Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora PS5 Review

An aptly mediocre tie-in.

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is the most Ubisoft game I have ever played. Some will know exactly what I mean by that, but for those who don’t, allow me to explain. It is functional, although it isn’t the best feeling game I have ever played, everything works well enough. It looks pretty impressive on a visual level, although it is not the best looking game I have played this year. There is a narrative, though it is filled with forgettable characters and is a little boring.

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If you are a huge fan of James Cameron’s Avatar movie franchise, and are looking for a competent game that ties into that universe, then you are in luck. If you are a big fan of the Far Cry games, (particularly Primal) and have always fancied trying one with an Avatar skin slapped over the top of it, then you are in luck. If you are looking for something memorable, exciting, or ground-breaking, then you are not going to find it with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is out now and is available on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.

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Same old story

There is one particular aspect of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora that really strongly evokes the movies. Remember how when that first film came out, it was initially a huge deal and then everyone made jokes about how it had no cultural impact and nobody could remember any of the characters names? Yeah, Massive Entertainment has absolutely recaptured that same notion here.

It is not that the storytelling is egregiously poor, or that the dialogue is awful, it is all just so painfully unremarkable. The voice acting is fine and fits the universe of the movies, but the new cast of characters are completely interchangeable, meaning that it is nigh on impossible for the audience to form a real emotional connection with any one of them.

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In terms of gameplay, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora feels like a typical open-world Ubisoft game, with the added gimmick of playing as a huge alien, capable of knocking tiny human enemies around as if they were action figures. Guns and bows aim fine, with the firing mechanics being identical to that of a Far Cry game. In fact every player input, from melee to traversal, feels exactly as you would expect it to going in; for better or worse.

There are a few very light survival elements in the game too, such as eating to replenish health and stamina. There are some light crafting elements that involve gathering a few various elements and combining them at a cooking station or a workbench, and there is also your bog-standard upgrade tree with skills being acquired in exchange for skill points. Literally everything you would predict is presented in the way you would anticipate it in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

"I'm blue, da ba dee da ba di, da ba dee da ba di" - These guys from Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora probably.
“I’m blue, da ba dee da ba di, da ba dee da ba di” – These guys from Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora probably.

There is the main quest line, as well as a few hollow side missions that make up the typical Ubisoft checklist of tasks to work through. There are enemy bases/compounds dotted around the map to conquer and take over. There are animals to hunt down and kill. There is a ‘detective vision’ that can be triggered to locate relevant items and enemies. There honestly isn’t too much that I can say about these elements individually, because it all feels like such a re-tread at this point.

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I cannot say that any of it feels or looks bad, but I need more than that at this point. From a big AAA franchise tie in like this, I expect some innovation and excitement, and there is very little of that present in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. I don’t necessarily need the developers to reinvent the wheel entirely, just moving the needle even a fraction would be nice.

The least innovative game of 2023?

Not only does Ubisoft’s choice to play it safe by featuring this array of by-the-numbers gameplay mechanics feel uninspired, but it actually runs the risk of coming dangerously close to making the experience feel outright boring at times. This is a shame, because the individual aspects are solidly made, even if they are mind-numbingly monotonous. The feeling of Ubisoft open world fatigue hangs heavily over Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Sure there are a couple of aspects that feel remotely innovative. For example, the character traversal in this title feels far smoother than it ever did in any Far Cry game. There is a certain flow felt when moving across the lush natural environment, and while it may not be the most smooth first person parkour that I have ever experienced, it is the best it has ever been in any game made by a studio owned by Ubisoft.

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Let's go fly a large, four winged alien bird thing, up to the highest height.
Let’s go fly a large, four winged alien bird thing, up to the highest height.

It is not only traversal on foot that brings some improvement over other title of this genre, using mounts to get around is a lot of fun too. The flying mechanics in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora are fun; feeling nice and simplistic without being too boring. Flying across the environment also allows you to appreciate the gorgeous environmental art design from another angle, and it can lead to some fun combat encounters too.

With that being said though, are these two different forms of vaguely innovative traversal really enough to get you to go out and spend 70 dollars on a game where everything else is feels run-of-the-mill and bland? That is the question that you have to ask yourself; just keep in mind that you won’t exactly be paying for an all-new, fresh experience.

The choice is yours

And that is why it is hard to recommend this game; it really depends on what the consumer is looking to get out of the experience. If you are a huge fan of the source material and this particular fictional universe, then you will likely love Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. If you are someone who adores the Far Cry series and just loves gobbling up as many open-world games as Ubisoft will feed you, ticking off the same old checklist of tasks as you do, then Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will give you exactly what you are looking for.

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However, if you are looking for something boundary-pushing to move the needle and break some new ground within a tired genre, then Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will leave you feeling deflated and disappointed. If you are in this boat, the best advice I can give you is to wait until this game is on sale, and even then, the best way to play through it is probably on mute while listening to a podcast, especially if you are not invested in the lore.

Shooty shooty, bang bang, I kill you! Not sure why I keep making Dick Van Dyke references when he has nothing to do with Avatar. Think I'm going mad...
Shooty shooty, bang bang, I kill you! Not sure why I keep making Dick Van Dyke references when he has nothing to do with Avatar. Think I’m going mad…

This is also the most that I have struggled to score a game out of 10 in a while. The fundamentals are all present here, even if they don’t bring anything new. Everything feels very playable, even if it doesn’t feel overly enticing, thus I feel as though the developers have worked hard and earned the game a respectable 7 out of 10.

Then again, do I really want to award a game that brings very little new to the table in terms of innovation? By this reasoning, I find myself leaning closer to a 6. Screw it, you caught me on a good day Ubisoft, don’t let me see you slacking off like this again! No, but in all seriousness, diehard Avatar fans could do a lot worse than the experience offered in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – 7/10

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was reviewed on PS5 with a code supplied to FandomWire by Ubisoft.

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Articles Published: 154

Dan is one of FandomWire's Gaming Content Leads and Editors. Along with Luke Addison, he is one of the site's two Lead Video Game Critics and Content Co-ordinators. He is a 28-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as Game Rant, WhatCulture Gaming, KeenGamer.com and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.