HomeReviews4/5 ReviewAvatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

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When the first Avatar movie was released in 2009, I never understood the fuss. It was just Fern Gully in 3D – what did I care? After that, the years rolled by and a mere thirteen years later the sequel to that movie arrived in 2022, titled Avatar: The Way of Water. Did I like that movie any better? Yes actually, it gave us a deeper look at other regions around Pandora and benefited greatly from updated CGI.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a huge open world game from the kings of open world – Ubisoft. Famous for open world “follow the formula” games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and, er The Crew (?), Ubisoft’s tried and tested ‘unlock the tower and do all the side quests’ plans rears its head once more. This time however, it’s in a galaxy far far away. No, not that one.

avatar frontiers of pandora review 1
Ubisoft know how to make an open world epic

You play as a Na’vi kidnapped by the RDA during the events of the first movie and then, due to a sequence of events I won’t spoil here, end up cryogenically frozen until the events of The Way of Water (or thereabouts). This intro sequence is rather lengthy, it had me wishing I could just get to the open world rather than ticking the boxes on a tutorial escape from the facility.

Once you do start the game proper, you get to explore the luscious tropical paradise known as Pandora. Now, no prior knowledge of the movie franchise is required – although it might be beneficial to watch through them to catch up on the world of the Na’vi and the other fantastical beasts found throughout its landscape.

Dense green forests bursting at the seams with wildlife and detail make way for vast open plains. And the famous floating mountain ranges make for a fantastic looking playground. The one thing I did love in the movies was the actual world and the locales we visited with Jake Sully, and now I finally got to explore them. Thankfully, Frontiers of Pandora is one of Ubisoft’s best looking titles ever – lighting is incredible and colours pop from the screen as you take your giant blue tree elf on an adventure into the unknown.

That is not to say that Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is perfect, far from it. The game suffers very much from the Ubisoft formula as much as it fits the franchise, seeing repeated enemy outposts and doing the same checklist of never ending side quests does start to become tedious as you progress through a storyline you have already experienced once or twice if you have seen the movies prior to playing.

avatar frontiers of pandora review 2
Welcome to the world of the Na’vi

So what is the story, I hear you cry. Well, in both movies (and the game) it boils down to foreign invaders trying to take native land; they need to be stopped. And that’s about it. Sure you have slight depth and lore with the various tribes and their history, as well as their ability to connect to nature and receive visions of the past, but all that matters not when this is the third time we have seen this story in the franchise.

Anyway, the good news is that you will soon forget about the story, and likely the side quests themselves, as you level up the skill tree and upgrade your weapons. The reason being, the world of Pandora is just a joyous toybox to explore. Bounding across trees, swimming by glorious waterfalls, or discovering beautiful vistas all suck you into Frontiers of Pandora, making the experience feel more natural than previous Ubisoft formula games. The almost complete lack of HUD elements do add to the believability, while the outstanding graphics keep you invested in the wonder of exploration around Pandora.

Another issue crops up with the game struggling to make you invested in the main characters. The writing is mediocre at best but the real problem is the lack of variety between the Na’vi. Telling the difference between them is often only possible by checking the subtitles to see who is talking at the time. Adding to this, the primary antagonists, Mercer and Angela Harding, lack a substantial physical presence throughout much of the campaign, primarily appearing through sporadic video communications. This absence of direct confrontation with the primary villains leads to an underwhelming conclusion, lacking substantial boss fights until the abrupt final encounter, which feels more comical than climactic.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora impresses with exploration through a vibrant and living world, using the gymnastic-like movement of the Na’vi to deliver a thrilling traversal experience. Interacting with the ecosystem, from harvesting flora to crafting, adds depth and engagement. However, delayed access to mounts and a less visually appealing Clouded Forest region that outstays its welcome, diminish the overall sense of exploration and excitement.

avatar frontiers of pandora review 3
Far Cry Primal 2?

Combat mechanics, while okay, suffer from stagnation throughout the game. A limited variety of enemy types and ‘hit it till it dies’ approach to enemy encounters diminish the need for any sort of strategy. Additionally, enemy behaviour issues and occasional overwhelming scenarios detract from the combat experience. Taking down countless unmemorable enemies time after time started to become a real chore early on in the game, which is never a good sign. A real shame as the skill tree would be much more exciting to work through if the abilities were actually needed in creative ways.

Delving deeper into the exploration aspect, the immersive environments of Pandora often serve as both a highlight and a drawback. While the diverse landscapes initially captivate with their sheer beauty, the lack of diverse and engaging content beyond the surface exploration leaves much to be desired. In comparison to other open-world titles, where every nook and cranny reveals something unique or significant, Frontiers of Pandora struggles to maintain the same level of engagement. The promise of a new discovery fades as repeated enemy outposts and monotonous structures add little to the overall experience. It’s Far Cry Primal 2 in all but name.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora would benefit from a more dynamic and diverse world-building approach. Introducing varied enemy encounters, more intricate side quests, and distinct character developments would significantly enhance your journey through Pandora. Also, deeper integration of the antagonists into gameplay, with memorable confrontations and interactions, would add to the storyline, elevating the stakes and need for strategy.

While the game succeeds in delivering a visually captivating virtual Pandora, and expands the Avatar franchise lore, it falls short in providing an immersive and engaging gaming experience. Sadly held back by repetitive content, narrative limitations, underdeveloped characters, and gameplay mechanics that lack any sort of diversity, the game ultimately presents itself as a promising but flawed venture into a wonderful and mysterious universe full of potential.

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Exploring the world is a real highlight

I really wanted to love Frontiers of Pandora, and while I did love exploring the stunning forests and varied biomes of Pandora a lot, the rest of the game lacked that special sauce that could have made this an all time classic. Perhaps if Ubisoft gets the chance to revisit our tall blue tree friends, they can pack the sequel full of interesting story, content and better enemy encounters. Then again, it’s Ubisoft – they have their formula, and they will use it till the wheels fall off. 

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is not a bad game by any means, but once discovering the stunning vistas wears thin, you won’t find much substantial meat to chew on in those forests.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Visually stunning
  • Na’vi movement is great
  • Mounts are fun (once you eventually unlock them)
Cons:
  • Story is dull
  • Enemies are repetitive
  • Combat is mediocre
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ubisoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 7 December 2023 | £69.99
Alister Kennedy
Alister Kennedy
A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.

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Matt
Matt
3 months ago

Ok. Makes me wonder how much time the reviewer spent with it. I’m 40 hours in, and just now taking full advantage of the hunters guide to track down components for Uber Cameron weapons. The combat is not mediocre. And ignoring the fun of flying your ikrans with a friend in co op is a major oversight.

It may be an open world Ubi game, but it’s more, and has more to offer, than Far Cry in space. It deserves an 8/10 or 4/5. But the reasons you give for knocking it are meh.

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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Visually stunning</li> <li>Na’vi movement is great</li> <li>Mounts are fun (once you eventually unlock them)</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Story is dull</li> <li>Enemies are repetitive</li> <li>Combat is mediocre</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ubisoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 7 December 2023 | £69.99</li> </ul>Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review
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