Frontiers Of Pandora First Impressions – Fancy “Far Cry Primal”

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is one of the weirdest gaming stories of the year. In development for ages, it’s made by one of Ubisoft’s best studios, Massive, responsible for The Division, which was a huge success upon launch.

But as one of the last games to be released in what has been a phenomenal year for gaming in general, there has been almost no talk of Frontiers of Pandora. Without noise. I wouldn’t be shocked if a lot of people don’t even know it’s out. Review scores were relatively low, placing it in the bottom half of all PC games released this year (it’s also for console). However, user scores are high. For example, very high. Higher than any major Ubisoft game in years.

So, that was enough of a paradox that I thought I’d check it out. Yes, I have a backlog that includes probably another 200 hours of Baldur’s Gate 3, but an action-based game like Avatar is more my speed here.

These are the first impressions from the first few hours I played yesterday. I realize I’m not exactly on time, but hey, lots of games to play, shows to watch.

It’s a… weird game.

First of all, it is magnificent. As one of the most magnificent games out there right now? Along with maybe Cyberpunk at max path tracking settings. That’s mainly about the environment though, the lush jungle, which has more dense foliage and fauna than I think I’ve ever seen in a game, going back to when Crysis ruled the graphical world. Character models are… less impressive. No James Cameron flawless motion capture for Na’vi. But Pandora itself is truly the most beautiful place I’ve seen in a game in a long time.

The game itself looks… well, it looks like Far Cry. Specifically, Far Cry Primal, given the nature and old bows, arrows, spears and more (although you can use human weapons too). Everything just feels almost identical in these early hours. So much collecting materials and hunting animals to make upgrades for your gear. A skill tree that is quite limited. Bases that you must clear to “clear” regions as you venture across the map. Thankfully there are no “Ubisoft vision towers” as far as I can tell, but this is a Ubisoft game in a way that feels like 80% of the Far Cry experience so far.

And of course you have staples like ‘Na’vi vision’ which allows you to see animals, enemies and appropriate plants glowing in the world. Notes desperately should, given that the foliage is so dense in games, trying to play it without highlighting things is almost impossible as everything blends into the jungle. I guess it’s better for immersion, but it’s really hard to analyze as a player without Eagle Vision. I mean Na’vi vision.

I will say that so far the gameplay and combat is better than most Far Crys I’ve played. It’s less bulky and with a few upgrades the movement and traversal is much smoother and faster as a giant, powerful Na’vi. It’s definitely an improvement over other similar games.

I really don’t understand why it’s so similar to Far Cry, given that it’s Massive, the studio behind the third-person shooter, The Division, and not… any of the Ubisoft teams that made the Far Cry games. It’s not that you can’t change as a studio, it’s just a little weird. I understand why this style of gameplay was chosen given the world context where hunting, gathering and jungle stalking make sense, but it’s incredibly hard to avoid comparisons to Far Cry, with maybe tiny a mixed part of the Horizon Zero Dawn series.

Nothing I’ve played so far has bad, and again, this world is beyond gorgeous and worth spending time on its own. But I understand why this initially seems like just another Ubisoft game, even if it offers improvements to the formula.

But I have more things to unlock, more places to explore, more story to unravel. This is just a first impression and I’ll be back when I’m done for a more complete check.

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