avatar frontiers of pandora

Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora Preview – An Epic Trip Back To Pandora

Avatar Cry.

When Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was originally revealed, my mind raced as the possibilities of what the game could be. What I expected it to be and what I’ve learned that it is are two completely different things, however that’s not at all negative.

You’ll perhaps hear it described as a first-person shooter, which might be fair, given the focus on armed combat, whether it be with military-grade arms or traditional Na’vi tools, however Frontiers of Pandora appears to be so much more than that.

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It’s an open-world adventure taking place on the western frontier, a yet to be charted slice of Pandora. The Na’vi you play is described as a “child of two worlds” after her abduction at an early age by John Mercer as part of his plan to train and leverage a native military against their own kind. However, after the RDA’s withdrawal following their defeat during the Battle of the Hallelujah Mountains, the player-character is placed in cryosleep for fifteen years. After she wakes, it’s discovered that Mercer is back which serves as a catalyst for her journey to save Pandora while understanding her place in it.

Being an entirely original character whose own heritage is foreign to her, she’ll undoubtedly serve as the perfect, excuse me, avatar for the player to immerse themselves in a world they’re discovering together. It doesn’t sound as though there’ll be much in terms of crossover, despite occupying the same point in time as last year’s Avatar sequel The Way of Water. The team were far more interested in creating original characters, clans, and exploring never-before-seen parts of Pandora.

Developed in collaboration with those behind the films, Lightstorm and Disney, Frontiers of Pandora appears to stay true to everything the franchise has stood for since its inception. It’s familiar while being distinctly new, it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, and it has the same passion for environmentalism weaved into both the narrative and certain gameplay elements.

Having been weaponised by man, it’s unfortunate for Mercer and his men that our hero is extremely proficient in using their own weapons against them. However, she’ll also learn to use more traditional Na’vi tools like a variety of bows throughout the journey. Unsurprisingly, the combat shown looked fun, and there appears to be a decent variety of things to fight, from foot soldiers to military exoskeletons. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of the planet’s huge range of fauna dished up a hostile welcome.

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While you’re able to go the loud approach, there’s also a bit of a focus on cunning stealth and the game seems to give you an opportunity to experiment a bit with regards to that. There are also skill pathways and upgrades that will help spec your Na’vi out for whatever proficiency you’re leaning on, whether it be stealth, outright attack, or mobility.

As a Ubisoft title, it’ll come as no surprise that this western front is a big world with plenty to do. A couple of the things the team focused on, mechanically, reminded me a lot of what Far Cry has become in its last couple of iterations. You’ll dismantle enemy bases, which in turn will end their pollution and commence the planet’s healing. And you’ll be able to craft gear, cobble together weapons, and cook using things found and harvested from the world. In the interest of the sustainability message at the game’s heart, the game rewards a careful and sensible harvest.

One of the coolest things shown in our presentation was definitely the Ikran, your banshee mount that you’ll pair and bond with throughout the game’s story. There’s no better way to appreciate the incredible attention to detail within the environment than take to the skies on your mount. The game is genuinely beautiful, plucking some of the most iconic scenery from the big screen, such as the floating mountains, and making them explorable, complete with breathtaking foliage and reactive flora. Outside of moments where you might be without your mount, you’ll be able to fly absolutely anywhere. And, while not always recommended, you can jump off at any stage, though I’m not sure I ever will with how insanely fun it looks to soar.

The game can be played either one your own or co-op with one other player. We didn’t really learn a whole lot about how that’d work within the narrative or whether it might change up the core loop itself, but it’s a comfort knowing it’ll be there day one when you pick up the game later this year.

If you’re after another robust open-world to explore, there’s going to be few prettier than this Pandora. It has also become apparent that Avatar, as a franchise, are definitely holiday-conquerors and look to occupy that end-of-year window. Frontiers could be the epic trip back to Pandora that people need to keep the series front-of-mind before the third movie hits next year.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora releases December 7, 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.


The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Ubisoft for the purposes of this preview.