Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review – Embody the Na’vi Like Never Before

Let me start by saying that my investment in all things Avatar has been relatively shallow, amounting to little more than joining the first movie’s cultural phenomenon in 2009. That once passing interest wasn’t enough to pull me back to the theaters thirteen years later for The Way of Water. Still, I found my curiosity piqued by Ubisoft’s long in-development game based on James Cameron’s Avatar. Here we are, six years after Ubisoft Massive first let the world know that they would be adapting the IP into a video game with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

While I may not be a devout follower of the larger Avatar fandom, I still found myself drawn to this particular game. I couldn’t tell you if it was because of genuine desire to explore Pandora digitally or to see if Ubisoft had simply reskinned their Far Cry formula (with more blue humanoids). Although I can’t claim Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora doesn’t contain any traces of Ubisoft’s formulaic open-world DNA, the overall experience was a pleasant surprise — one that shows the developer respects the IP.

Ubisoft Massive has crafted a tale that largely separates itself form the exploits of movie protagonist Jake Sully — the events of the films are referenced at the beginning of the game — by taking the action to a completely different continent on Pandora. The Western Frontiers houses the action, wherein a player-created Na’vi has grown up in captivity under the watchful eye of humankind’s Resource Development Administration (referred to as the RDA). A lifetime under the rule of these humans, most prominently John Mercer, comes to an end as events unfold leading to your Na’vi’s escape from the RDA facility and out into the natural environments of Pandora.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

Na’vigate a Beautiful World

Stepping out into Pandora for the first time is an incredible experience. It is immediately clear that Ubisoft Massive put much of their effort into building a gorgeous alien world, brimming with vibrant fauna and eye-catching structures. The forests are stunning in their immense density, with each step met with otherworldly plant life and skittering wildlife. Every inch of the on-screen visuals draws the eye to the majestically foreign surroundings in a way that can only be described as awe-inspiring. Truly, the team behind Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has expertly realized this alien moon as a virtual playground.

The Na’vi’s fight against the RDA isn’t as remarkable as the geography, but it has its strong moments. Antagonists John Mercer and his “angel of death” Angela Harding fall victim to the underdeveloped villainy we have become accustomed to in the Far Cry games. Fortunately, their lacking presence doesn’t invalidate the entire experience.

Players will roam the Western Frontiers, taking on missions to reunite clans and loosen the grip of the RDA on the land. The latter of those two is executed exceptionally well by showing the polluted effects of the human’s occupation of the area. Those aforementioned forests teeming with vivid colors give way to muted brown extraction sites, which have poisoned and killed the habitat. Suddenly, your Na’vi’s blue hands and arms viewed in first person contrast strongly against a world void of its once lively tones.

Moments like that make Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora feel realized in a way that most movie tie-in games have failed. In fact, the last standout example I can recall of a video game tie-in managing to surprise visually and mechanically is 2005’s Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Frontiers of Pandora understands its source material and targeted audience. That sinking feeling of despair evoked by seeing the gorgeous lands decimated by human interference is one of multiple weighty moments that crop up throughout the campaign, which itself stands as a fine counterpart to the storytelling found in the films.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

Not a Far Cry From the Ubisoft Formula

The game’s weaker points are easily identified as those most familiar to Ubisoft’s formulaic approach to open world game design. The world itself may be stunning, but that which you are driven to do in that space can become repetitive and is sometimes undercooked, as is evident by a lackluster investigation system.

Those RDA bases still mostly align with the standard base-clearing mechanics we have seen numerous times before. Instead of the “kill ’em all” objective, the player Na’vi can choose stealth or all-out assault in their mission to take out the machinery infecting their native land. But that’s only a minor tweak on the long-standing structure. Often players will find themselves wielding all manner of weaponry, ranging from the Na’vi’s heavy bow to the RDA’s shotgun, as they combat soldiers, mechs and VTOLs.

Crafting also exists in-game, similar to that of Far Cry Primal, requiring gathering of various materials. In the beginning, its a welcome inclusion to further the player’s engagement with the impressive environment, but it’s not long before it becomes another menial task. Cooking is also present, clearly trying to evoke allusions to the culinary experimentation found in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. And then there’s the Na’vi vision, which helps highlight harvestable resources and provides information on wildlife. It isn’t a poor implement, but the game’s reliance on it at several points waters down the ability and turns it into a chore.

Still, even with the lesser components in mind, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora offers up the best way to embody a Na’vi to date, even if listening to your Na’vi’s dialogue can be a mixed bag. Players will get to enjoy freely sprinting as a 10-foot alien — there’s even the option to traverse the skies via an exhilarating flying mount — effortlessly navigating the vivacious territory of the Western Frontiers and being able to take it all in thanks to a minimalistic UI. If you are a fan of Avatar, this is the game you have been waiting for.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review Verdict

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora: Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a surprising tie-in, masterfully building a world that's as exciting to view as it is to briskly navigate. Ubisoft Massive has painstakingly brought the Western Frontiers of Pandora to life, ensuring both casual and die-hard movie fans will appreciate the views. And while the game is able to match the awe of the movies at times, its success is partially stripped back by the all-too-familiar Ubisoft formula peeking out from underneath its beautiful exterior. Joshua

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