Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an extremely, incredibly, stunningly beautiful game. Perhaps it is the most beautiful and lovely game of this generation, if not in terms of technology, although there is nothing wrong with that, but in terms of design and photogenicity of the world. Massive Entertainment and other Ubisoft studios, including Ubisoft Kyiv, have managed to really bring Pandora to life, make it accessible to everyone and interactive. But… In terms of game mechanics, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is almost any open-world Ubisoft game, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs, etc. It’s overloaded with additional activities, monotonous, monotonous. And this dissonance is very frustrating.

Game Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora
Genre action/adventure
Platforms PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
Languages English
Developer Massive Entertainment
Publisher Ubisoft

Welcome to Pandora

In fact, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora knows how to impress. The first walk through the night jungle, where almost every branch, every mushroom, every stem glows with its own color, is stunning. This is a real symphony of light and it allows us to imagine what Jake Sully felt when he first entered the magical world of Na’vi.

Running against the wind and a rebellious canine on stones hanging in the air, overgrown with forest and vines. The first trip across the endless plain, where a powerful wind bends trees thicker and taller than Manhattan’s high-rises to the ground.

You can take hundreds of shots here (I took almost 400 for this article) because the beauty that surrounds you is simply incredible. In every corner of this world, at every moment of time. Day, night, morning and evening, with different lighting and in different weather, Pandora looks just fantastic. The level designers have really managed to create a world that you want to believe in, that you want to live in.

The first real hunt, in which you don’t know for sure whether you will be the hunter or the hunted. The first fight with people and the first victory. The first flight on your own eggs… The first meditation… All of this pleases, inspires, impresses… But… then the routine begins.

No trespassing allowed

Routine. Everyone around wants something from the protagonist or heroine. There are a lot of activities. As is usually the case with Ubisoft, the map is densely covered with marks, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is saved only by the fact that the map is really very large.

Another roadblock or mining plant to capture/destroy (hello outposts!), another ancestral flower that will bring you extra skill points and which you still need to get to (hello towers!), another collectible, another abandoned lab, another data collection, another… and give me a fucking story, enough of these extra activities, leave me alone!

When you try to follow the plot exclusively, problems begin to arise, as has happened in Ubisoft games many times before. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is designed for additional activities, for crafting, for hunting, for collecting resources. It seems to be more authentic, in the spirit of the real Na’vi, but if you don’t like crafting (I don’t) and the life of Stone Age hunters and gatherers doesn’t appeal to you, then it will be difficult.

And hunting here is probably more difficult than in some hunting simulator like Way of the Hunter. Prey, especially high-level and unique prey, needs to be tracked down and, if possible, killed with a single shot at a vulnerable point, which can be very tiny and even hidden by armor. At the same time, you also need a bow of the appropriate level, and it also needs components…

Moreover, searching for components and collecting resources and berries in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is not that easy either. Each plant should be collected at the right time (day or night) and in the right weather (rain or dry). At the same time, a branch or berry must be carefully pulled in a specific direction, which is different not only for different plants, but also for some plants of different quality, and only then carefully plucked. It’s a really interesting mechanic, but… LET’S play at last, and not do the tedious work of collecting impressions!

Unfortunately, without hunting and gathering, you are unlikely to be able to advance further in the story, because the enemies are getting stronger and you can’t cope without powerful weapons that can be exchanged by completing side quests of clans and gaining respect, or yes, collecting them yourself. Sometimes you can find a good weapon or armor, but I wouldn’t count on luck.

Is there a plot? Yes, there is a plot

Due to all these additional activities, the plot of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora can be forgotten, but it is here. This is the story of the children of the destroyed Na’vi tribes, whom the russians RDA stole and tried to educate in their own paradigm, cramming information about the brotherly peoples and the greatness of the росії Earthlings into the kids’ heads… To create a kind of separatist formation of brainwashed little Na’vi. It failed.

It so happened that the children grew up, then slept for 16 years in anabiosis and woke up just in time for the second earthly invasion of Pandora. Now they are part of the resistance, fighting back with bows and sticks against the heavily armed alien invaders who have come to appropriate their land and, to put it bluntly, to destroy all the Na’vi.

Yes, there are plenty of parallels with the present, although the authors were, of course, referring to the colonizing policies of the West in the fifteenth and twentieth centuries, not to Russian colonialism in the twenty-first century.

Your hero, as a representative of the destroyed clan of storytellers and diplomats, must establish ties with other clans and convince them that sitting back is not an option, the war will come to everyone.

The events of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora takes place during the events of Avatar: The Way of Water. Jake Sully, who is currently hiding with his family among the water clans, is even mentioned a couple of times, in the sense that “he hasn’t been heard from for a long time, the boy has disappeared somewhere.”

My enemy

The RDA forces are armed with helicopters, combat robots/exoskeletons, battle turrets, mortars, and even air defense systems, and of course, conventional infantry. But they are stupid and take only by numbers and armor. Head-to-head battles are very chaotic, primarily because enemies literally bombard you with mines, so you have to play cat-and-mouse with them, literally hiding behind a corner or a hill and shooting the AI dummies that run into your shot. It’s boring.

In fact, it’s much easier to complete at least part of the mission in stealth, taking down the mechs with accurate shots at vulnerable points from behind, and in case of disguise, finish the job with an assault rifle. But even this is interesting only the first two or three times, and then everything turns into a routine again.

What about the hardware

And in terms of hardware and technology, everything is actually very good. The updated Snowdrop produces a really cool picture on my hardware, that is, Intel Core i5-13600KF 3.5GHz and ASUS DUAL-RTX4070-O12G produces stable 60+ frames with DLSS Ultra Quality enabled and 90+ frames with AMD FSR 3 Ultra Quality at 2560×1440 resolution all on Ultra. Yes, that’s not a typo, AMD technology produces one and a half times more frames per second on an NVIDIA graphics card.

It seems that AMD is a technology partner of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and someone is not playing fair, because DLSS simply blocks the generation of additional frames. In terms of dynamics, there is almost no difference between the technologies, except that with AMD FSR 3, some distant objects, such as flying islands in the sky, can sometimes flicker a little.

There were no glitches, crashes, or unpleasant stutters, as there were in Assassin’s Creed Mirage. The updated Snowdrop works perfectly and it is truly a new generation engine that, as we can see, can work well in first-person shooters with a large detailed world. It’s a good alternative to Unreal Engine 5 and I’m again convinced that it’s time for Ubisoft to move their other series, especially Assassin’s Creed, to the Snowdrop engine.

By the way, the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Remake and Tom Clancy’s The Division Heartland use Snowdrop.

Escape to Pandora

My escape to Pandora lasted only 20 hours. It’s a shame, I would have loved to stay longer, because Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft have created a truly amazing world that makes you want to escape from the harsh reality.

I caught a rare bug that blocked the script that opens the door during a mission on an enemy base (yes, there are indoor missions and even a little bit of Splinter Cell-like stealth). Saving in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has only one save, so the passage is completely blocked for me, let’s wait for Ubisoft support to respond to this.

Actually, I’ve completed 20+ (actually, I got stuck in the middle of 21) of the 31 story missions in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, so we can assume that this game has about 25-30 hours of gameplay in the campaign, although of course the map can be explored much longer.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was supposed to be released at the same time as Avatar: The Way of Water at the end of 2022. But that year was a difficult one for Ubisoft, and a lot of games, including Avatar, were postponed. This will certainly complicate the game’s promotion and may affect sales.

But, in my opinion, it is not even sales that are more important, but the fact that Ubisoft should take into account the feedback from players and the media regarding Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, because there is an impression that the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws will be made in the same mold. And there is no particular desire to get another Far Cry 6 remake in the Star Wars setting.

The formula invented back in 2005 in “Xenus: Boiling Point still works, but it’s time to modernize it. How, of course, is the question, but Ubisoft is a big company with good people, so they should find a solution.

As for me, if Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora had fewer additional activities, less crafting, if the game was more action/adventure with story levels and less freedom, it would have been to its advantage. But who am I to give advice to Ubisoft itself?

But again, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an extremely beautiful game, with an interesting fantasy world that can bring you a lot of pleasant experiences. But it’s still a typical Ubisoft game, so you know what to expect from the game mechanics. So don’t expect a miracle.