Start lowering your expectations for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

This might sound weird one of PC Gamer's resident FPS enjoyers, but is anyone else disappointed to learn that Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an FPS? I always imagined running around Pandora while looking at the impressively snatched waist of a Navi, but the Frontiers of Pandora we're actually getting looks much closer to a Far Cry game, right down to the story setup: you play as a Navi fighting to free Pandora from the human invaders.

But I don't know, something felt off about the snippets of combat in the presentation I saw (and I suspect will be shown in the Ubisoft Forward stream too). Guns looked generic and sounded kinda weak. At several points the player fires an RPG at an RDA walker and it just sorta topples over. The bow looks kinda fun, though I'd love to see the Navi's super alien strength expressed by, perhaps, arrowing guys so hard through the chest that they're pinned to the tree behind them. Maybe that's possible, but I didn't see it.

One part of Avatar that I'm almost guaranteed to enjoy: flying my banshee and riding my not-horse across the lush Pandoran forests. The first-person portions of the demo were pretty enough, but Frontiers of Pandora looks freaking gorgeous when the camera pulls out to third-person for traversal.

Some other observations from the presentation:

  • We saw lots of guns, but not a lot of bow or staff combat. Maybe chalk that up to Ubi wanting to show the most explosive loadouts possible for its summer showcase, but I hope I can play Avatar as a stealth game.
  • I'm interested in Avatar's gathering: a developer mentioned that the quality of the ingredient you gather matters for what you make with it, and that there is gameplay involved with picking fruits the "right" way without hurting the plant.
  • You can cook what you gather, and the game encourages you to experiment with ingredient combinations and see what they create (sounding a bit like Zelda)
  • Don't expect the Way of Water to enter the equation: Frontiers of Pandora seems to primarily follow in the footsteps of the first movie
  • Hunting is a big part of the game
  • The whole game supports 2-player co-op, which is neat and somewhat rare for a big open-world game like this

Frontiers of Pandora largely takes place at the same time as the second Avatar movie on a different continent of Pandora, but it's the events of the first movie that kick off the game's events. You play as a Navi that was raised by humans, ordered to be killed once Jake Sully started a war, and narrowly saved and put into cryosleep for 15 years. A little convoluted, sure, but how else are you going to explain a Navi who loooooves to use human guns?

I guess it's hard to get excited about an open-world Avatar game when I don't know what that actually entails when you're not killing things. Hunting and gathering, for sure, but I hope there's more. I tried to prod Ubi about side activities and exploration, but they were only forthcoming about that one clip of the player picking a fruit and that cooking can give you buffs.

That's cool, but I want to know what an average hour looks like in Avatar. Am I following a yellow waypoint for 20 hours, or can I navigate the Pandoran plains with visual landmarks? That was one of my favorite parts of Ubi's Ghost Recon Breakpoint, so fingers crossed there.

Unlike the still-far-off Star Wars Outlaws announced by Massive yesterday, we're gonna hear a lot more about Avatar in the coming months. It's coming out December 7.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.