Videogames based on movies have been around as far back as the release of E.T. on the Atari back in 1982. Movie-based video games have not always been the best experiences but they sold because gamers were familiar with the characters and franchises. In recent years, the gaming community has been blessed with games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, the Arkham series of games, and many Star Wars games. When Ubisoft first announced that they would be working on an Avatar game, it was met with mixed feelings. Some were not confident in an Avatar game and others weren’t sure what sort of experience Ubisoft would deliver. After putting many hours into Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised.
In Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora you play as a young Na’vi who was taken by the RDA and enrolled in their Ambassador Program (TAP). You have grown accustomed to the ways that humans live but you soon learn that everything is not what it seems. You later learn the true intentions of the RDA and make your escape. You are on a journey to discover more about your Na’vi culture and yourself while defending against an RDA onslaught. Frontiers of Pandora takes place during the same timeline as the movies, just on a different part of the planet. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is set in the year 2169 – the years before the events of Avatar: The Way of Water. As you progress in the story, you will come across references to events and characters from the mainline movies which is pretty cool.
The first thing you will notice about this game is how great it looks. If you have seen any footage from the Avatar movies, you know that Pandora is a planet filled with lush vegetation, large mountainous structures, and unique wildlife. In the past, Ubisoft has done great with some of their more jungle/tropical environments in the Far Cry games and it looks like that experience has translated into this new project. They have done a great job staying true to what we have seen in the Avatar films while not being overly cookie-cutter. The colors of the various plants and wildlife pop and the characters that you interact with are designed well. When you encounter random Na’vi across the map, this changes a little. Most of the Na’vi outside of the various hub areas use a very similar character model. This isn’t a huge deal but it is something that you will notice during your playthrough.
When you get your first chance to explore the world of Pandora, you will immediately notice how great it feels to move and traverse the environment. The easiest way to describe the feeling is Mirror’s edge in the jungle. While running through the environment, you can swing using vines, jump on plants that will thrust you high into the air, and run through spores that increase your running speed. As you level and discover new areas on the map, you will learn and level movement abilities as well. The only movement issue I had was getting lost in the lush environment. When jumping into combat, I wasn’t sure what to expect but everything felt pretty good. Ubisoft used their expertise from the Far Cry games and implemented them here. Both arrows and guns felt great to use. Combat versus large animals and robots feels relatively normal but when battling humans in close combat, things can get a little interesting. The size difference between humans and Na’vi is very apparent here. It is something that I got used to fairly quickly so it doesn’t take away from the experience.
The RDA has control over a good amount of the gameplay map and is draining resources from the environment. Much like the Far Cry and Ghost Recon games, one of your main objectives outside of your story missions is clearing outposts. Even though this may be a mechanic that some will find a little tired, it is still entertaining to observe an outpost and create a plan of attack. Random RDA encounters keep things from staying quiet for too long and activities like freeing wildlife from captivity keep the activities different. Another part of the game that I haven’t put a ton of effort into is the crafting system.
For people who are fans of survival games, the harvesting and food crafting system may be a bonus and, for others an annoyance. Gathering items in the environment turns into a mini-game of sorts. It could be compared to the lock-picking mini-game in other titles. If you are successful, the quality of the resources you are gathering will be higher. The weather and region you are gathering the item from can affect the quality as well. The part of this that can be somewhat annoying is paying attention to the energy system. The more you run or engage in combat, the more you have to eat. There were many times when I completely forgot about this aspect and it caused my health and stamina to refill slowly.
The time I have spent with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has been great so far. If you are a fan of Ubisoft games, many things will be familiar here. To some, This could be an annoyance, and to others, it may be one of their favorite aspects of the game. When it comes to a game based on a movie, Ubisoft did well sticking to the source material while also creating something new and unique. The shining stars of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora are the stunning graphics and the movement. It was great just exploring and discovering new parts of the continent. It is so easy to get sidetracked (in a good way) when heading on a mission. If you’re a fan of Ubisoft games and Avatar, I suggest giving this game a try. I plan to spend a ton of time exploring and discovering this world.