Big Data

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora hands-on — Far Cry but better

I don’t know if you noticed, but the Avatar franchise is great. Last year’s The Way of Water was a gorgeous, moving film, and you’re missing out if you haven’t visited Pandora: World of Avatar over in Walt Disney World. So, yeah, I’m a fan. That’s why I was happy to get a chance to try a few hours of the upcoming game, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, which comes out on December 7 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

My demo took place on PC via remote streaming. I got a good chance to run around Pandora, tame my Ikron (those flying dragon things) and complete a few story missions. And sure as the sky (and a Na’vi) is blue, I had a good time.

You can fly, you can fly

If you’ve ever seen a trailer for Frontiers of Pandora, you probably thought that it looks like an Avatar flavored Far Cry game. This is Ubisoft, after all. And well, yes, it is. It’s a first-person game set in an open world, you have to hunt and gather resources for crafting and you get to take out enemy bases.

But it also does a lot to make that old Far Cry formula interesting again. Notably, Pandora is just a beautiful setting for a game like this with all of its colorful, lush (and sometimes glow-in-the-dark-y) vegetation.


GamesBeat Next 2023

Join the GamesBeat community in San Francisco this October 23-24. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry on latest developments and their take on the future of gaming.

Learn More

Your Ikron also makes things a lot more interesting. The mission where I had to tame my Ikron was actually the highlight of my demo. I had to scale a mountain, which offered me some amazing views of Pandora, until I reached my prospective mount. Once tamed, you get access to the creature pretty much whenever you want. Yes, this means you can fly around Pandora. You can also summon your Ikron with the click of a button, even if you’re falling (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword style).

Flying around Pandora is convenient, sure. But it’s also a lot of fun. Again, the beauty of the world is a big strength of the experience. I could enjoy myself just by soaring around the map, weaving between the floating mountains and taking in the views.

Getting to fly whenever you want rules.Getting to fly whenever you want rules.
Getting to fly whenever you want rules.

Jump around

But you’re not always flying around on your Ikron. Like I said before, I had to scale a mountain to reach my new winged friend. This required a surprising amount of platforming. Now, first-person platforming might not feel great for everyone. Personally, I played enough Metroid Prime and Jumping Flash that I enjoyed it. The game also gives you a high jump when you push the button down, so you get a good amount of height with each leap.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for platforming, but I had fun jumping around and solving the occasional environmental puzzles. Honestly, that did more for me than the combat, which (again) will feel familiar to Far Cry fans with its mix of bows and guns. Nothing wrong with it, but shooting stuff feels like the least interesting thing the game offers. Those moments when you’re trying to take out an enemy base are definitely when it feels the most like a Far Cry clone.

Yes, you still shoot things.Yes, you still shoot things.
Yes, you still shoot things.

I see you

I was hoping that Frontiers of Pandora would become something I’d enjoy. Unlike so many film properties these days, Avatar feels like one that is actually getting better. It’s a world that I want to spend more time in.

My demo with Frontiers of Pandora gave me exactly that opportunity. I’m hoping I enjoy the full game as much as this small taste.

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.