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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora - Video Review

We share our thoughts on Massive's action-adventure game, which is set in James Cameron's sci-fi universe.

Audio transcription

"When it was announced that Ubisoft Massive and James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment were working together on a big-budget, completely unique video game set in the Avatar universe, it didn't take long for people to start anticipating and building up their hopes and expectations for this game.
Avatar Frontiers of Pandora takes players to an entirely new part of the alien moon. Set in the western frontier, this game is all about rediscovering your Na'vi roots by going on a journey as a young warrior who spent their childhood trapped and being trained by the invading human RDA faction to ultimately be used as weapons against the indigenous people of Pandora."

"It's effectively the same story that the original Avatar looked to tell, except instead of the protagonist being a human in an Avatar body, you are an actual Na'vi that has been isolated and cut from their own world and heritage.
The storyline works, but it's not exactly the main driving force for this game. You follow events that take you across the three major biomes of the western frontier to meet different clans and Na'vi warriors, all while working with good humans to protect the planet from the RDA's destructive efforts.
It's a narrative that slots in without concern, but it also never really dares to surprise. Rather, the game expects your exploration and experience in the open world of Pandora to be the primary wowing factor."

"Pandora is a big world with lots of verticality, and the climbing and movement system is incredibly well designed and allows you to treat the world like one big playground.
The combat on the other hand is all about using your warrior of two worlds setup to overcome threats. Between traditional Na'vi weapons that are great for more precise and stealthy attacks, to RDA firearms and explosives for when things get hairy, the combat is surprisingly deep and challenging for that matter.
While Frontiers of Pandora may look like a Far Cry game, it doesn't really play like one in practice. This isn't a title where you can run and gun and blow up every problem. If you try, you will die."

"This game asks you to lean on Na'vi warrior skills and abilities to sneak, silently take down and even use RDA tech to hack systems to overcome threats.
With a bunch of skill trees packed with perks that further enhance the various different elements of how your Na'vi operates, you can really build out a playstyle that suits the way you want to approach the adventure.
Yet, there's a catch. Because while the core gameplay edits fundamentals work, the quest design and open world activities are about as Ubisoft as they get. You'll be expected to travel the broad open world to shut down RDA bases and to interact with a whole bunch of collectible-like objects."

"After a few hours exploring the world, the allure of travelling between markers on the world map wears off, and instead you're left disjointed with how to spend your time beyond simply following the main quest line.
Sure, there are side quests to explore, but don't expect to be wowed with broad and sprawling side stories here. They are usually quite basic and serve to simply bolster the duration of the game.
But here's the thing. Despite its rather elementary gameplay design that often leans too heavily on familiar Ubisoft open world tropes and exploration that is dependent on the player's ability and desire to wander off the beaten path, Frontiers of Pandora does manage to capture that sense of awe and wonder that has always managed to excel with this franchise."

"That first moment where you step out into the open world and get a breath of the Pandoran fresh air, or when you first reach a new major biome that makes you realise just how unique and varied this alien moon truly is, it's an experience and emotion that is about as avatar as it can get.
Massive's huge effort to make this world feel alive, vibrant and unique cannot go unnoticed. There is far more good than bad in this game. Gliding through the clouds on an Ikran, taking down massive creatures as humanely and quickly as possible, breaking and smashing up RDA tech of a behemoth size."

"It's all thoroughly and authentically avatar and Massive hasn't missed a beat in this regard. Yet there are other parts beyond the quest design and open world activities that don't fit. Why this game needed a loot tier system baffles us. Why gears, items and resources need to have a rarity factor is beyond us because it seems it is only present so that Massive can force you to hunt down the perfect version of a fruit or animal hide that you need to craft the exquisite version of that armour piece you've been after.
Match this up with stealth that is pretty much instant fail and then the performance issues which largely revolve around textures and objects popping in and character models disappearing and you get a game that is propped up by its truly remarkable world design and core gameplay and then held back by nearly every other factor."

"Avatar Frontiers of Pandora has a lot going for it and the game should be celebrated for that alone. If you adore or simply enjoy Cameron's sci-fi world you will appreciate your time in this action adventure title. But if you were hoping that you would see the impact and talent of Massive shining through introducing new unique and game changing mechanics and systems you'll be sorely disappointed.
Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a fun and beautiful game, one that has a very high attention to detail in how its world is offered. But beyond that it's a bit of a mixed bag."

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