Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review | Shallow Lands of Beauty

Is this trip to Pandora worth your time?
Avatar Frontiers of Pandora open world
Image via Ubisoft

When anyone discusses Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, they liken it to the Far Cry franchise, which is arguably one of Ubisoft’s biggest hits. After spending extensive time exploring Pandora for myself, I can see the comparisons. But Avatar is unique enough to stand up on its own in many places, too. For example, the world is one of the most gorgeous I’ve had the pleasure of exploring in video games, and the movement is fluid and exciting, but is it enough to wander a beautiful world with little to do?

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A Land of Beauty

I want to start on a high note. One of the biggest boons Avatar has going for it is in its world design. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve played many open-world games over the years, but none have drawn me in quite like Pandora. It helps that the movement is so fluid while exploring. As you scale the floating mountains, trek through rivers, and leap over roots, you feel like Na’vi. You become one with the world itself. It’s a level of immersion I find unparalleled. You almost feel at home. It’s where you belong like you’re part of The People. The flow is so natural that I can’t help but applaud Ubisoft for capturing this almost magical feeling of being one with Pandora.

But I digress. Pandora is sprawling, with gloomy swamps, rich rainforests, soaring mountaintops, and gorgeous flora that reacts to your touch and movements.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. My biggest gripe with the game’s visuals stems from nighttime. It’s as if a filter were overlayed across the HUD. The result is a muddy and blurry experience that occasionally proves uncomfortable. Where daytime is clear, brilliant, and extravagant in its own ways, nighttime doesn’t feel worth exploring. I’d rather sleep through the nighttime hours and skip back to morning.

The world of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is its most significant selling point, but I wish there were more to see and do throughout it. Please give me a reason not to hop on the back of my Ikran and float over the treetops from quest to quest.

A Land of Mud

Where Pandora’s bright, colorful visuals shine through as breathtaking, much of the content falls by the wayside in the mud beneath your blue-colored feet. The story itself, the main campaign missions in which you ignite a fire within the clans to bolster the resistance and fight back against the RDA, prove exceptional in many ways. It’s a tale as old as time. I typically enjoyed many of the story quests, with quite a few being memorable despite the tens of hours it took to finish the story.

For instance, in all my years of gaming, too few experiences stuck with me quite like the climb to the Ikran Rookery. As you leap across open air and clamber up the side of a flying mountain, your death waiting with one misstep, it’s exhilarating. I took many screenshots as if I were a tourist visiting a world wonder.

But my qualm is with the side content. The countless side quests you stumble upon feel like filler. They were not memorable in the slightest. The world itself, while beautiful, feels shallow. You walk or ride from point A to point B, dodging over and under tree roots and occasionally running from predators, but you won’t find much along the way. There are too few points of interest. The occasional RDA mining operation or radio base, which starkly contrasts the Pandoran landscape, is spread thin. There are over 20 installations and 19 outposts to tackle, but it doesn’t feel like it. The world itself is massive, and that actually hurts the experience despite the overwhelming beauty.

Now, side content wouldn’t be enough to draw people like me away from a game, typically speaking. The issue with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora’s side content is that it’s not always optional. I was soft-locked from progressing while working on the main storyline because my power level was too low. I instead had to ignore the thrilling story to focus on gathering, crafting, and side quests. Most side content revolves around speaking to one person at point A, visiting point B, sometimes firing a single arrow, and returning to the quest giver.

Along these same pathways between objectives, you may stumble upon Na’vi out hunting or gathering. They usually have a snippet of dialogue for you in passing, generally asking why you’re standing so close. Some will even provide you with a rare resource on occasion. But there is no discernible way to tell as the resistance grows in strength. There is no increased Na’vi presence.

The many great trees, lakes, herds of wild fauna, flower-laden swamps, and plants that react to your presence were gorgeous and seemingly designed for screenshots on Instagram. I hope there’s more to see and do when an expansion or two hits.

And yes, I realize my gripes about the lack of meaningful content in the game world boil down to lore purposes. After all, the RDA is an invading force on this once-pristine planet. They don’t have quite the foothold yet, but this is a video game; we need more fun objectives to tackle!

Swift Like the Wind

With the negativity aside, I’d like to highlight another high point for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, and that’s in its movement. As I mentioned briefly, as you move through the forests, swamps, and along the plains to the north, you feel like Na’vi. This is because of the exceptional movement system Ubisoft has crafted. It’s incredibly fluid.

There were very few instances in which I felt lost, like I wasn’t progressing to my next objective, while traversing the landscape. I would sprint between a copse of trees, leap high up to the roots of a massive tree, and soar up into the sky using a vine. It felt genuine. It felt fun.

You will sprint, climb, jump, slide, fly, ride, and more during your time with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The only aspect of movement that felt awkward, but not enough to ruin the experience whatsoever, was riding on the back of a Direhorse. That felt somewhat clunky but still swift enough to become fun.

However, if I could change one thing about the movement, it would be the Ikran’s flying speed. The studio clearly wanted to convey a sense of speed, with the wind blowing past you via visual queues, but it felt slow at times.

The Sounds of Pandora

I want to close out by discussing the audio of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. This is yet another high point, and, like much of the game’s design, the studio put immense effort into crafting an immersive environment through careful worldbuilding.

As you wander through the woods, you hear everything. The breeze blowing between the branches, the grunt of a Sturmbeest in the distance, the low growl of a predator in the underbrush, the occasional Na’vi chattering away about the berries before them. It’s a lot to take in, but it helps craft one of the most immersive worlds I’ve explored. It rivals some of my favorite open-world titles in terms of immersion.

A World I Want More From

If you’ve made it here, then you know I have high praise for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora’s game world, audio design, immersion, movement system, and even its main quest at times. But these exceptional systems become bogged down when you realize there’s little to tackle outside the main content. The side content is lackluster, the enemy bases are too sparse, and some minor tweaks here and there would go a long way to crafting a truly exceptional game.

That’s not to say Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is bad in any way. It’s a fine open-world game that is magnificent from a visual standpoint. But the gameplay itself plays it far too safe. It’s the same formulaic open world we’ve come to expect from Ubisoft but somehow dialed back.

It’s a fun popcorn game that will last any fan of the genre or studio for a single playthrough, at the very least.

7
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora
An exceptionally detailed game world with a strong focus on immersion and beauty instead of the underlying gameplay mechanics that would keep people playing past a single playthrough.
Pros
  • Fantastic characters and voice acting
  • Gorgeous game world
  • One of the most immersive environments I've personally played
  • Movement is fluid and solid, an absolute high point for the game
  • Soundtrack is fitting, beautiful, and exciting at the right times
Cons
  • The story has high highs and low lows
  • Side content is bland and forgettable
  • Gameplay in the open-world boils down to travel with little to do between objectives
  • Too few RDA bases or installations to mix things up
A copy of this game was provided for review. Reviewed on PC.
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Author
Brandon Morgan
From Company of Heroes to DayZ, Brandon immerses himself wholly in video game worlds, then sits down to write about them. Since 2012, Brandon has focused on providing top-tier video game guides of his favorite games and the hottest releases. The more lore and immersion in the game, the better!