Pandora. We’ve visited it in movies, but do we really know it? Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora transports us to the awe-inspiring planet in ways that exceed expectations. While the tale of humans tainting the landscape is as old as time, Avatar creates a connection that’s both breathtaking and believable.
I remember the day I witnessed Avatar for the first time in theaters, and I know I’m not alone when I say it was a mind-blowing experience that left me yearning for a vibrant, luscious place I’d never get to visit. Avatar Frontiers of Pandora offers a first-hand experience of Pandora, and developer Massive Entertainment delivers on that promise.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review — The Flora, Fauna, and Familiar
When starting up the game, I wasn’t sure if I’d take the place of a Dreamwalker or have an authentic Na’vi experience — or really care about what was happening for that matter. I mean, I’ve seen Avatar, I’ve seen Way of the Water. What else is there to know about a Pandora storyline we haven’t gotten there or will get in the upcoming movies? While the plot remains familiar throughout, the gameplay draws you in.
Set in 2169, you’re a Na’vi who’s been abducted by the militaristic corporation known as the RDA. You’ve lost all connection with your roots and find yourself free physically yet shackled by your painful past. As you emerge from the metal walls that kept your childhood in a cage, you venture on a journey of finding breadcrumbs and fighting the bad guys. So, while your character has a vague familiarity with Pandora, they, too, are learning as they go.
Taking on the role of a 9′ Avatar will understandably raise questions about movement. As you traverse the forest, every rock and every branch is yours to mantle. If there’s room for you to get there, you can go there. This freedom to explore is crucial to the open-world experience in Avatar Frontiers and will consistently reward you with new discoveries.
The RDA are your main enemy throughout the story. If you’ve seen Avatar, you’ll recognize the militaristic group from Jake Sully’s storyline. The militia wreak havoc on the planet, setting up various RDA facilities that pollute the landscape. Destroying these bases is one of your main objectives. The facilities are filled with bad guys who you’ll need to outsmart and out-sneak with the help of various tools.
When I stumbled upon the first polluted facility, I was startled by the sudden loss of life on the other side. The dark, billowing clouds speckled the treeline and enveloped a forest floor dotted with lifeless creatures. Thankfully, with the help of my System Interrogation Device (SID), I could hack into enemy systems and sneak my way into the facility to restore the region.
The hacking device brings an intuitive, if not overly simplistic, puzzle to the table. Alternatively, I could take the more aggressive approach and carefully utilize my Heavy Bow for a stealth kill. Whichever path you choose — going quiet or going loud — both feel equally challenging.
Combat in Avatar Frontiers of Pandora has a steady trend evolving in complexity and fun. While you’ll begin with a single bow, you’ll eventually gain access to a plethora of weapons that offer a flexible format. You can choose to focus on the traditional Na’vi weapons, the RDA weapons, or a combination of the two. Notably, I never found myself utilizing the RDA weapons because they just didn’t feel interesting. The Na’vi weapons consistently remained the more dynamic approach.
As you grow as a warrior, your connection to the Na’vi does, too. Eventually, you’ll embark on the breathtaking journey of bonding with your own Ikran (flying mount). The trek to the top will amaze at every turn and brings the experience every fan of the franchise is after. But the views don’t stop there.
Once you’ve gained access to your Ikran, you’ll be exploring the landscape in ways that feel impossible. There’s virtually no place your Ikran can’t travel, so you can freely venture from the cloudscape to the forest floor. Or, you can take combat to the skies and use your Ikran for an aerial assault.
Overall, the way in which Avatar Frontiers puts the life of a Na’vi into the hands of the player feels like a must-play experience. However, because of this flourish of features, the storyline takes the backseat. I found myself more often than not focused on the journey rather than the destination. So, while the overarching plot can feel flat and familiar, the voyage never grows stale. The world that Massive and Ubisoft have built virtually amazed me at every turn. Whether it’s a plant that reacts to my presence or a creature crashing into a tree, the world feels wholeheartedly alive.
It’s not just wildlife that you’ll stumble upon, but other characters who connect you to the world, too. Whether it’s a Na’vi gatherer by a riverbed or a random side-quest, there’s someone to meet at every turn. Now, as you’ll undoubtedly lose yourself in the environments, it’s not without purpose. You’ll need to venture out to collect ingredients, so hunting and harvesting foragables are core aspects of the game.
When you begin your adventure, you’ll have virtually no armor and weak weapons. Additionally, you’ll need to manage energy, or hunger, throughout the game. This is where crafting comes into play. Thankfully, behind every draped vine is a new plant to discover or an animal to hunt. As you traverse the landscape, you’ll identify alien plants that you can harvest. And you’ll need to seek them out because quests fail to reward you with adequate gear, so you’ll have to veer from the main story throughout the game.
To successfully collect the goods, you’ll need to gather the plant from the right angle to ensure quality. Hunting creatures takes the same consideration. You’ll thank the fallen for their “gifts,” and collect higher-quality ingredients if you have a clean and merciful kill. So, Avatar Frontiers consistently confronts the relationship we have with the environment.
On a planet such as Pandora, which is bursting with flora and fauna, it might seem like a daunting task to seek out ingredients. However, as a native Na’vi, you come equipped with unique Inspect senses that can identify everything in your environment. Inspect is, without a doubt, one of the most used mechanics of the game. It’s a necessary tool that sometimes feels like a crutch, but considering its use is technically optional, it’s without fault.
It’s worth mentioning that every mechanic in the game is intuitively implemented. While the game offers a standard amount of tutorials from the get-go, it trusts you to lead the way, and rightfully so. It is this balance of teaching and trusting that kept me connected to my protagonist’s journey.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review: The Bottom Line
- The open-world stuns again and again.
- Satisfying transversal connects you to the environment.
- Na’vi combat system and stealth gameplay is fun.
- The story fails to impress.
- Gunplay feels like an afterthought.
- Mission rewards are inadequate.
At every turn, Avatar Frontiers is a game that boldly blooms. Each time I stepped away from the world, I found myself wishing to return. Whether I was soaring the skies on my Ikran or running through the forest floor, I was entranced by the world of Pandora. There wasn’t a moment of the game where I didn’t feel I was getting a first-hand experience of a living, breathing alien planet.
However, much like James Cameron’s films, the planet’s allure outweighs the substance of the plot. So, while I certainly found myself empathizing with the Na’vi mission and my protagonist’s quest, it felt a bit run of the mill. With that in mind, newcomers to the franchise will experience an elevated hands-on version of Avatar’s initial arrival.
Overall, Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a stunning game from Ubisoft. Even if the familiar plot relies a little too much on fanfare.
[Note: Ubisoft provided the Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora PC key used for this review.]
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review — The Flora, Fauna, and Familiar
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