Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review | A Feast for The Senses and Not Much Else

88
Story
8
Gameplay
7
Visuals
10
Audio
10
Value for Money
9
Price:
$ 70
There's really no other way to describe it; this game is staggeringly beautiful. Your eyes and ears are in for a sensory feast of exoplanetary proportions the moment you set foot in the vibrant and teeming wilds of Pandora - if you can forgive the boring gameplay and pacing issues, that is. In the end, this game is all flash and no bang.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an action-adventure FPS set in the vibrant wilds of the alien planet, brought to you by the brilliant minds at Ubisoft. Read our review to see what it did well, what it didn't do well, and if it's worth buying.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Overview

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Checkmark Staggeringly Beautiful Visuals
Checkmark Acute Attention to Detail
Checkmark The World is Literally Alive
Checkmark Pacing is Inconsistent
Checkmark UI Looks Horrendous
Checkmark Gaming Takes a Backseat

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Overall - 88/100

There's really no other way to describe it; this game is staggeringly beautiful. Your eyes and ears are in for a sensory feast of exoplanetary proportions the moment you set foot in the vibrant and teeming wilds of Pandora - if you can forgive the boring gameplay and pacing issues, that is. In the end, this game is all flash and no bang.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Story - 8/10

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora's story was designed to appeal to those who haven't seen the 2009 movie. It features a unique story that runs concurrently with the movie's main continuity, featuring new characters and mature themes like identity and culture. Pacing issues keep it from being perfect, but it's perfectly acceptable overall.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Gameplay - 7/10

The gameplay is initially engaging but plateaus before long, creating a drawn-out sequence of events held together by the game's robust environment. The level-locked progression system and uninspired skill trees serve as the final nails to this game's gameplay coffin, forcing it to be an astoundingly pretty - but ultimately empty - shell.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Visuals - 10/10

This game brings the complexity, ferocity, and unerring majesty of an untouched alien world to your fingertips. The game isn't just a pretty sight either, as the animation of each model is as fluid as nature intended. Though its UI is an absolute eyesore, the unfettered beauty of Pandora more than makes up for it.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Audio - 10/10

While this game's visuals make up the environment of Pandora, this game's audio takes you there. Forest ambiance is hard to get right, doubly so if you're trying to evoke flora and fauna that don't exist in real life, yet here we are. Apart from that, the game's voice acting is also top-notch, providing the polish you'd expect from the greatest talents in the industry.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Value for Money - 9/10

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora costs a whopping $70, but it's worth every penny. While it's true that the repetitive gameplay and predictable story make this game imperfect, you're getting an open-world sensory feast like no other in return. In addition to the game's cost, one might also need to spare some coinage to get a better rig, as the game does have a hefty system requirement. It will all be worth it in the end when you're crunching through Pandora's underbrush in stunning 4K.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review | A Feast for The Senses and Not Much Else

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is exactly what it says on the tin. If you were looking to explore the wild frontiers of a thriving exoplanet, then that's exactly what you're gonna get. I'd say "-and then some", but that really is all you're going to get. Let me explain. This game has a vibrant and reactive ecosystem that's easy to get lost in, but its gameplay and combat leave much to be desired. It sort of feels like an RPG character that's overpowered in one regard while severely underpowered in another.

It's clear to see that Ubisoft spared no expense in making this game look, sound, and feel good, but it was at the expense of developing the core of what makes a game a game; its gameplay. Let's dig right in and take a bite out of this alien planet's mysteries before its wild fauna takes a bite out of us.
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First, let's go over the best that the game can offer, its visuals. I'm not going to downplay it, this game's simulated ecosystem is one of the best I've ever seen even among triple-A titles. The graphics look completely stunning and they show off Pandora in its absolute wildest state. Of course, good graphics don't really matter if the environment is static and boring, but that's not the case here. The wildlife, the oddly reactive flora, the weather, and even the artificial creations of the RDA all interact with you and each other seamlessly, simulating an ecosystem that looks alive.

It's very similar to another first-person action-adventure game called Subnautica, except the lush biodiversity and themed biomes are terrestrial instead of aquatic. Your movement through the foliage is also notable, as your unique Na'vi physiology lets you clamber up vines, ascend sheer rock faces, and parkour through the thicket with surprising ease. There's nothing quite like running through the greenery of an alien forest without a care.

Despite all the fanfare and praise, however, one element of this game's visuals prevents it from being an all-encompassing experience - its eyesore of a UI. I understand what they were going for. They wanted to make it look natural and somewhat spiritual, as the UI does represent your character's connection to Eywa. In practice though, it ended up looking like the default background for a PSP with its wispy lines and blue hues. It works for some menus, especially the skill tree and Ancestor Abilities screen, but for the more grounded aspects of your UI like your inventory, it looks downright horrendous.

Not to mention the health and stamina bars that barely peek above the visual noise of a thriving jungle. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but compared to the majesty of the surroundings, it's a clear blemish in an otherwise perfect rendition of an uncolonized alien world.
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All this flash isn't accompanied by an appropriate amount of bang, so to speak, as the game's combat and gameplay are - for the lack of a better term - rather basic. It's an FPS, so you have the genre staples of an assault rifle, but you also have a bow and sling that can fire arrows and lobbed projectiles, respectively. These, along with your armor, can be upgraded and re-equipped with better versions, which serve as the faux progression system of the game.

It's cool and all, but the Horizon game series did it better. I do like that plenty of detail was incorporated into the combat and harvesting mechanics, though. Projectile arcs are taken into account, your firing stance while using the bow is appropriate to your style, and the sense of scale is appropriate to your Na'vi body's size. This only serves as a single island of effort in an ocean of slipshod implementation, however, and does little to save the game's combat and gameplay from being a total snoozefest.
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I'll be hazarding an attempt at a movie review to better get my point across. This game is similar to 2022's Avatar: The Way of Water in that it is a far superior sensory experience than it is a narrative one. I suppose Ubisoft had to cut corners somewhere, it's a shame that it had to be the game's core gameplay. I'll tell you one thing, however, if they doubled down and made this a more exploration-centric game, they'd be raking in accolades. For now, though, that perfect score is as out of reach as Unobtainium.

Pros of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Things Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Got Right
Checkmark Staggeringly Beautiful Visuals
Checkmark Acute Attention to Detail
Checkmark World-Building Masterclass

Staggeringly Beautiful Visuals

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The RDA will be driven out of Pandora before people stop praising this game's visuals, and rightly so. Among the many triple-A titles to come out recently, I rank this as one of the best the industry has ever made, at least in terms of world design. Granted, it's probably the lowest among the greats, but it's up there with them regardless. All it takes is one sweeping shot of the Pandoran horizon to convince me that this was a thriving, biodiverse world, and I think that has to count for something.

Acute Attention to Detail

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This is a criterion often forgotten by critics because it's all about graphics nowadays, but all the pixels and polygons in the world mean nothing in a static environment. If you are to make a believable world with many moving pieces, it's all about the details and this game has it in spades.

It's the little things that make everything feel real. Arrows arc and drop realistically depending on how you are from your target; you take damage from hitting things barehanded sometimes; taking plant parts has its own minigame to prevent you from hurting Eywa and her creations; bioluminescent plants and animals populate the shaded areas of the forest; shooting human targets with spear-sized arrows kills them instantly; these are just a few of the many details that the game took time to get right, just so you can fully immerse yourself in this wild frontier.

I don't know about you, but I have the sudden urge to run through the forest all of a sudden.

World-Building Masterclass

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This game isn't a sequel or a prequel to either of the main Avatar movies. Rather, it occupies an obscure niche in the timeline where it runs concurrently with both movies, albeit from a different, separate perspective. This is a prime opportunity to build on the narrative set by the movies, and I think this game did so rather beautifully through its original story. Without spoiling too much, your character is a member of a clan that was thought to be long lost by the other tribes of Pandora. You were captured as a child and brought up on human customs before you managed to escape as an adult.

Jake Sully and the Omaticaya clan (the tribe from the first movie) drove the RDA forces out of Pandora 16 years ago, but now they're back and it'll be up to you and your siblings to defend Pandora once more. The new clan is fleshed out extremely well and the way people interact with a member of a long-lost clan is believable. I value world-building highly when it comes to storytelling and this game managed to impress. It's not the greatest of all time, but you'd be remiss to not take notes.

Cons of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Things That Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review Can Improve
Checkmark Pacing is Inconsistent
Checkmark UI Looks Horrendous
Checkmark Gaming Takes a Backseat

Pacing is Inconsistent

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A sprawling world full of stories is bound to run into some time constraints, however, and this much is true for the earlier parts of the game. Bogged down by exposition, the game's introduction lasts a good 15 or so minutes without allowing the player to do anything. After that, it's a high-octane freerun across the Pandoran greenscape for a few hours, before slowing back down whenever there's a cutscene. This kind of narrative whiplash will do a number on anyone looking to immerse themselves in the majesty of the planet's ambiance, myself included. All this is made worse by the god-awful fade-in and fade-out transitions that bookend every cutscene. It's a minor gripe, but it does make the game look cheaper than it is.

UI Looks Horrendous

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You may have seen the prelude to the absolute smackdown I'm about to deliver to the game's UI, but the main event's here, so let's get to it. This game's UI looks awful. Plain and simple. It tries very hard to assimilate itself into the world of the game by presenting itself as a "soul inventory" of some sort, bordered by wispy lines and ethereal imagery. This effort comes up short, however, and makes the game look like a default menu screen to a knock-off game console.

I know it's significant to the Na'vi's identity, but I'm not a fan of the blue and white gradient that permeates it as well. And don't even get me started on the atrocity of your headache-inducing "Na'vi Senses", which you use 90% of the time whenever you're out in the wilderness. It's blue, it's ugly, and for some reason, I can barely see it through the foliage while running a hundred miles per hour.

Gaming Takes a Backseat

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This game's greatest sin is that it made its visuals stunning at the cost of its gameplay, which -as we've seen with the Horizon and God of War series- isn't strictly necessary. Combat is one note, despite allowing you several avenues of engagement. Progression is level-gated across areas, forcing you to grind and tough it out in the jungle if you wish to progress the story. Upgrades and skill trees are only marginally helpful. A little more development could have bagged this game a few more accolades, but it will have to rely on its great visuals for the time being.

Is Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Worth It?

Yes, But It's Going to Cost You a Pretty Penny

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This is a triple-A title by an industry giant, so it's rather unsurprising that the base game alone would set you back a hefty $70. If you can muster that wad of cash (plus a bit more if your PC setup can't handle it), then you're well on your way to a Pandoran getaway. The gameplay, while boring, is passable enough to keep you entertained. At the very least, your slog through Pandora will take the scenic route, and you'd never be without a cool plant or alien deer to ooh and ahh over.

Platform Price
xxx Platform IconEpic Games Store $69.99
xxx Platform IconPSN $69.99

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Overview & Premise

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a story about culture, identity, and people, starting with you. You were stolen from your people at a young age and reared in the ways of the "Sky People". They were driven away long ago, but now they're back, and only you can help the Rebellion in combating their continued exploitation of your home planet.

Oel ngati kameie (I see you), child of Pandora. Will you protect your home in the name of Eywa?

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora FAQ

Who is The Main Character of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora?

The protagonist of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an unnamed Na'vi of indeterminate sex who serves as the game's player character. This character is never given a proper name, nor is the player prompted to rename them at any point in the story. The fandom Wiki for the Avatar IP lists this character as "Frontiers Protagonist".

Will Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Release on Steam?

There are currently no official announcements regarding the game's release on Steam or other platforms.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Product Information

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora Cover
Title AVATAR: FRONTIERS OF PANDORA
Release Date December 7, 2023
Developer Massive Entertainment, Lightstorm Entertainment
Publisher Ubisoft
Supported Platforms PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Action, Adventure
Number of Players 1-2
ESRB Rating Teen
Official Website Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Website
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