be the thing that keeps you alive. Even on the easiest setting, fights with the RDA soldiers (the game’s most prominent protagonists) can quickly become overwhelming – and you’ll need that extra boost of health, or increased damage, to get you through. You can’t just run into the middle of a battle and hope for the best – it rarely works out well for you. Instead, thought must be putting into leaning into the skills of the Na’vi, relying on stealth, fast movement, and attacking from a distance. 

In order to stay alive, you also need to eat food to keep your energy levels up – that’s what lets you regenerate health, and move quickly through the environment. This is, so far, perhaps my greatest frustration with the game. You’ll need to eat a lot, and going back to camps to cook meals (the most efficient way to keep your energy up and give yourself some neat boosts) can be a bit of a hassle. 

But this is just the beginning...

There’s a lot here I haven’t touched on, that I’ll talk about in a full review. The game’s crafting system, the characters that star in what can only be described as a very Avatar-esque narrative, and just how big the world actually is are all things I don’t want to speak on yet. But stay tuned. My early assessment is that if you like Avatar, this game will be for you. If you like Ubisoft’s classic side-quest-filled words, you’re also likely to be happy. But if you didn’t find much to love in the films? I’m not sure this will hook you. That said, I’m not finished yet – I’m ready for Frontiers of Pandora to prove me wrong. 


Player 2 is reviewing Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora on PC using a code kindly provided by the publisher. 


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