One of the most beautiful worlds in all of cinema is blossoming to life on PlayStation 5 in a big way. Pandora, the breathtaking alien world of the Avatar films, takes center stage in Ubisoft’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora—alongside your own player-created Na’vi protagonist. If you, like millions around the globe, were enchanted by the colorful, expansive wildness of this faraway moon in the theater, get ready—you’re going to experience the wonders and dangers of this world firsthand through your own eyes.
We recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, a first-person, open-world action-adventure, and experience a small slice of what it had to offer—though that small slice delivered plenty of big-time action and exploration.
Return to your roots
As a Na’vi who was formerly held captive by the RDA, you have returned to Pandora’s Western Frontier as an outsider to the Na’vi tribes who live there. But the RDA is destroying and exploiting these sacred lands, and you have the inside knowledge that could take them down… if you can convince the tribes to fight back against these oppressive forces.
Our demo session began with a simple retrieval quest: collecting mangrove hive nectar for the
Kinglor Queen ritual. Here, we got to see how gathering raw materials for crafting and food works. Some items found in the fields can be gathered up with just a simple button press, but others require a bit more effort, such as using the DualSense controller analog sticks and haptic feedback to determine the correct angle to pull out a plant to avoid damage. Collecting items carefully and under the right conditions, such as at a certain time of day or in specific weather, can affect their quality and, subsequently, the quality of what you make out of them.
After getting the nectar, we returned only to discover that the Kinglor were in very bad shape, no doubt thanks the the RDA’s interference—but the Aranhe tribe elders are reluctant to fight back, preferring to stay out of combat. But a few others aren’t going to take this lying down, and have concocted a scheme to assault the RDA base from the air—which, of course, requires something to fly on.
Onwards and upwards
So, with the aid of our companions, we seek out an Ikran of our very own to bond with—but first, we do some preparation in the village, crafting weapons with the haul we brought back and upgrading abilities using skill points we’ve earned from our quests. That proved to be a good idea, because we had quite the climb ahead of us.
The mountain lair of the Ikran—a flying reptile-like creature—is well-known to the locals, but as a stranger among the tribe, we’d have to prove our worth to both our companions and the mountain banshee we wanted to befriend. Fortunately, Na’vi are nothing if not extremely well-suited to getting around these somewhat harsh environments: holding down the jump button before leaping sent us flying higher and further, and a quick tap of the button again mid-jump would give us a slight boost to get us just over those impossible-looking leaps of faith. Various puzzles littered the craggy hills, as well, requiring us to find and touch gateway plants to open passages as well as shoot targets to create climbable vines.
But perhaps the biggest challenge was getting the Ikran to give us the time of day. They’re very picky about those they partner with, and you’d better show them that you’re good enough, even if it means chasing them to the highest peak—then leaping off to prove your bond of trust.
Into the fray
After quality bonding time with our Ikran (who we gave the noble name of “Floof”), we spent time with Etuwa, daughter of the Aranahe clan leader and firebrand itching to take on the RDF. She’s far more eager to take the fight directly to the forces than her father, and together we plan a direct aerial assault.
After locating the RDA’s disruptive aerial devices and hacking them—using some of their own tools—we hopped on our Ikrans again and flew straight to the RDA outpost to take it down directly. This proved to be quite a challenge: there are multiple approaches players can take—being stealthy and avoiding detection by waltzing past security silently, or flying in head-first, arrows blazing, to reach all the objectives as quickly as possible. We eventually found success with something of a hybrid approach, drawing enemies’ attention to one area and then quickly slipping away to complete the next objective. It helped that we had some food before we went in, keeping our energy levels high (allowing us to regenerate health) and, as a bonus effect, adding a bit of fleet to our footwork.
Still, it was a dangerous mission, with plenty of heavily armed enemies even our best stolen RDA weaponry wouldn’t likely take down easily, and when we finally escaped we breathed a sigh of relief—only to find Etuwa gravely injured. Would this be the spark to ignite the fire of resistance in the Aranahe?
It was clear from the amount of sidequests we saw on the Quests tab—as well as the size of the map and all of the various markers dotting it—that there was still plenty to see that we weren’t able to fully explore in the allotted time. Suffice to say, the wilds of Pandora are going to offer plenty of thrilling adventure and drama for players brave enough to venture there.
Your evolving Na’vi
Completing quests and sidequests awards you with skill points you can use to bolster your Na’vi character’s abilities. Skills are grouped into trees that suit different roles, such as Hunter, Warrior, Survivor, and Maker. The Survivor tree, for example, grants skill that aid in endurance and stamina, such as boosting energy and damage resistance. You can hyper-focus in on one specific tree, or spread your points out for a more well-rounded build.
Alongside skill trees, you will have access to an in-depth crafting system. Using materials you gather from across the land, you can create specialized weapons, ammunition, gear, and more, all tailored to your preferred playstyle. With additional character appearance customization options, your adventure through the wilderness of Pandora will truly be your own.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora launches December 7 on PlayStation 5.