Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora

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Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora (PC) – Review

In 2009 we were introduced to the fascinating world of Pandora through James Cameron’s Avatar. Avatar was a visual spectacle that had many an audience member in awe. The thought of having the opportunity Jake Sully had in the film was always a dream of mine – the ability to take on a Na’vi guise and experience the world of Pandora on a completely different level to that of a human.

Developer, Massive Entertainment, and publisher, Ubisoft, must have had a similar dream of my own, as what they have delivered is the closest reality to that dream; Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.
A quick side note, Avatar is not required viewing. Anyone new to the Avatar franchise can easily jump in and enjoy Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, but those who are familiar with its lore will recognise the nods to the material.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora begins in the year 2146, eight years before the battle at Hallelujah Mountains. For those who have not seen the film Avatar, this is where the major confrontation between the Na’vi and the Humans occurs. It is during this cutscene that you are introduced to a group of Na’vi children, one of whom is you. You have been inducted into a program called TAP (The Ambassador Program) by the RDA (Resources Development Administration). It is through this program on the Western Frontier of Pandora that the RDA plans to use the Na’vi children to foster diplomatic relationships with the various clans.

These actions are all to acquire the rare mineral called Unobtanium. During this time, you are introduced to the director of the TAP, John Mercer. John has no love for the Na’vi children and his interactions with them are all to break them out of any Na’vi culture they have. In one such encounter, John kills one of the children during an attempted escape, which consolidates the remaining children’s obedience.

We then skip forward eight years to the point where the battle at the Hallelujah Mountains is happening. The RDA is under orders to evacuate and the TAP has been dissolved. As the now Na’vi young adults are of no use, John orders their execution, but right before this occurs, the young adult Na’vi are saved by their TAP teacher, Alma Cortez. As part of the rescue, Alma puts the young adults into cryosleep to protect them as immediate escape would be suicide.

At this point, you enter the character creation section. I have seen many character creators over my years of gaming, and this one is right around the middle. On average, you will get about seven or so options for each of the following; body shape, vocals, faces, hair and colour, bioluminescent pattern, and skin colour and patterns, though during your play in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, you will get further opportunities to customise your character through equipment and body painting.

Once you have finished creating your Na’vi, we move 16 years into the future, where you and the Na’vi young adults are woken by Alma, now part of the Resistance, a small group of like-minded Na’vi and Humans that want to dislodge the RDA’s foothold on the Western Frontiers. You and the young adult Na’vi join the Resistance, uniting all the clans in the area to revolt against the RDA and rid them of the Western Frontiers for good.

If you have played any of Ubisoft’s other published titles, you will be very familiar with the gameplay. Ubisoft’s formulaic gameplay of doing a thing to reveal another thing is the bread and butter of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora’s gameplay loop. What excited me the most about playing Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was how seamlessly the story wove itself into the gameplay.

Entering the world of Pandora for the first time made for an exciting adventure of discovery and exploration, interacting with the fauna and flora, and learning what is safe or what is dangerous, and it had me giddy with excitement. You’ll be able to put your hunting skills to the test against the wildlife of Pandora, facing off against some familiar creatures, but primarily, you will be focusing on the various RDA facilities polluting the area. The facilities all come with various tasks to shut them down, but the danger comes from the RDA personnel protecting them.

Unfortunately, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is more rewarding to players who are stealthier than those who prefer aggression. I hated this decision as trying to take down a facility while remaining undiscovered was overly complicated. Every time, something would go wrong, and every time, a cascade of failures would occur, resulting in a firefight and a reduced reward.

Once the facility is shut down, fauna and flora will return to the area, unlocking opportunities to do Na’vi side quests and activities. The side quests you do for the Na’vi clans earn you favour. This favour can be used to trade for items, and these vary depending on what the Na’vi specialises in; a warrior Na’vi will have weapons, whereas a seamstress will have clothing. There are also recipes available, so you will have the ability to craft your items from what you collect when out in Pandora.

The equipment you obtain or craft is also what determines your level. As there are no experience points in the traditional sense, better equipment will add to a score that shows you how efficient you will be in combat, and throughout your journey, you’ll discover and make use of a variety of weapons, including bows and other Na’vi weapons, as well as Human ones, such as Assault Rifles and RPGs.

Equipment is not the only way to upgrade your efficiency level – activities help with this too. The activities are fun, allowing you to not only reconnect with Na’vi culture but also improve your character. Finding a specific flora, for example, will award you with either more health, abilities, or skill points.

Abilities are the most powerful to acquire as they will fundamentally change how you use your regular moves, and these could be things like an extra boost when jumping, reduced damage from falling, or creating a concussive blast when you punch the ground, so gaining the available abilities will certainly be a priority when they show up on the map.

You can spend your earned skill points in the skill tree, with five specifically aligned trees to tasks, like survivor for increasing health, and warrior for increasing damage, as examples. You will find the choices in these trees not only award you in efficiency level but will also complement your preferred playstyle.

The controls are fairly straightforward, following the typical first-person shooter setup, with additional easy-to-use controls when taking to the skies on your very own Irkan. Accessibility options make these even easier, with options such as aim assist, reducing the difficulty of special interactions, and remapping the controls to suit your own preferences.

Other options, such as outlined enemies, an audio mix that emphasizes critical information, or quest guidance will assist those who might not be able to completely enjoy the game otherwise. There are plenty of other accessibility options available, and it’s great to see more companies making changes to help people enjoy their products.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora also has a co-op feature, and with cross-play available between PC, Xbox, and Playstation, your enjoyment can be shared with your friends. I was very excited to play with another player because I believed it would make those stealthier assaults on the RDA facilities easier. Unfortunately, at the time of review, I could not get the feature to work, but I am confident that this will be rectified by the time of release.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is stunningly beautiful, and the outstanding realism captured is a perfect homage to the Avatar film. The breathtaking detail from the Avatar film is instantly recognisable, and even the new, never-seen environments in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora do not feel out of place. Every part of it feels like something James Cameron would have made himself. Occasionally, on some items, the textures wouldn’t load correctly, giving them a flat and dull look. Though immediately noticeable, it wasn’t enough to break the visual enjoyment, and within a couple of seconds, it would rectify itself.

The animation, for the most part, is smooth and responsive during gameplay. Noticeable clipping and floating models could sometimes be seen, but nothing was so jarring as to be distracting. The animation in the cutscenes is fantastically done.

Lip syncing, gestures, and general movement were crisp and precise. Only the Na’vi, when moving rapidly, had a slight jankiness in their movement, meaning it didn’t look quite right. However, the animations both in gameplay and cutscenes were superbly done and an absolute treat to behold.

The music was completely on point to that of the Avatar film as well. It also wasn’t overbearing throughout my entire playtime, and the crescendos and decrescendos all fell in all the correct places, enhancing what was happening on screen. Not once did I ever feel the need to turn it down or off. The voice acting was crisp, clear, and never felt overacted, however, I could complain that the drop-off in volume is quick if you move away from the speaker.

That’s no different in real life, honestly. If you’re going to wander away, you’re not going to hear what they’re saying. Sound effects, like the music, are completely on point as well. All the familiar sounds of the Avatar film will delight your ears, just like the graphics, and the new sounds incorporated into the new areas felt right at home as if James Cameron had directed the input himself. All the audio is just sublime, becoming yet another perfect homage to the Avatar film.

Should you have the Gold or Ultimate Editions coming your way, you’ll be lucky enough to get yourself the Season Pass included, with a bonus quest available from launch, as well as two additional story packs coming throughout 2024 and offering even more ways to explore Pandora. Regardless of the season pass, however, if you are looking for a game that embodies true discovery and exploration, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will not disappoint. Newcomers and lovers of the franchise will find hours of enjoyment in the world of Pandora. Your ability to experience the world of Pandora as a Na’vi is truly spectacular and should not be missed out on.

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The Good

  • Create and play as your own Na’vi
  • Exciting adventure of discovery and exploration
  • Experience points are replaced with efficiency levels
  • Accessible to newer and older people in the franchise
  • The audio and graphics are a perfect homage to the Avatar film

The Bad

  • Occasional flat textures and animation mishaps
9
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10

Written by: Ashley Barnett-Cosgrove

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