The utterly gorgeous hypercolour world of Pandora is a visual treat with some solid stealth guerrilla warfare thrown into the mix.
Climbing through the lush bioluminescent jungles of Pandora perched on the edge of cliff over a cartoonishly evil looking RDA base, I was struck how much AVATAR: FRONTIERS OF PANDORA had changed the way I play.
I was a hit and run guerilla working my way from vantage point to hideyhole avoiding outright conflict, slowly whittling down the enemy forces, dropping bombs into the path of patrolling mechs and loosing arrows at soldiers who strayed too far from safety.
I tried running and gunning and blasting my way into combat, but was quickly turned into a blue corpse, While this is a first person shooter, you'll rarely ever reload because each shot is so sparing, so calculated, there is none of the frenetic action of the recent shooter titles.
While the writing and tone can feel a bit one dimensional, it was this gameplay design where the story really shines.
FRONTIERS OF PANDORA definitely feels a little bit ick when you kick off, especially where the main plot involves a group of indigenous kids being kidnapped and re-educated by a colonial power something that has happened in Australia and around the world, but I guess that's kind of the point. You play as a Na'vi from the Sarentu tribe a group that was known to share stories and provide guidance to all the communities on Pandora, but because this is a video game you're basically a blank slate with which to discover the world. The story you're telling though is murder, there are no non-combatants on the enemy side so you're free to assassinate any Sky Person you come across. They're going to try do that to you first anyway so go nuts.
You've got both Na'vi and human weapons available to you, going in guns blazing with a mech size assault rifle feels off though, it was much more enjoyable to use bows and slings to take town enemies. You can't really replicate the overtop gunplay of many other first person shooters in FRONTIERS anyway, you're relatively squishy and sustained gunshots without moving to cover is quite fatal. It's best when you're sniping soldiers and laying traps avoiding direct conflict as much as you possibly can.
Much of the world gameplay revolves around territory control, in reality it plays out a little bit in reverse than in most other games, you take out bases and allow the incredibly fast growing jungles to subsume the metal and concrete structures of the RDA. It's this sort of open world busywork that you'll either love or loathe. In comparison to the more optional sidequests of something like ASSASSIN'S CREED MIRAGE this feels far more mandatory, the healing and crafting items won't grow in areas that have been polluted by human industry. You can technically stealth in and shut these things down without combat, but the RDA have their heads on an absolute swivel so in reality you're taking them out from afar then waltzing in and flipping a few switches or breaking a few wires to shut it all down.
It does all look incredible though while you're doing it.
The intense fluro colours especially at nighttime when you're on foot are incredible, it feels a bit addictive as your eyes dart between glowing and pulsating plants and animals. FRONTIERS OF PANDORA captures that feel of the films so accurately I'm surprised they don't ask you to pull out some 3D glasses from that knick-knack drawer before you play.
Creatures feel strange and imposing, but lifelike and move about their own little schedules, with predators stalking prey and larger creatures fighting RDA soldiers on their own. Some of these moments feel a little bit confected, as you come across the same group of soldiers shooting the six legged alien dogs again, but you can free big beasties from cages and let them loose.
I actually love just stopping and looking at things in FRONTIRERS OF PANDORA, climbing up to a high vantuge point and looking out across it all. It's a gorgeous game.
The world of AVATAR is a pretty wild and compelling one, it's not that often that you get a chance to further explore a big sci-fi movie franchise, Star Wars comes to mind as one of the major exceptions, which doesn't just re-tread the events of the films.
This series has always been a vehicle for new technologies and spectacular visual effects, and that exactly what FRONTIERS OF PANDORA does so brilliantly. I look at the forests in this game with so many different colours and plants and it's incredible to think that something like this game would have been just a dream only 10 years ago.
While the gameplay itself isn't anything particularly ground breaking, you could easily lose yourself in this world, it's particularly enjoyable if you've only got a few minutes here and there and just want to check off a laundry list of tasks, much like the ASSASSIN'S CREED games, it feels like almost fantasy tourism in many parts.
Play it on one of the next gen consoles or make sure you've got a beefy PC rig if you want to get the absolute best out of this game.
A copy of AVATAR: FRONTIERS OF PANDORA on Xbox Series X|S was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review. All screenshots captured in game using the "Favor Quality" display mode.