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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Impressions - Far Cry meets Mirror's Edge?

We've seen a bunch of Massive's Pandoran adventure in a hands-off gameplay walkthrough session with the studio's creative director.

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I'll be honest, I don't know how Massive Entertainment is managing it. Somehow, this talented team is set to deliver not only a new Star Wars game next year, but to also debut its long-awaited and anticipated Avatar video game this December. Yep, that's right, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will be landing on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series consoles on December 7, 2023, and with the launch planned for this winter, as part of their presence at "not E3" this year, Ubisoft and Massive has shown off a ton of the upcoming project.

As part of a hands-off gameplay walkthrough, led by creative director Magnus Jansen (who you can catch our full interview with soon!), Massive revealed a ton of additional information about the project. Set in a new continent on the western frontier of Pandora, not (yet) touched by James Cameron's film series, Frontiers of Pandora will be set alongside the movies in a timeline sense. You start the story as a young Na'Vi who has been abducted by the RDA with the intention of being trained in human ways and then turned against your Na'Vi people. However, following the Battle of the Halleluiah Mountains at the end of Avatar, which saw the RDA leaving Pandora, you were put into cryostasis and left for 15 years until the RDA returned as we see in Way of Water. From here, you manage to escape into the wilderness and begin to see the way the mega corporation has been affecting the environment and wildlife and thus begin your efforts at fighting back and reclaiming your home planet from the human invaders.

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Some of you may be thinking that this sounds a lot like the concept behind one of Ubisoft's other major franchises, Far Cry, and for what it's worth, the gameplay seems to reflect that. You have to destroy human locations and outposts to cleanse their presence from Pandora so that the planet can heal, you can approach the world in the way that suits you (stealthily or head on) all while using a collection of different types of weapons, and as the gameplay is in first-person it's all designed to feel immersive. Ubisoft didn't allow me to actually play the game at this preview, so it's hard to tell how the open world works and if it is in effect a Far Cry game set on Pandora, but the premise seems to check a lot of familiar boxes.

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But where Frontiers of Pandora is looking to set itself apart from Far Cry is in the movement and the world design itself. As a Na'Vi, agility and strength are key, and so you can climb, slide, and leap around the world in a way that reminds me of the parkour systems used in the Mirror's Edge games at times. And this is all a necessity because Pandora isn't a flat landscape tattooed with asphalt and dirt tracks, no, it's a world full of life and colour and truly breath-taking set pieces and vistas.

The world is split into three mains biomes; there's a forest that borders some floating mountains as seen in the movies, there's the Clouded Forest that is more mysterious and foggier, and then there are the Upper Plains, which is a grassland-like area. Each biome is inhabited by its own Na'Vi clan, a group of individuals who will help you reconnect with your cultural roots and teach you the skills necessary for surviving on Pandora. To add to this, the biomes will be littered with familiar and new kinds of flora and fauna, many of which can be interacted with to gather materials required for crafting.

Since the Na'Vi aren't a greedy species, the resource gathering system isn't about picking up everything that isn't nailed down, it's more about finding the exact item or resource for what you are attempting to create. And this can be done in a more meaningful way once you have removed the RDA presence from a local area, as that way Pandora will heal and provide resources, food, and other items of a higher quality. And yes, for those wondering about the mention of food, there will be a cooking suite in Frontiers of Pandora, with these providing ways for players to grant stat bonuses to and effects temporarily to their character.

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When it comes to combat and taking on the world of Pandora, players will have access to both Na'Vi and human weapons. As the player's character is a child of two worlds if you will, similar to Jake Sully in a way, you can use bows and staffs like a Na'Vi warrior for stealth and powerful close-quarters actions, or instead whip out assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers and more to turn human technology against them. Weapons will be accessible through a weapon wheel, meaning you will have access to lots of different tools at all times when exploring the open world.

As for enemies, on top of the dangerous animals that call Pandora home, the RDA threat will be the main problem you have to overcome. Human soldiers, armoured mech suits, helicopters, if you've seen it in the movies, it's probably somewhere in Frontiers of Pandora as well. Thankfully, you won't be expected to take all of these threats on alone, as you can bond with the Direhorse to quickly travel around the world, and even make the bond for life with your very own, personal Ikran. The Ikran, as they are special to you, will be open to customisation as well, allowing you to outfit them with cosmetics such as saddles and so forth. It's also worth noting that while Frontiers of Pandora is a first-person game, the animal riding will be in third-person, giving you a broader view of the striking world. Oh, and did I mention that there will even be drop-in, drop-out cooperative available in-game, meaning you can bring a friend along for the journey.

While there is a core storyline at the centre of Frontiers of Pandora, it will be in a way unique to you. At the start of the game, you get to create your own Na'Vi, who you get to experience the entire game as, meaning unlike Far Cry and its clear protagonist characters, Frontiers of Pandora is an adventure that is driven by your personal character.

Without being able to actually play Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, I can't yet tell you specifically how it feels to play or how strong its connections with Far Cry gameplay is, but what I can say from what I've seen is that the game does seem to still be capturing that Avatar wonder and theme of discovery. Will the gameplay be able to merge with the concept to make a complete and thrilling experience? We'll just have to find out when Frontiers of Pandora arrives in December.

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Avatar: Frontiers of PandoraScore

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Massive's take on James Cameron's sci-fi series is here, but does it tread new ground like we've come to expect from the developer or is it instead a Far Cry from its typical work.



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