Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Review

December 17, 2023

After visiting tropical islands, snow-capped mountains and distant African plains, how do you make a Far Cry game even more exotic? Apparently the answer is to set it on an alien planet. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is made by a different developer, The Division’s Massive Entertainment, but it follows the Far Cry formula through and through. In fact, Frontiers of Pandora feels so much like a Far Cry game that I wonder if this is meant to be the ‘mid-quel’ that we usually get between numbered releases. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as Far Cry‘s formula is perfect for the narrative set up by the Avatar series, particularly Far Cry 6, traversing beautiful wide open areas, uniting disparate factions of oppressed peoples with guerrilla tactics on invading enemy bases. For fans of the Avatar franchise, which James Cameron is intent on expanding even further with a further three sequels at least, it’s actually a match made in heaven.

The story of Frontiers of Pandora acknowledges the events of the first movie, without stepping on its toes or the sequel’s, presenting a parallel narrative concerning a group of native Na’vi. As those who have seen the films will know, a human corporation known as the RDA is attempting to strip the planet Pandora of its various valuable natural resources. In this game, your player-created character (who despite various customisation options will inevitably look like a cat) was part of the ‘TAP’ program developed by the RDA as an effort to school a group of Na’vi in human ways, in order to create a group of ambassadors. Jake Sully’s uprising causes the RDA to discard the group, who are frozen and awaken sixteen years later to take their first steps into Pandora, when all they had previously known were the cold wars of the RDA’s facilities.

There are some incredibly serious themes at work in Frontiers of Pandora, as the colonialism parallels are taken even further with the introduction of a kind of Na’vi stolen generation. It turns out your character and their group were stolen by the RDA and raised without access to their original culture, ripped from a once-proud tribe whose only future now lies with Na’vi who were denied learning their traditions. Throughout Frontiers of Pandora, your Na’vi joins the resistance and journeys around Pandora to unite various other tribes who have all also suffered through their interactions, while working with sympathetic humans to overthrow the RDA’s influence.

The best parts of Frontiers of Pandora are predictably when you’re actually exposed to Pandora itself. The developers have done an incredible job replicating the world of the movies in a game, with varied and alien vegetation that react in unexpected ways, to cresting arcs of volcanic stone and levitating chunks of landscape, roped together by thick vines. There are a few ‘soak it up’ moments that the developers obviously set up along the early stages of the game, and they’re right to do so, Pandora can look incredible, and it’s spectacularly detailed. The map feels smaller than previous Far Cry games, with only three major areas, but as a result feels a lot more focused with each area having its own identity. There’s also plenty of fauna stripped out of the movies, with it not taking long to bond with your own dragon-creature ikran, which makes getting about the map much easier – so easy, in fact, that it’s puzzling why the land-bound direhorse is introduced after you’re already taking to the skies. I rode it once in a story mission and never again.

Whether you follow the 20-30 hour main story or simply explore on your own, you’ll be taking out a relatively similar array of RDA bases, either by destroying control boxes or vents around their structure, or hacking into them with your scanning multi-tool, which works as a maze-style mini-game that gets old pretty quickly. Your array of weapons consists mostly of Na’vi bows, spears and traps, with a couple of RDA machine guns/shotguns thrown in. Fortunately, there’s really only a couple of enemy types you’ll need to worry about, individual soldiers who can be one-shotted by your arrows or fists, and mechs, which can also be defeated quite easily with a 1-2 punch of a stun grenade and melee attack once you unlock a certain ability. While that makes combat sound easy, there are plenty of situations where the game will throw sheer numbers at you that can be difficult to manage if you’re under-levelled.

Levelling depends both on the level of your equipment, and the number of skills you unlock with skill points, along with additional upgrades you can find throughout Pandora with special flowers and plants that grant bonuses. Of these, probably the most important is your gear though, which in theory you’re meant to receive by getting recipes allies and doing side quests, then crafting them after finding specific ingredients throughout Pandora. This process can take way longer than it needs, to particularly if you haven’t fully mapped out an area yet to know where to look for a specific root or branch. Even collecting ingredients, while initially cute in the way it requires you to use the PS5’s adaptive triggers to slowly pluck them from plants, feels like it just takes way too long. To fully upgrade certain branches of your skill tree, you’ll also need to take on additional ‘Apex’ sidequests that need further work. To do everything properly to be adequately levelled and equipped for the main story as you go along, there’s a lot of grinding for resources, skills and equipment needed, although you can get by with some ready-made gear you’ll find spotted around main quest areas.

The weakest moments of the game are when you’re away from Pandora, with the story stuffing you into RDA facility corridors and air vents, where you could be for quite some time, facing room upon room of the same RDA enemies. When you’re outdoors, at least, there’s a lot more freedom with how you approach situations – doing hit and runs on various parts of an RDA base, or flying in with your ikran and dropping into the middle of a crowd, or using the landscape as cover to your advantage.

Compared to the Far Cry series of late, I would say Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is actually superior in a few ways, particularly in the way it portrays a believable and exotic world like Pandora, which really does a lot to string you along for the entire game. While I’m a modest enjoyer of the franchise myself, I can imagine bigger Avatar-heads really getting psyched about exploring this world. The Far Cry formula matches well with the conceit of Avatar, and the actual gameplay is serviceable enough when matched with the great outdoors, although it starts to wear thin and become repetitive inside the RDA’s endless grey hallways and facilities. Nonetheless, Frontiers of Pandora is a gorgeous adventure into an alien world, and it’s definitely a breath of fresh air for the formula from Ubisoft.

This review is based on a copy provided by Ubisoft for PlayStation 5.


-Pandora is beautifully replicated here, making for a continually surprising and vibrant world
-Far Cry-style gameplay but in a more focused environment
-Feels authentic to the movies, both in narrative and design


-The RDA facility missions can be interminable, especially as they take you away from Pandora
-Limited enemy types from the RDA
-Levelling up, factoring in Apex skills, can be grindy and take a long time

Overall Score: