I’m not going to lie, I’m not the biggest fan of the Avatar films. I saw the first one at the cinema on more than one occasion but it was the amazing 3D that kept dragging my back and I still haven’t gotten around to watching the second film even though it’s on Disney+ and easily accessible.
It’s not that I don’t like the world, the characters or the visual effects and story, it’s just that I just don’t “love” it like I do other franchises. I mean the first film is one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who says their favourite movie is Avatar.
That being said, I’ve now played the new Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora video game on Xbox Series X and it is actually a surprisingly solid and enjoyable experience.
When I think about it it makes sense as well. James Cameron’s whole world of Pandora really lends itself to the video game experience. Having Massive Entertainment in charge of building the title is also a stroke of genius, the team behind such grand open world titles like Tom Clancy’s The Division and the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws publish with Ubisoft who are famous for games like Far Cry and that’s really what this game is. Far Cry: Pandora.
That is actually the highest compliment I could give a game. The Far Cry series is one of my all time favourite franchises and this game takes a lot of elements from those titles making it feel at times you are playing Far Cry Primal, and I’m here for it.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a first person adventure game where you play a Na’vi abducted by the human militaristic corporation known as the RDA and trained to serve their purpose. I won’t go into the details but fifteen years later, you are free and ready to fight for your home. However you find yourself a stranger in your birthplace, torn between two worlds, the one you were ripped from as a child and the one you grew up brainwashed and trained as a weapon.
Over the game you learn to reconnect with your lost heritage, discover what it truly means to be Na’vi, and join other clans to protect Pandora from the RDA.
Ubisoft knows how to make a world big, and Avatar is no stranger to that. The glorious forests of Pandora are alive with various types of alien flora and fauna with unique healing and crafting abilities. Some of them must be imported from Australia cause they are just out to kill you, but ultimately it’s up to you as a Na’vi to navigate the ecosystem and provide a balance. Picking the fruit of the plants is a really clever experience as you pull the fruit around to release it from it’s sticky enclosure. In any other game this would be a lock picking mechanic, so to see it used in this way was a nice breath of fresh Pandora air.
This is a never before seen area of Pandora in the Western Frontier but the rebellion has spread across the land and you hear about the exploits of its origin tying into the movies with tales of the great Jake Sully (playing in the film by Sam Worthington).
Playing as a powerful giant Na’vi gives you great pleasure moments as you wack the humans across the combat zone. You tower above them but also move with great stealth and use your agility to move quickly through tree tops. At the end of the day, these humans are here to destroy your planet in much the same way they did their own planet Earth through mining of natural resources. They deserve everything that’s coming to them. The bad ones anyone, not the ones that decide to join the resistance.
Combat allows you multiple weapon types as you learn to craft the weapons of your culture and at the same time use humanities weapons against them. Throughout the game I much preferred using the tribal weapons like the bow and spears. Choosing a more stealth-like approach until I needed to go in guns blazing. But learning to control your Na’vi definitely has its benefits and upgrading the weapons to their more powerful version is always worth the time it takes to get there.
Once you bond with your Banshee (Ikran in Na’vi, a winged Dragon like creature) the game really takes flight. It easily becomes the most fun and convenient way to travel. The power of the relationship comes from the moments where you leap off a cliff and have your trusted winged beast catch you before you hit the ground. It’s a sense of action you need to experience to understand.
There are other creatures you can ride through the game as well, but once you have your Ikran there’s no real substitute and you tend to only rely on the other creatures for missions that require it.
Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a game worth your time even if you only liked the movies. The vast alien landscape is beautiful from the very moment you set eyes on it. There is a really strong amount of side quests to give your game longevity with exploration and discovery being just as important to the experience as combat. I liken this title to Far Cry because I love those games and I feel that same energy when I play this. A good first person shooter adventure title that has been so enjoyable that it has made me want to go and watch the second film to see what I’ve missed out on. I’m not saying I love the franchise, but I might have more respect for it now.
Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is available now on Xbox, PS5 and PC.