Review – Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Far Cry: Pandora

Overview

Developer Massive Entertainment
Publisher Ubisoft
Genre First-Person Action/Adventure
Platforms PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release Date November 30th, 2023

I’ve been a sucker for licensed games ever since I started gaming as a child. The same could be said in 2009 when I rented the first Avatar. After so many years since the first movie was released, this franchise has become what I call “the Nickelback of movies”. However, after watching both films back to back last year, I realize I truly enjoy this franchise. I had already known about Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora being in development, but my anticipation grew.

Frontiers of Pandora is developed by Massive Entertainment, known for The Division and the upcoming Star Wars: Outlaws. You play the role of a Na’vi formerly held captive by the RDA, therefore, discovering the world of Pandora for the first time. Massive’s main goal is to have us experience life on the planet of Pandora, and I believe they do achieve that goal. Though the game’s shortcomings come from when it tries to do things differently that aren’t super necessary; I’m perfectly happy with it being a Far Cry clone otherwise.

Content Guide

Spiritual Themes: The Na’vi have a fictional deity that they call Eywa, which is the life force of the planet they live on. They show respect, pray, and give thanks to the planet when they hunt or take from the planet. Various rituals and activities they participate in are seen in the movies and are occasionally performed by the player in the game. I don’t think anything that comes up conflicts with our own beliefs, as God is a provider in our faith.

Violence: Players use a variety of bows, guns, and other weapons to shoot at opposing humans, creatures, and mechanical enemies. The only blood to be found in the game is smeared near some dead soldiers.

Language: “Sh*t” and “a**hole” are the only two words that some characters use in their dialogue.

Taking on the RDA is better with friends.

Review

Frontiers of Pandora has almost a Fallout-like introduction chapter that I appreciated. After you escape an RDA Facility, you gaze at the beautiful yet dangerous planet for the first time. Ubisoft games are known these days for the cycle of taking over outposts and causing chaos—you’ll be doing the same here. I joked about the game being a clone, but it takes inspiration from Far Cry: Primal. The in-between time and exploring Pandora is ultimately the highlight of the experience. Crafting equipment and ammo while foraging for healing items are frequent activities as you travel between missions.

It is easy to see where Frontiers has taken notes, but none of the things it pulls from pre-existing video games are done well. The first is the act of navigating. You have a Na’vi sense mechanic that works similarly to the Witcher Sense from The Witcher 3. Where the problem lies is that in place of any waypoint, the senses point you in a general direction and sometimes almost too specific which had me getting lost occasionally. Taking over outposts is also even more difficult, as there isn’t a way to disable the alarm ahead of time as there would be in a Far Cry game.

From a young captive to skilled warrior.

Another issue I have is survivability. Healing is done via first aid and is automatic if you’re away from danger for 10 seconds. Even in later sections of the game, I felt like I’d get torn to bits by gunfire in seconds. Some of that was alleviated when I put points into my skill tree and equipped better gear. The moments in which I felt like a full-grown warrior instead of a block of youngling Swiss cheese were when I felt the true combat of Avatar. While those moments are few and far between, experiencing that growth complimented the immersion and the progression of your character’s personal story in the game.

For those who are looking for more than a sci-fi Pocahontas or Fern Gully, you won’t find anything deeper here; you’ll spend your time fighting the pollution that is caused by the RDA. The story is said to be canon and takes place between the first and second films; the events that take place are a result of Jake Sully going “full native”. None of the side characters are very memorable and mainly serve as a guide through the planet. However, I would be lying if I said there weren’t any memorable moments. The one that particularly stands out is when you first unlock the Ikron—a moment akin to when Jake Sully had to prove himself in the first movie. If you enjoyed the soundtracks of the films as I do, you’ll appreciate the moments when that original score kicks in too.

I look at Frontiers of Pandora in the same way I look at the recent Zelda and Horizon games. The main quest isn’t much fun, but I enjoy exploring these worlds and seeing what they have to offer. Most of my enjoyment came from when I was headed from A to B. What is this strange animal or fauna? Is it going to hurt me or not? No one can argue that Massive gave it their all in making sure that the game looked as beautiful as it possibly could on the next-gen hardware. While many don’t frequent a game’s photo mode as much as I do, I suggest utilizing it to take in the sights of Pandora on your journey.

Immersion and presentation are what Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora does best. What especially helps in achieving that goal is the arsenal of weapons you’ll acquire through the game. Alongside varying types of bows and arrows, you have some deadly handmade weapons. I had the most fun using the sling staff to plant traps or catapult bombs at invading soldiers, mechs, or airships. The other is the spear, which is very satisfying when you launch one at an enemy and get the kill shot. The game suffers from a serious lack of melee weapons, but the Na’vi weren’t meant to be a violent species in the first place. Using these weapons is much more satisfying to use than the RDA shotgun or rifle.

The problems that hindered my experience with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora make it difficult for me to recommend the game to anyone. For fans of the franchise, this is a game that you’ll be content with when grabbing it on a sale, which I could see happening in a few months. This is also a video game I might show off to a casual gamer or someone who doesn’t play any at all because of the quality of the presentation. Though I did enjoy my time on Pandora, I’m disappointed that it falls short in areas that most video games have already figured out. I’m unsure whether we will get a sequel in the future, but I’d like to know what comes next with the DLC and if it will feature anything related to The Way of Water.

The Bottom Line

 

Frontiers of Pandora's shortcomings come from its effort to be unique, but it makes a valiant effort in immersing players into its world.

 

6.5

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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