Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora review: "doesn't exactly break any molds but fits them perfectly"

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review
(Image: © Ubisoft)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A decent, if unspectacular take, on an alien Far Cry that uses its source material well to create an engaging world to explore.


  • +

    Great alien world building to explore

  • +

    Simple but fun free roaming gameplay


  • -

    Occasion lack of clarity

  • -

    All very familiar mechanically

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There's something almost comforting about Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora being the most video game video game to ever video game. The basic pitch is essentially Far Cry: Blue Space Elf edition, levering all the open world systems of that series, along with maybe a sprinkle of Assassin's Creed, to create something that's instantly familiar and unassumingly enjoyable. It's not 'oh my God' amazing but it is good, solid entertainment with a decent bit of depth once you open up all its systems and are free to wander its gorgeously colored alien world. 

Fast facts

Release date: December 7, 2023
PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
Massive Entertainment

What works well in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora's favor is that the film universe adds a level of unpredictability and uncertainty to the otherwise recognizable workings. I've watched both films, but I couldn't really tell you much of what anything was called or why it was all happening, other than it's some sort of ecocentric allegory for American Colonialism set in a fever dream of alien planet concept art. And that brightly coloured cinematic world of Pandora actually works beautifully in this more interactive experience. Where the movies get a range of establishing shots to show off its weird alien jungle life and luminous plants, here you can wander through it at your leisure, taking it all in. 

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

There's a lot to be said for just existing in a world that isn't immediately recognisable, and here you can spend a lot of time just wandering up to bizarre looking plants to see what they do (50% food/50% explosive), or watching odd little weird-limbed critters flit away when you get too close. There are rabbit-sized frog things that launch themselves 20 feet in the air to get away as you tear past on horseback that always surprise me and make me smile. There are strange objects and noises to track down that create a real sense of investigating the undergrowth, fostering a curiosity here that freshens up otherwise familiar gameplay. Unlocking or finding a new area can be a real treat as you find new life and landscapes while, generally, you can gaze out on a vista and not immediately read it as a series of objectives and collectibles.

In this extravagantly extraterrestrial place you're basically playing through a space Far Cry, or space Far Cry Primal, really, given the back to nature focus on bows and hunting. You'll be exploring an open map, unlocking new regions, taking down enemy bases and so on. All while meeting and uniting different Na'vi clans, by helping them out, to fight back against the human invaders. 

Nature trails 

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

What works well against this well trodden loop is how the narrative and mechanics tie into the back to nature vibe. You have to gather food to cook buffing meals, and find resources to craft new weapons and gear to raise your combat stats. You're very practically living off the land in a way that feels closely linked to the source material. Your hunting skills, and how you improve them, ultimately affect the rewards you can earn. So there are extra bonuses for gathering things in the right conditions, like day or night, or dry or rainy conditions. In a similar vein animals can be taken down with clean and/or merciful kills, by finding weak spots, to gain better quality crafting products from them. Hunting comes into play more as you progress, because higher level gear needs better quality resources, encouraging you to get better at being Na'vi. 

Picking plants, for example, involves a small minigame where you pull with the trigger and rotate the stick to find a sweet spot to yank off a 'pristine' seed or fruit. The first few times I found it to be unnecessary busy work, but a few hours later I was popping off whatever I needed with barely a second thought and targeting high quality yields, progressing from amateur to pro without even realizing. Your hunter sense, which highlights locations, items and so on, also shows scent trails as well to help you track animals and eventually you're reading your surroundings at a glance as you explore.

Some parts of this hunter-gatherer gameplay don't land quite as well. There are investigations where you have to search an area to find clues and piece together what happened. I love the idea in theory, because I enjoy a bit of detective work and this is meant to show your expert tracking skills, but these sections lack clarity. Hunter vision doesn't always highlight all the available clues clearly enough for starters and, even when you have them all, the links aren't always hugely obvious. Often you're just left sort of mashing things together until you get a combination that earns an explanation. While it makes sense that 'someone was running so fast they dropped their tablet' when it's said out loud, there's very little beforehand to link some footprints to a tablet on the ground. 

Base building

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

In among all this exploring and nature walking there is also a healthy dose of combat in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora (but maybe not as much as you might expect), which is where things are the most obviously familiar. There are bases scattered around full of human soldiers and mechs to take down so you can clear them out and claim them for the Pandoran resistance. As with Far Cry, these encounters are largely focused on trying to stealth it as much as possible to avoid fighting everyone at once and triggering a reinforcement-summoning alarm. Trying to be sneaky early on is especially important (if improbable as a nine foot tall blue alien) as you're surprisingly fragile to begin with, and the strength of the response when caught can quickly ruin your day. Although, over time as your proficiency and strength grows, head on confrontations become more and more viable and satisfying as you zip between trees and leap over platforms. 

Even here there's a nature facing twist – the various outposts are all gas plants, drilling rigs, and other polluting, resource-gathering facilities. The areas around them become poisoned, killing all the animals and rendering resources as toxic and so useless. So instead of lowering an enemy presence, or removing them from the area, clearing these things out claims back the land and returns the resources they contain for you to use. There's a much more visual representation of your fight against encroaching invaders as the dead brown jungle comes back to greener life. 

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora doesn't exactly break any molds but it does fit them perfectly. There's a nice core loop of exploration as you dally between main mission objectives and side quest detours. I was, if I'm honest, surprised by how much I enjoyed it considering its collection of well-worn mechanics. That's in part because everything does work well, with minimal friction as you explore and tick off quests. There's just a simple pleasure to sliding over mossy tree trunks, bow in hand, chasing down prey; or darting from bush to bush as you tag enemies before an attack.

The world opens up nicely as you play as well, gaining things like a flying Ikran to soar high over the trees, or opening up the map to introduce new areas and ecosystems just as you're starting to get comfortable with what you know. There is an occasional lack of clarity with things like guidance not always being crystal – wooly tracking missions being a prime example. However, the vibrancy of the world and the pure alienness of almost everything you encounter make Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora an enjoyable place simply to exist in, with all its otherworldly environments and creatures adding freshness the mechanics lack. 


Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was reviewed on PC, with code provided by the publisher.

More info

Available platformsGames, PC, Xbox Series X, PS5
Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.