Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora PC Review: A Predictable Story With Unparalleled Immersion
The Avatar franchise has undergone a bit of a renaissance in the past year, with Way of Water proving the world of Pandora was perhaps in the zeitgeist more than naysayers led others to believe and making Jake Sully a mostly household name. Of course, Frontiers of Pandora, the first Avatar game since 2009’s James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, is here to further immerse you in this stunning alien world, offering a tangible way of interacting and immersing yourself in it.
For those who want nothing more than a living, breathing Pandora with fun combat and Far Cry-esque mechanics, then this is absolutely the game for you. However, for those hoping the narrative would reach the same heights as Way of Water or even the original film, you may be a little disappointed.
“At its best, Frontiers of Pandora’s story feels like Far Cry Na’vi edition, an amalgamation of everything Ubisoft is best at, for better and for worse.”
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora’s story is a little threadbare. It sees you play as a customizable Na’vi, one brought up by the nefarious RDA, before you escape their clutches and find yourself wrapped up in the resistance movement. Of course, it won’t be easy, as you’re left to reconnect with your people, who don’t immediately regard you as one of their own and are forced to contend with the RDA terrorizing Pandora. It’s a decent setup based on the amazing worldbuilding Cameron has already done in the previous films.
Unfortunately, the villain lacks the necessary bite you would expect from a Ubisoft game, and his small human stature removes any intimidating qualities he may have had. To make matters worse, the predictable story beats and themes play out as one would expect, making this feel as straightforward and basic as some may have feared. At its best, Frontiers of Pandora feels like Far Cry Na’vi edition, an amalgamation of everything Ubisoft is best at, for better and for worse.
“It helps that the world of Pandora is populated with so many entertaining things to do.”
Fortunately, the gameplay offsets this and is rather phenomenal. Pandora feels truly alive, from its diverse wildlife that roams the various biomes to the swelling soundscapes that populate the forests and plains in dramatic and immersive ways. You’ll see Hammerhead Titanotheres crashing through tree trunks, packs of Viperwolves roaming through the thick flora, and even Na’vi in the wild, ready to help you on your adventure. It coalesces to create a dynamic, immersive world that reacts to your actions in meaningful ways.
You’ll do all of this utilizing a mix of Na’vi and RDA weaponry, which helps to flesh out the otherwise familiar combat. Unfortunately, enemy variety is a little weak, with the majority of foes you’ll encounter being mostly the same. However, the way you approach fighting enemies feels fresh each time, as you’ll have to focus on taking out the weak points of enemy mechs or strike certain parts of an animal’s body for it to count as a clean kill. It keeps things feeling interesting alongside the plethora of diverse in-game activities.
It helps that the world of Pandora is populated with entertaining things to do. In classic Far Cry fashion, Avatar overloads you with content in the world to explore. You can locate Bellsprigs to increase your health, Tarsyu Saplings to unlock skill points, RDA Facilities to remove pollution and unlock additional elements on the map, and much more. There are so many points of interest on the map that it’s honestly hard to keep up.
“However, by far, the most fun you’ll have is exploring the vast world of Pandora on your Ikran, which, of course, you can pet.”
If that wasn’t enough, gathering items from flora provides players with an engaging minigame (if you play with a Dualsense Controller) where you must hold the right trigger slightly, find the correct direction with your analog stick, and then press down the right trigger to yank the item away from the plant. Failing to do so will result in you getting a lesser-quality item, which is never what you want.
You also own a SID device, allowing you to hack into objects and mechanical enemies to either turn them on or disable them. Hacking is similar to the gathering process where you must match the strength of the trigger with what is required for the hack, and in doing so, you will play a little game. This is a maze with a timer and obstacles that reset your progress or slow you down so you don’t finish in time. They are all relatively basic but always a fun little puzzle to complete to break up the action.
However, by far, the most fun you’ll have is exploring the vast world of Pandora on your Ikran, which, of course, you can pet. Fast Travel and riding on a Direhorse are also available, but soaring through the skies on your Ikran is a freeing and awe-inspiring experience that never gets old.
“There are cosmetic gear you can apply to your character, which is where microtransactions come in.”
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has two sets of skills for players to unlock: Ancestor Skills and Normal Skills. Ancestor Skills are acquired by connecting to a Tarsyu Flower, which provides you with powerful abilities from your ancestors. These differ somewhat from the more traditional skill tree you complete after finishing quests and offer a more direct connection to the Avatar lore. However, in terms of gameplay, there isn’t too great a distinction between them, with both skill trees serving to improve the gameplay in fun ways.
Avatar features the typical modern gear setup seen in most open-world games. You receive gear with a different rarity and a higher score. Naturally, the higher score is better, and you’ll constantly be either crafting better gear (using materials from fauna and flora) or receiving it throughout the game. There are cosmetic gear you can apply to your character, which is where microtransactions come in. Fortunately, these are all strictly cosmetic, with no advantages, and are there for those who want to splash the cash.
“It goes without saying that the dynamic soundscape and gorgeous visuals help to make Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora a truly immersive experience.”
The game’s ridiculously beautiful visuals make all of this all the more spectacular. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is easily one of the best-looking games ever made, a technical marvel that never ceases to amaze. From the dense forests and lush, thick foliage to the sweeping plains, the sheer scale of Pandora is truly mesmerizing. It goes without saying that the dynamic soundscape and gorgeous visuals help to make Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora a truly immersive experience. Even were you to doze off watching the narrative unfold, the sheer captivating beauty of the world is enough to warrant the price of admission.
In my time with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, I did experience some minor issues, particularly in the latter half of the game. Some late-game humans disappear and don’t leave their bodies. In some instances, destroying a chopper would glitch mechs in the air, and I could occasionally walk through vent covers and bars. However, these were all late-game issues and should be fixed by launch day.
Many may write Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora off as simply another Ubisoft title. In some respects, it is, thanks to its familiar gameplay formula, combat mechanics, and lackluster story. However, the world, soundscape, visuals, and immersive elements make this a truly unique experience. What Ubisoft Massive has accomplished is nothing short of incredible, and while you may come away forgetting the villain’s name or even the reason why you were exploring this world, you’ll never forget what it felt like to fly your Ikran for the first time, or step out into the lush world and soak it all in. Frontiers of Pandora is perhaps the best example of a game that exemplifies the saying, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.”
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC; code was provided by publisher.
Avatar: Frontier's of Pandora
While the story of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is somewhat lacking, offering a predictable narrative with an underwhelming villain, the gameplay is phenomenal. The game offers an immersive world with diverse wildlife, engaging combat, and Far Cry-esque mechanics. Despite the weak enemy variety, the dynamic and interactive environment, coupled with an abundance of in-game activities, keeps the gameplay fresh. Despite some minor issues, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora stands out as a unique and unforgettable experience, blending familiar Ubisoft elements with unparalleled immersion and beauty.