Has any film franchise been a better fit for the open-world video game genre than Avatar? I mean, who doesn’t dream of exploring the rich forests and awe-inspiring sky mountains of Pandora? The world of the film franchise is so captivating that it caused “post-Avatar depression” among viewers who were sad to return to our comparatively gray world. Although we will never know the film world, Avatar: The Borderlands of Pandora Could be the next best thing.
After a forgettable adaptation in 2009, the upcoming Avatar video game looks like a high-effort attempt to revive the series’ interactive potential. The Division is a big-budget open-world adventure developed by studio Massive Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. It certainly feels like a part, bringing the world of Pandora to life with lush environments and vibrant colors, but Avatar is so much more than its setting. Can the same open-world formula used in games like Far Cry really match the unique experience of James Cameron’s universe?
after playing for two hours Avatar: The Borderlands of Pandora, I’m sure this answer may divide fans. The upcoming release undoubtedly captures the spirit of Avatar thanks to an engaging open world that is a pleasure to wander around. What’s a little less clear is how well its action-packed battles will fit in with an otherwise gentle game that respects life.
My demo will take me to a small part of Pandora, which is already a huge open world map that has been made bigger with the inclusion of sky islands (just like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, From the moment I loaded it up, I was amazed by my surroundings. Every inch of the land is covered with plants of some kind, be it colorful flowers or thick patches of grass. It’s one of the most richly detailed open worlds I’ve ever seen. It is not a flat land filled with clear paths for players to follow, but a true natural forest that naturally extends in every direction.
My first real mission would soon prove that impressive design isn’t just for show. After a little research, I set out on a mission to tame an Ikran, which I hoped to use as a flying mount. I would be thrown into a long, combat-less mission where I would have to go through a platforming gauntlet on the side of a mountain. As I progressed, I would bounce on mushrooms, grab hold of vines in the air to pull myself up, and balance on dense tree roots to cross connected islands.
There isn’t a single moment of conventional action during the sequence, but it’s a thrilling experience. It almost feels like I’m playing a game mixed with a classic 3D platformer Horizon: Call of the Mountain, Traversal. I navigate the intricately detailed environments with ease, mastering the nuances of Pandora’s unique architecture like a true sailor. This is the mission where I immediately realize that Massive Entertainment has something special on their hands, transforming one of cinema’s most fascinating worlds into a worthy interactive playground.
This feeling of awe is doubled once I actually make friends with an Ikran. I jump off the side of the mountain and press the D-pad to summon my new friend to me. It swoops in and grabs me out of the air, giving me a chance to admire the vast world in front of me, with all the vertical space to explore. Riding the Ikran is an instant joy, although it does take some getting used to. Flight revolves around maintaining speed through dive and boost. It’s not easy to take off right out of the gate, which can make flying a little slower than expected. I guess it’ll just take some getting used to; After all, I’m new in town.
lights, Camera, Action
That Ikran flight would slowly lead me to some of the more action-focused elements of the adventure. When I see some mechanical rigs in the sky, I land on them and complete a scanner minigame to reveal some exploding batteries on board. Before I can detonate them, some drones take aim at me. Before firing at the batteries, I break out a few arrows and simply knock them out of the sky, jump on my Ikran, and ride away from the explosion. It’s a true Hollywood moment.
As I get into my next missions, there will be more emphasis on combat – and this is where the cognitive dissonance will start to come in. The bulk of my two-hour session came when I was assigned to sabotage a mechanical checkpoint in the woods. After the first failed attempt at running with the flaming arrows, I had realized Pandora’s Limits On the secret approach. While closing practice I sneaked into a complex structure, hiding from the guards and staff. I got a chance to do more robust 3D platforming here as I was climbing the edge of a giant metal structure. Like the previous mission, it’s a spectacular blockbuster spectacle as I rapidly move between valves and release explosions.
All that noise would eventually alert the local soldiers, giving me a chance to use my arsenal. The protagonist is unique in that he was trained as a soldier by the RDA before escaping and embracing his Na’vi heritage. This means they can use both Na’vi weapons and realistic guns. As soon as the shit hit the fan, I started picking up weapons on the machine like I was Aloy from Horizon and started gunning down human soldiers with the machine gun. My favorite tool lets me throw grenades at enemies as if I’m throwing them with a lacrosse stick. It’s all as intuitive and responsive as you’d expect from a modern first-person shooter.
This is where the complexity lies. When I’m not at war, Pandora’s Limits A peaceful experience that respects the traditions of Fantasy Na’vi. When I pick a resource from a tree, I have to carefully complete a minigame to protect the precious material. Taking resources from an animal is not as simple as pressing a button on its corpse. If I kill a creature and tear it into pieces, I kneel for a moment and immediately thank its spirit for helping me on my journey. It’s a unique subversion of the usual open-world silliness and matches the tone of the Avatar films perfectly.
And so it’s a little awkward when I violently shoot down an irate alien with several machine gun bullets before giving thanks. During my outpost mission, I shot an arrow at a pipe, causing it to burst into flames. Then I saw that a human soldier below him was running here and there, engulfed in flames and screaming as he died. It all feels strangely at odds with the more gentle moments that had drawn me in up to that point – though I’d be lying if I said those high-octane moments weren’t thrilling.
There’s a good chance that those complicated feelings are just a side effect of seeing disconnected parts of a larger story out of context. This duality seems intentional, as this is the story of a character caught between worlds. It makes sense narratively that they would bounce between peaceful Na’vi routines and human violence. Massive Entertainment has a delicate task on its hands with how it ties those two stories together, lest it end up with a game that struggles to even hold its guns and shoot them.
Two hours were enough for me to realize this Pandora’s LimitsThere are broad strokes, but there is still a lot left to explore. I’ve hardly even messed with its many skill trees, crafting, or gear mod systems. I only got quick glimpses of some of the open world activity as I explored photo locations and pieced together clues to solve a mystery at a helicopter crash site. The best moments are based on my heightened senses when I locate a lost electronic device by following its sound in the still night. I once again feel like a Na’vi in those scenes, ready to establish a deeper connection with their home world. Hopefully, the story will reflect that growth as well, turning me away from my violent video game tendencies so I can find peace in Pandora.
Avatar: The Borderlands of Pandora Launching on December 7 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Amazon Luna.