Review: 'Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora' – Help the Na’vi save their planet

With Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Ubisoft is letting fans of James Cameron's blockbuster sequel explore the world from the big screen and join the battle to protect the Na'vi way of life. Can it live up to the film? — Photos: 20th Century Studios/Ubisoft Entertainment/dpa

BERLIN: Avatar is a phenomenon. The two sci-fi movies by Hollywood star director James Cameron have broken records at the box office.

No wonder then that video game publisher Ubisoft wants to get in on the action and has released Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora for PCs and consoles.

Developed together with the studio Massive Entertainment, the result is a huge open-world adventure for fans of games in the style of Horizon Forbidden West and Far Cry.

At the beginning of the game, the adventures of the movies’ hero Jake Scully are still a long way off. On the planet Pandora, the ruthless humans are engaged in a bitter battle with the indigenous Na'vi, who want to protect their planet from exploitation and destruction.

Deep down in the sea in 'Frontiers of Pandora'.Deep down in the sea in 'Frontiers of Pandora'.

The players take on the role of a Na'vi who awakens after spending fifteen years in suspended animation. In the dense jungle of Pandora he has to unite the indigenous tribes so that they can repel the invaders with their combined forces.

Visually stunning

Traditionally, film adaptations have had a bad reputation in the games world but Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora shows that it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Spectacular action scenes and a visually magnificent implementation of Pandora's environment should delight both film and genre fans.

'Frontiers of Pandora' thrives on great spectacles of nature.'Frontiers of Pandora' thrives on great spectacles of nature.

However, there's a lack of originality in terms of game play. Much of it is reminiscent of well-known games such as Far Cry, Assassin's Creed, and Horizon Forbidden West.

If you want, you can experience the adventure in co-op mode together with other players. It doesn't matter whether you’re on a PC or a console, because Frontiers of Pandora supports cross-platform gaming.

One main story, many side quests

In the first-person perspective, players search the jungle with bows and arrows, hunt animals and destroy enemy bases. As is usual with an open-world game, in addition to the main story, there are numerous side quests in which players have to help their tribe or procure raw materials.

A Na'vi approaches a flying dragon in 'Frontiers of Pandora'.A Na'vi approaches a flying dragon in 'Frontiers of Pandora'.

In these side quests, players find new equipment, create tools or improve their fighting skills. They also get their own Ikran, a type of kite with which they can cover long distances and scout out enemies from the air.

In order to balance the unequal fight against machine guns, attack helicopters, and weapon-packed walking robots called Mechs, the Na'vi rely on their special sense of survival, which acts like an X-ray machine and reveals their opponents' weak points. With a well-aimed bow shot at the right part of a mech, the fight is quickly over.

Spectacular action, routine gameplay

The developers at Massive Entertainment, who previously gained a lot of experience in the action genre with the dystopian The Division games, have designed the fight scenes to be spectacular.

The invading human aircraft and machines are not welcome on Pandora.The invading human aircraft and machines are not welcome on Pandora.

When the players glide elegantly under a door, aim at the pilot of a helicopter gunship in flight, and blow up drilling rigs, even spoiled genre fans will surely be impressed.

On the other hand, there's a lack of variety in the long run. The game doesn't leave the familiar genre paths and anyone who has ever played an open-world action adventure will not find anything new in terms of gameplay in Frontiers of Pandora.

But the visual implementation compensates for the rather old-fashioned gameplay, for example the spectacular imagery as players hover with their Ikrans over the impressive terrain of Pandora. The game also makes a clear statement about environmental destruction.

Hovering over the planet on an Ikran is one of the highlights of 'Frontiers of Pandora'.Hovering over the planet on an Ikran is one of the highlights of 'Frontiers of Pandora'.

With this message, impressive images, and spectacular action scenes, Massive Entertainment has created an exciting open-world adventure.

Similarly to the movies, it’s not original ideas that make Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora an experience. The focus is on the tried and tested, which is impressively implemented with visual and technical sophistication.

The game is available for PCs, the PlayStation 5, and the Xbox Series X/S and costs around €70/US$70 (RM229 in Malaysia) for the standard edition. – dpa

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