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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora review and release date: Is the game worth buying?

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Since the original Avatar movie was released in 2009 fans have been captivated by the vibrancy and beauty of Pandora.

Coinciding with the film’s release was a video game aptly titled Avatar: The Game.

The original release was a third-person action game that had branching storylines, allowing you to play as either a human or Na’vi.

Watch the latest News on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>

But if reviews from the time are any indication, it was chalked up as a boring and uninspired gaming experience.

The 2009 game didn’t impress many game reviewers at the time. Credit: GameSpot

And now, a year after the release of the original film’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, there is a new game.

Massive Entertainment’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora changes the original perspective to first-person and locates the player in an open world game, allowing you to go wherever you please and truly explore the world of Pandora.

Players now explore the open world of Pandora from a first-person perspective. Credit: Supplied

So, is this the game that will satisfy the hunger of Avatar fans who waited over a decade for the next movie instalment and a game to go with it?

The short answer is yes.

Blurry Origins

As the game begins, you are introduced to your character — a young Na’vi who has been taken in and trained by the human organisation known as the Resources Development Administration (RDA).

According to the RDA, you were abandoned by your clan, but given the trigger-happy and deceitful nature of the RDA, I was inclined to believe they were lying.

Following the naughty things that Jake Sully did in the original Avatar movie, in order to escape the RDA, you and your fellow Na’vi friends secretly enter cryosleep during the chaos of a messy evacuation. Mystery surrounds your origins as you wake up 16 years later in an abandoned and decaying RDA facility.

Light at the end of the tunnel as you escape the RDA facility. Credit: Supplied

Following an intense escape from the old facility, you are left to explore the world of Pandora, meet with various Na’vi clans and eventually push back against the RDA’s exploitative activities.

However, being an open world game, your timeliness in this push back is completely up to you and if you would rather jump around the trees, hunt wildlife, or forage for fine fruits, that is your prerogative.

Controlling your ‘Avatar’

The first-person perspective of the game puts you in direct control of the protagonist, and the game has a strong focus on free exploration.

As long as you can see a pathway, chances are you can climb to the top of any tall rock, tree or waterfall. However, you must be wary as there is indeed fall damage (don’t ask how I found out).

Your character does feel like a tall Na’vi as human-made structures will have you ducking through doorways, while the charged jump and terrain clamber that the character automatically does to climb up steep tree branches or high ledges really gives a sense of mobility superiority compared to your human counterparts.

There are many environmental details to explore and discover. Credit: Supplied

However, the mobility aspect of the game is somewhat held back by the first-person perspective. There is a reason why most games with a focus on fast free roaming are third-person action games.

While the first-person perspective is fine for jumping from tree to tree or across deep chasms, climbing and navigating a cliffside can be best recreated in real life by mashing your face up against a concrete wall. This did make finding the next ledge a bit of a pain as you’ll be looking up constantly for the next climbable rock ledge (or vertical tree branch for that matter).

However, this bugbear of first person cliff navigation is alleviated by the fact you can fly on the back of your very own dragon (or ikran according to Na’vi lore).

When controlling your ikran, the game shifts to a third-person perspective and you can dash, hover and dive around Pandora high in the sky.

Flying on your ikran will allow you to discover new places. Credit: Supplied

The flying mechanic is exhilarating and definitely the way I prefer exploring Pandora. But it bears mentioning that during my playthrough (with light side-questing) it took me around 6 to 7 hours before I adopted Floof (yes, I called my fierce ikran Floof). I get not showing all your best cards too early, but it would have been nice to get this earlier in the game.

Alongside the free roaming aspect, there is a strong emphasis on crafting. Much like in the movies, the Na’vi live off the natural resources of Pandora.

Crafting everything from basic arrows to clothing can be done using the flora and fauna of Pandora. Weapons and clothing can be found, crafted or purchased to customise your character and provide special stats including higher damage output or resistance to wildlife damage.

Your Na’vi protagonist also has a hunger meter, which will impact things such as your ability to regenerate health.

Food can be consumed raw, but you can get more out of it if you attempt to cook ingredients together to discover new recipes that may also provide temporary boosts to the player.

I appreciate a game that allows bad recipes that are still helpful (even though it will cause your character’s stomach to growl in protest). Frankly, I believe my egg and mushroom dish should have been a winner, but apparently in Pandora, that wasn’t the case.

If mushrooms and eggs can be found on an English breakfast, it should have been a winner recipe here! Credit: Supplied

However, despite the RPG elements of the game, the character creator for your Na’vi is limited, with three options with only subtle changes to the size or angles of features such as a nose or a mouth available.

It’s likely these limits were imposed to keep your character looking somewhat related to your clan kind and from a first-person perspective you’re not constantly seeing the character anyway, so I can forgive the light emphasis on the character creator.

One last thing to mention is Na’vi vision; a sort of ‘spider sense’ that allows you to inspect almost every aspect of the world and highlight important things such as quest objective markers and harvestable plants.

This is useful both in navigation and combat but I found myself forced to rely on it too heavily as the game insists on keeping the player’s screen free of as many HUD elements as possible.

The world of Pandora

The game does a good job of bringing the mythical world of Pandora to life, with strange vegetation and alien animals roaming around the landscape. With vibrant colours and textures all round, the player really does feel like they are in a living and breathing forest.

The lush environments found early on in the game. Credit: Supplied

Vegetation will react when you get close to it. Strange deer-esque animals will flee when they spot the player. Alongside this are more significant gameplay interactions such as vines that can be climbed to reach higher places and oversized flowers that will act as a trampoline for the player.

But with the shy, there are a fair few hostile plants and animals that can be found in the world, and you must be wary of being ambushed by wild dog-like creatures or stepping on poisonous roots. I found myself in quite the predicament after madly chasing butterflies that led me to a rare fruit next to two large and angry bull-like animals.

This vibrancy of Pandora is in stark contrast to the human structures, with mostly military gear being found scattered across the landscapes. The buildings are mostly various shades of gunmetal grey in contrast to the nature of Pandora.

This blandness is also contagious, as human activities such as a drilling mine will pollute the surrounding areas, leading to dying plant life and a noticeable absence of animals. However, this is where players can fight back against the RDA by sabotaging these facilities.

RDA activity such as this drill site pollute the surround areas to a dramatic degree. Credit: Supplied

These act as nice distractions from the main game, but I find it comical how fast the wildlife recovers after one of these structures has been removed (I guess to really hammer home the message of “human activity bad and exploitative, respect the planet”).

Becoming the hunter-gatherer

With the RDA being so ready to shoot any Na’vi on sight, it is only fair that you can do the same. You have your choice between more human weapons or more Na’vi centred weapons. When using something like an assault rifle, there does seem to be a certain unwieldiness to it (which I guess makes sense, as they were not designed for Na’vi to use).

In contrast, using your bow and arrow is where your strengths really show. With pinpoint accuracy, you can target weak points on stronger enemies to inflict massive damage. On the default difficulty, gunfire will cut through your health fairly quickly, so combat is usually best reserved for surprise attacks and evasions.

You can shoot enemies from the back of your ikran. Credit: Supplied

On the gathering side, there are various materials that can be harvested off plants involving a minigame where you need to push your mouse (or control stick) in the right direction to cleanly remove the fruit or stick.

For the most part, it’s fairly intuitive and the game does a good job of easing and signalling to the player how to do it and eventually, it will become muscle memory for many common items.

Gathering from animals is another story. There is a strong emphasis on clean kills as it will preserve the quality of hide or meat from the animal. Scanning for their weak spots and stealthily hunting your target will ensure a clean kill.

Closing Thoughts

It is hard to quantify the sets of emotions and feelings a game gives you into a number. It’s clear that the latest game has had a lot of time and effort put into bringing the world of Pandora to life. Colours are vibrant, environments are detailed and the simple act of traversing the terrain is quite satisfying.

The RPG elements help add to the depth of gameplay and there are extensive text entries for every aspect of the world for those super fans looking to learn more about the game. If you’re more interested in the crafting elements, you can go deeper into that. If you are focused on being a combat machine, you can hunt animals or RDA as much as you want.

There are many characters you will meet on your journey in Pandora. Credit: Supplied

But, the storyline as presented is a very familiar one, with very similar messaging that can be found in the movies. While not a bad storyline, it’s definitely not something I would say is investing or intriguing, given how many times this story has been told before.

The choice of a first-person perspective does undermine the movement in the game as well as the RPG elements of an individual character that you can call your own. Also, you will find yourself spamming the Na’vi vision near the start of the game to mark out anything in the environment, which can be repetitive.

But a game with dragons is always a good one (even though they are called ikran … the point is you get to fly).

Overall, I did find myself having fun with the game and there definitely seems to be hours of content to work through, so for fans of the Avatar franchise, I would recommend giving this one a go. After about 10 hours of play, I’m only 39 per cent through the main storyline … so definitely a lot to do.

The game is available on the 7th of December on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.


Since the original Avatar movie was released in 2009 fans have been captivated by the vibrancy and beauty of Pandora.

Coinciding with the film’s release was a video game aptly titled Avatar: The Game.

The original release was a third-person action game that had branching storylines, allowing you to play as either a human or Na’vi.

Watch the latest News on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>

But if reviews from the time are any indication, it was chalked up as a boring and uninspired gaming experience.

The 2009 game didn’t impress many game reviewers at the time. Credit: GameSpot

And now, a year after the release of the original film’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, there is a new game.

Massive Entertainment’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora changes the original perspective to first-person and locates the player in an open world game, allowing you to go wherever you please and truly explore the world of Pandora.

Players now explore the open world of Pandora from a first-person perspective. Credit: Supplied

So, is this the game that will satisfy the hunger of Avatar fans who waited over a decade for the next movie instalment and a game to go with it?

The short answer is yes.

Blurry Origins

As the game begins, you are introduced to your character — a young Na’vi who has been taken in and trained by the human organisation known as the Resources Development Administration (RDA).

According to the RDA, you were abandoned by your clan, but given the trigger-happy and deceitful nature of the RDA, I was inclined to believe they were lying.

Following the naughty things that Jake Sully did in the original Avatar movie, in order to escape the RDA, you and your fellow Na’vi friends secretly enter cryosleep during the chaos of a messy evacuation. Mystery surrounds your origins as you wake up 16 years later in an abandoned and decaying RDA facility.

Light at the end of the tunnel as you escape the RDA facility. Credit: Supplied

Following an intense escape from the old facility, you are left to explore the world of Pandora, meet with various Na’vi clans and eventually push back against the RDA’s exploitative activities.

However, being an open world game, your timeliness in this push back is completely up to you and if you would rather jump around the trees, hunt wildlife, or forage for fine fruits, that is your prerogative.

Controlling your ‘Avatar’

The first-person perspective of the game puts you in direct control of the protagonist, and the game has a strong focus on free exploration.

As long as you can see a pathway, chances are you can climb to the top of any tall rock, tree or waterfall. However, you must be wary as there is indeed fall damage (don’t ask how I found out).

Your character does feel like a tall Na’vi as human-made structures will have you ducking through doorways, while the charged jump and terrain clamber that the character automatically does to climb up steep tree branches or high ledges really gives a sense of mobility superiority compared to your human counterparts.

There are many environmental details to explore and discover. Credit: Supplied

However, the mobility aspect of the game is somewhat held back by the first-person perspective. There is a reason why most games with a focus on fast free roaming are third-person action games.

While the first-person perspective is fine for jumping from tree to tree or across deep chasms, climbing and navigating a cliffside can be best recreated in real life by mashing your face up against a concrete wall. This did make finding the next ledge a bit of a pain as you’ll be looking up constantly for the next climbable rock ledge (or vertical tree branch for that matter).

However, this bugbear of first person cliff navigation is alleviated by the fact you can fly on the back of your very own dragon (or ikran according to Na’vi lore).

When controlling your ikran, the game shifts to a third-person perspective and you can dash, hover and dive around Pandora high in the sky.

Flying on your ikran will allow you to discover new places. Credit: Supplied

The flying mechanic is exhilarating and definitely the way I prefer exploring Pandora. But it bears mentioning that during my playthrough (with light side-questing) it took me around 6 to 7 hours before I adopted Floof (yes, I called my fierce ikran Floof). I get not showing all your best cards too early, but it would have been nice to get this earlier in the game.

Alongside the free roaming aspect, there is a strong emphasis on crafting. Much like in the movies, the Na’vi live off the natural resources of Pandora.

Crafting everything from basic arrows to clothing can be done using the flora and fauna of Pandora. Weapons and clothing can be found, crafted or purchased to customise your character and provide special stats including higher damage output or resistance to wildlife damage.

Your Na’vi protagonist also has a hunger meter, which will impact things such as your ability to regenerate health.

Food can be consumed raw, but you can get more out of it if you attempt to cook ingredients together to discover new recipes that may also provide temporary boosts to the player.

I appreciate a game that allows bad recipes that are still helpful (even though it will cause your character’s stomach to growl in protest). Frankly, I believe my egg and mushroom dish should have been a winner, but apparently in Pandora, that wasn’t the case.

If mushrooms and eggs can be found on an English breakfast, it should have been a winner recipe here! Credit: Supplied

However, despite the RPG elements of the game, the character creator for your Na’vi is limited, with three options with only subtle changes to the size or angles of features such as a nose or a mouth available.

It’s likely these limits were imposed to keep your character looking somewhat related to your clan kind and from a first-person perspective you’re not constantly seeing the character anyway, so I can forgive the light emphasis on the character creator.

One last thing to mention is Na’vi vision; a sort of ‘spider sense’ that allows you to inspect almost every aspect of the world and highlight important things such as quest objective markers and harvestable plants.

This is useful both in navigation and combat but I found myself forced to rely on it too heavily as the game insists on keeping the player’s screen free of as many HUD elements as possible.

The world of Pandora

The game does a good job of bringing the mythical world of Pandora to life, with strange vegetation and alien animals roaming around the landscape. With vibrant colours and textures all round, the player really does feel like they are in a living and breathing forest.

The lush environments found early on in the game. Credit: Supplied

Vegetation will react when you get close to it. Strange deer-esque animals will flee when they spot the player. Alongside this are more significant gameplay interactions such as vines that can be climbed to reach higher places and oversized flowers that will act as a trampoline for the player.

But with the shy, there are a fair few hostile plants and animals that can be found in the world, and you must be wary of being ambushed by wild dog-like creatures or stepping on poisonous roots. I found myself in quite the predicament after madly chasing butterflies that led me to a rare fruit next to two large and angry bull-like animals.

This vibrancy of Pandora is in stark contrast to the human structures, with mostly military gear being found scattered across the landscapes. The buildings are mostly various shades of gunmetal grey in contrast to the nature of Pandora.

This blandness is also contagious, as human activities such as a drilling mine will pollute the surrounding areas, leading to dying plant life and a noticeable absence of animals. However, this is where players can fight back against the RDA by sabotaging these facilities.

RDA activity such as this drill site pollute the surround areas to a dramatic degree. Credit: Supplied

These act as nice distractions from the main game, but I find it comical how fast the wildlife recovers after one of these structures has been removed (I guess to really hammer home the message of “human activity bad and exploitative, respect the planet”).

Becoming the hunter-gatherer

With the RDA being so ready to shoot any Na’vi on sight, it is only fair that you can do the same. You have your choice between more human weapons or more Na’vi centred weapons. When using something like an assault rifle, there does seem to be a certain unwieldiness to it (which I guess makes sense, as they were not designed for Na’vi to use).

In contrast, using your bow and arrow is where your strengths really show. With pinpoint accuracy, you can target weak points on stronger enemies to inflict massive damage. On the default difficulty, gunfire will cut through your health fairly quickly, so combat is usually best reserved for surprise attacks and evasions.

You can shoot enemies from the back of your ikran. Credit: Supplied

On the gathering side, there are various materials that can be harvested off plants involving a minigame where you need to push your mouse (or control stick) in the right direction to cleanly remove the fruit or stick.

For the most part, it’s fairly intuitive and the game does a good job of easing and signalling to the player how to do it and eventually, it will become muscle memory for many common items.

Gathering from animals is another story. There is a strong emphasis on clean kills as it will preserve the quality of hide or meat from the animal. Scanning for their weak spots and stealthily hunting your target will ensure a clean kill.

Closing Thoughts

It is hard to quantify the sets of emotions and feelings a game gives you into a number. It’s clear that the latest game has had a lot of time and effort put into bringing the world of Pandora to life. Colours are vibrant, environments are detailed and the simple act of traversing the terrain is quite satisfying.

The RPG elements help add to the depth of gameplay and there are extensive text entries for every aspect of the world for those super fans looking to learn more about the game. If you’re more interested in the crafting elements, you can go deeper into that. If you are focused on being a combat machine, you can hunt animals or RDA as much as you want.

There are many characters you will meet on your journey in Pandora. Credit: Supplied

But, the storyline as presented is a very familiar one, with very similar messaging that can be found in the movies. While not a bad storyline, it’s definitely not something I would say is investing or intriguing, given how many times this story has been told before.

The choice of a first-person perspective does undermine the movement in the game as well as the RPG elements of an individual character that you can call your own. Also, you will find yourself spamming the Na’vi vision near the start of the game to mark out anything in the environment, which can be repetitive.

But a game with dragons is always a good one (even though they are called ikran … the point is you get to fly).

Overall, I did find myself having fun with the game and there definitely seems to be hours of content to work through, so for fans of the Avatar franchise, I would recommend giving this one a go. After about 10 hours of play, I’m only 39 per cent through the main storyline … so definitely a lot to do.

The game is available on the 7th of December on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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