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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora review: what a wonderful, yet generic, world

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a beautiful representation of the world from the films, but the activities leave a lot to be desired

Beautiful vistas, cascading waterfalls, and extensively detailed terrain featuring every color of the rainbow – all of these things grab you by the eyeballs and pull you into the world of Pandora when you finally step out into the opening air following the game’s intro sequence.

Much like the films, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a sight to behold with so much care and attention put into every detail of the world. In a series that’s all about the wonders of nature and how it needs to be preserved, having a world as stunning as this is a big boon in getting that point across.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora

It all plays into the great first impression that this game leaves. You start with a series of cutscenes detailing the human’s attempt to re-educate your small group of Na’vi to the human way of life – really pressing the point of “human equals bad” for anyone who hasn’t seen the films. Then it’s a quick yet tense escape sequence through the RDA facility leading into your first glimpse of the outside world.

From there you start to integrate into Na’vi life while helping the resistance. You’ll be getting to grips with a mix of primitive Na’vi and modern human weaponry, exploring the world in all its strange forms, and undoing the environmental damage the RDA has caused. I spent the first few hours lost in the spectacle of the world, and how well it’s translated into a video game format.

However, as I continued to play, the shine slowly wore off the apple and the monotony of the Ubisoft open-world formula ground me down. The world is pretty, sure, but that can only keep me going for so long when the gameplay amounts to the standard collection of markers that you need to visit, press one button at, and get a minor bonus you’ll barely notice.

It’s almost a parody of a Ubisoft game by this point. You have one type of marker that increases your max HP, but there is no indicator for this – the bar doesn’t get longer or anything, the game just says it happens. There’s one that you go to and get a skill point, and another that gives you an “ancestor skill” which are different from regular skills but have roughly the same level of impact on gameplay – which is to say, not much.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora Ikrans

These will make up most of the things you’re dragged around the map to do, but occasionally you will find an abandoned rebel outpost where you play the world’s simplest minigame to turn the power back on and occasionally get a side quest. Last, and also somehow least, is the enemy bases to take down and turn the map from red to green – just in case the Far Cry comparison wasn’t obvious enough.

As you’d expect from a Ubisoft open-world, infiltrating a base stealthily to hit your objectives is a lot of fun, and messing it up to turn the whole base into a massive firefight is also fun – but once you’ve done one, you’ve done them all. There’s no variety, no way to mix it up, the bases just get gradually bigger and have gradually stronger enemies.

A short way into the main quest you get to tame an Ikran, which lets you fly around the place, at least making running from marker to marker faster if not more engaging.

Avatar Frontiers of the Pandora RDA

The main missions make things a bit more interesting. When the game sets you on a fixed path the wonder and spectacle of the world is given much more of a chance to shine. The mission where you tame your Ikran is a prime example. You slowly climb across floating islands, nearly losing your footing in some places as the tension and atmosphere build, only for it to crescendo as you triumphantly soar through the skies on the back of your new partner, the music making it a great and memorable experience.

However, once again as you get further into the game, you get less of that stuff and more of the samey-feeling shootouts and infiltrations. Side missions offer a little bit of variety in the form of scavenging for resources, investigating abandoned sites, and finding locations from only vague descriptions, but it’s not enough to offset the crushing bore of everything else.

As far as the story goes, it’s exactly what you’re expecting. The concept of a Na’vi raised in human captivity is great, but it doesn’t get played with as much as I wanted. Rather than putting you in a position of being torn between two worlds, it’s just used as an excuse for your character needing all of the Na’vi culture explained to them.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora Ikrans attacking a helicopter

The secondary cast leaves a lot to be desired too, almost everyone who contacts you in your earpiece or comes with you on your missions is relentlessly ‘quirky’ and annoying. It also falls into the trap of every single character treating you like some divine chosen one as soon as they meet you. A few characters are wary of you, but it doesn’t take long before they see the error of their ways for ever questioning such a wonderful and special person. It gets very grating and makes you feel like you’re not a proper character in this world.

That said, the overall themes and ideas of nature’s beauty and fragility still win out, and the conflict between the humans and the Na’vi is as engaging as it ever was. If you like the stories from the films, then you’ll like this story too – just don’t come into it expecting anything unique.

If you’re coming into Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora purely as a fan of the films, then there’s a lot for you to get out of this – it lets you explore the world like never before and take part in the culture it created for the first time. However, if you care about it more as a video game first, then it’s nothing special. Ubisoft yet again refuses to make any steps forward when it comes to open-world design, even when given free rein to make something wild and fantastical like Pandora should be.

Score 7/10

Version tested: PC (Ubisoft Connect)

  • Visuals: 10/10
  • Story: 6/10
  • Gameplay: 6/10
  • Performance: 7/10

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You can pre-order Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora on Amazon and get it in time for launch on December 7.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora technical breakdown

On PC, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora can vary wildly depending on your setup. I had a fair few framerate stutters and hangs when looking at wide open spaces using an Nvidia 3080 GPU and a 12th Gen Intel i9 CPU, even on lower graphics settings – also it caused my PC to overheat and shut down on more than one occasion.

That said, I know others who have played it on PC with almost no issues, so we suggest checking the recommended setup before buying on PC.