After spending almost a month playing Far Cry: Avatar Edition, I can safely say that the game possesses the charm of a social media influencer — the aesthetics are on point, but it has no soul.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora review
Far Cry from exploration
James Cameron’s Avatar movies have straightforward storytelling. Humans are bad and the tribes of Na’vi are being attacked while the planet Pandora is slowly withering away because of human intervention. It’s what we’ve seen in the movies and you’ll see the same message in the game as well. Kudos to the dev team for actually adding elements of ecological impact to the actual gameplay which we’ll discuss later in this review.
That said, there are very little surprises in the story itself. You’re part of a group who were raised by the RDA (human military) and your Na’Vi tribe specialised in storytelling but has long disappeared. Things move fast and soon your character serves as a medium to unite all the other tribes to fight against the RDA and its incessant approach to harvesting Pandora’s resources. Straightforward? It is!
Much of the wow factor comes from the sheer amount of detail in the graphics and audio quality of the game. The forest is truly alive and interacts with you on multiple levels. The first-person gameplay immediately makes you feel like you’re part of Pandora, and the various creatures, critters and plant growth will fill your sense with a sense of exploration and wonder. It’s after you run around a bit with your bow and guns that you realise that much of the side missions and areas you explore have nothing but glowing vegetation and tribal doodahs.
The guns, grenades, bows, spears and slings are all part of your arsenal and you have to slowly level up to reach a point where attacking higher-level enemies doesn’t feel like shooting a Nerf gun at a freight train. The combat is also difficult. Showing up with higher-stat weapons won’t guarantee a kill. You have to scan for weak spots, use everything in your arsenal, and attack swiftly.
It has itsy-bitsy survival mechanics where you have to manage stamina and hunger. Food can be cooked Zelda-style by collecting meat by hunting animals and also by harvesting various plants and fruits. Combining different ingredients will give you interesting buffs.
You also have to keep your Ikran fed because they’re your fighting buddy and also the fastest way to move around in Pandora. Mounting your Ikran and raining down bullets on RDA facilities is not only exhilarating but it’s also difficult. RDA facilities scattered across Pandora harvest resources and degrade the wildlife around it so you cannot claim resources from these parts till you wipe out the facility. This means you have to prepare in advance before attacking a base and also make sure you’re stocked up on ammo. Almost all bases have enemies that can send you back to the checkpoint in a few hits. We played it on the Hard difficulty level for some extra oomph and oh, it was challenging.
Graphics and world
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is now on our list of video games we will use for testing graphics on PCs. From windswept plains to towering rocks and lush forests, each biome has its unique twist that will visually mesmerise you, and with the sound and colours that have gone into building this world, the game will leave your jaw on the floor.
Even harvesting fruits has a sweet minigame which truly pulls you into the feeling of being in Pandora. You have to remove fruits and seeds while maintaining their pristine quality. The same thing applies to hunting and some things can only be harvested when the weather conditions are perfect. Pristine quality ingredients have additional buffs to your meals.
Exploration can also be tweaked to tune out the objective-chasing carrot and truly immerse yourself in the game’s visual spectacle. Although, aside from the eye-massaging graphics, there’s barely any gameplay benefit here. If you’re expecting Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild level of rewarding world exploration then temper your expectations. In our many hours of playing Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, we never came across an exciting boss battle, a secret monster dungeon or a special Ikran. There’s barely anything here besides shooting RDA bases and running simple errands for tribes.
The climbing is also a bit methodical. You cannot climb every surface like Zelda, Assassin’s Creed or even Horizon Forbidden West. You have to climb using a dedicated vine or jump carefully around the dense forests. Thankfully, if you clear the quest where you get your Ikran, it’s always easy to move around Pandora in the sky.
One of the most visually stunning games is also lacking a soul under the coat. There’s a proper main story and plenty of objectives to complete but none of that truly makes you remember the game after you’ve put down the controller. It’s more than a Far Cry copy but besides the visual sense of being in Pandora, the objectives to stick around the alien planet are rather dull.
Play it on the big screen, but you might get bored a few hours into the game