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  • Writer's pictureCourt Lalonde

Exploring the Visual Wonders of Avatar Frontiers of Pandora: A Review

Updated: Jan 4


Avatar

Avatar is one of the highest-grossing movie franchises of all time, with a whopping 5.24 billion, and the original movie is still the highest-grossing movie of all time. So, you would think basing a video game on the movie franchise would be an instant home run?


Looking at the history of movie tie-in games, you realize that what works on the big screen doesn't always translate to video games. It seems it's tough to do so because, more often than not, the games are rushed and don't feel like the world from the movie. Half the time, developers copy an old game, slap the assets from the film over them and call it a day. Now, I could understand the bad movie games back in the NES and even the SNES days, but even recently, we got 2016's Ghostbusters and 2012's Battleship. We can't forget when we got the combo of lousy movies and bad video games with 2004's Catwoman. At least that is what they used to do, but Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora isn't that.


Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is its own story based on the Avatar franchise. It occurs between the first and second movies and introduces you to new characters. I haven't seen the second movie, and it's been over ten years since I saw the first movie, so jumping into this game was a refresher. I always found it fascinating that so many people see these movies, yet no one I know ever talks about them, and the franchise is huge. You would think something so big would be all anyone ever talks about. The second movie, Avatar: The Way of Water, was a huge success, but I didn't even know it was in theatres, and then it popped up on my Disney Plus feed. Avatar: The Way of Water grossed 2.34 billion dollars, and I couldn't count the people I know who saw the movie.


It wasn't exactly on my radar when they announced Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora in March of 2017. Ubisoft makes a lot of games that I genuinely gel with, like Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, and The Division, just to name a few, so I knew I was going to try this. When I first saw the trailer, I thought, like many, that the game was Far Cry with Avatar characters. I can say without a doubt that this isn't the case, and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora stands on its own. Does it remind me of other Ubisoft titles? Sure, but I wouldn't say that is a bad thing. It has aspects from Far Cry because of the first-person view and weapon system, hacking from Watch Dogs, and stealth combat from Assassin's Creed.


Navi

The story is original and a continuation of the first movie, so I won't give too much away, as the story portion was well done. The RDA, or the Sky People as they're called in the game, raise you, and that is how the story starts, but soon you learn that the RDA are not who they say they are and tragedy strikes. You escape the RDA facility to step out into the world of Pandora, set to reunite with your clan and truly learn what it means to be Navi. As you meet up with different clans, you know the ways of your people and find humans who are your friends and not the enemy. Your goal is to cleanse Pandora of the RDA and reclaim the land. As you meet new clans, you will be given main quests and side quests to help you further unlock parts of the map. The map is enormous, so I recommend keeping to the main story missions until you open your first mount. My biggest issue with the story, though, is I had difficulty wanting to know more about my character. At the beginning of the game, which is the first couple of hours, I was intrigued and liked where the story was going, but as the world opened up, I felt the story got lost a bit in all the side quests and things to do on the map. I became more concerned with levelling up my character than progressing the story.


The world of Pandora is beautiful and will try and kill you at the same time. It's not only the RDA that will hurt you but the animals and plants in the world can and will attack you, so you better watch out. The world became a different place at night and glowed to be what I felt the best. I wanted to play only at night as the game looked impressive during the night. I played on a PS5 in Performance mode, giving me 60 FPS but no 4K, but if you switch to the Quality mode, you get a locked 30 FPS and 4K graphics. At some points, I could see how beautiful the world could look, but as I mentioned, I played in performance mode. From what I have seen online, the best way to play this game is on PC, as the game runs and looks beautiful simultaneously. I can understand not being able to give us 4K 60FPS as a lot is going on at one time on the screen.


night time


There isn't much variety with the RDA enemy types, but with the level system, they become more challenging and a bit spongy. As you level up your character and unlock new skills, you become pretty unstoppable as you progress the story. Your skills include Hunter, Survivor, Warrior, Maker, and Rider. At this point in gaming, these skill trees have almost become standard with different names. The Rider is for your mount, so you won't even have access to it until you unlock your first mount. I recommend upgrading your Survivor first, as it will give you more health, making it easier to take over RDA refineries. Once you have enough health to move between Warrior and Hunter, consider the trees to upgrade based on your play style.


weapons

There is a crafting system, so hunting and gathering plants and resources around Pandora will help you craft better armour, weapons, and survival food. You can use your Navi sense to see objects you can interact with. They have added a stamina system that needs to be replenished for yourself and your mount by eating food. The good news is that there is plenty of food around the map; the bad news is that they added this system. I'm not a fan of having to replenish stamina through eating in games, and it feels tiresome when I have to do it. I realize it adds to the challenge but becomes a pain to worry about and takes me out of the action. Fast travel spots are plenty, so use them to move around the map, but know that you must eat when you fast-travel because it takes up all your stamina. Navigating the map poses some challenges, though, as it can become cluttered, and it's hard to distinguish where to go for your main quest. When you use the Navi sense, it will show you a blobbed to go towards, but halfway through my playthrough, that vanished, so I had to use clues to find where to go, which took away from my enjoyment of the game.


I did become addicted to the crafting system as I wanted to upgrade my Navi to make myself more powerful, which, if you follow the instructions, isn't that hard to do. The game rewards you for going off the beaten path to uncover more areas of the map. Taking over RDA refineries will unlock health upgrades and special weapons and ammo. When you take over the refinery, over time, the vegetation will come back and consume to show you that the earth finds a way to replenish itself. The areas with refineries are inhabitable, so you cannot gather resources or hunt animals until you take over the refineries.


There are many ways to upgrade your Navi all over the map, and once you are near them, you will see a glow from your Navi sense pointing you in that direction. The upgrades are skill points and health upgrades in the open world. I suggest waiting for your mount to do so as they are in high places. Be on the lookout for Ancestor skills to help your Navi be more robust and far more potent than those in your skill tree. The mounts you can unlock are the Ikran, which can fly, and the Direhorse, which cannot but move fast on land.


Ikran

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has much to do, but if you stick to the main story path, you could finish the game in under 20 hours. My playthrough was just over 30 hours, as I love to unlock everything on the map and check off those boxes. There will also be extra content in the future for those who want more to do in Pandora. My lack of passion for the franchise crept into my playing experience. If I truly enjoyed the world of Avatar, I would have fallen in love with this game. As the story continued, I skipped conversations to move through the game instead of noticing what was happening. It could also be the time of year when I'm playing this game throughout the holidays, and my mind is with my family instead, so mentally, I'm not giving any game I'm playing right now my full attention.


My main struggle was that the side quest took me out of the way so much and didn't add as much to the main story as I had hoped. I had difficulty caring for my character and what needed to be done in the game to take out the RDA. I spent most of my time upgrading myself so that I was killed so quickly and flying around the map to gain further upgrades. The combat was rewarding, and the graphics were beautiful. Maybe it was the wrong place and time for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. If you love the world of Avatar, this game will be a home run for you. If you're a fan of open-world games that look beautiful and you want to go out there to complete tasks and take out the bad guys, then you most likely will enjoy this as well. It's not a bad game by any means, but it's not a great one for me, and I wish it were. Everything I heard about the game before launch was right up my alley, but ultimately, I was left wanting more. I don't feel like I wasted time playing this game, but I also wish I had enjoyed it more. I was left wanting to care about the character I was playing, but I liked the gameplay. I recommend you try it if anything I have mentioned has intrigued you or wait for a sale if you're still unsure.


[Ubisoft provided the code for review]

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