Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is an upcoming Ubisoft game that will take us into the world of one of the biggest movies of all time.
Players will find themselves dropped into the rich and vibrant world of Pandora, taking part in their own standalone story in the battle between the native Na’vi and human invaders. Running on the latest iteration of Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine for the latest consoles, we’re expecting it to be a showcase of what the Xbox Series X|S and PS5 can do.
There’s still plenty we have to learn about Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, but the game is coming at a great time for the series. The first of four new Avatar sequels, Avatar: The Way of Water, released in December 2022. Frontiers of Pandora is penciled in for this year, but an exact release date remains unconfirmed.
Things have been fairly quiet around Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora for a while, but we’re hoping that will change now that we’re finally in its release year. Read on for everything there is to know about Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora so far.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora: cut to the chase
What is it? A game set in the world of James Cameron’s Avatar moviesWhen can I play it? TBC 2023What can I play it on? PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Amazon Luna
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora release date and platforms
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
Frontiers of Pandora was officially revealed during Ubisoft’s Ubisoft Forward showcase at E3 2021. It took us all somewhat by surprise, but we’re still waiting for Ubisoft to narrow down that release window. We know (via GameSpot) that the game was previously delayed into Ubisoft’s financial year starting April 2022 in response to the delay of Avatar: The Way of Water, which was finally released in December 2022.
Frontiers of Pandora’s release, while originally targeting 2022, is on track to release in 2023, despite Ubisoft revealing in January 2023 that it had scrapped three unannounced projects and has further delayed its upcoming pirate adventure Skull and Bones due to underperforming releases in late 2022.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora trailers
Ubisoft released a tech showcase for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and while it doesn’t show any new footage from the game, it does give a little bit of an insight into what the team is looking to do with the new iteration of the Snowdrop engine.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was surprisingly revealed at Ubisoft’s Ubisoft Forward event at E3 2021. The reveal initially claimed the game would release in 2022 but it has since been delayed to sometime in 2023.
The trailer gives us a look at Pandora, which looks arguably even more stunning than it did in the 2009 film, from its peculiar creatures to thriving flora and fauna. But not everything is peachy in Pandora, as the RDA (or Resources Development Administration) looks to threaten not just the world but those who live in it. But the Na’vi aren’t going down without a fight. Check out the trailer below:
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora: gameplay and story
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
Details on Frontiers of Pandora’s gameplay and story are a bit light, but we’ve been able to gather a few potential snippets from the reveal trailer and Ubisoft’s site.
The official site for the game describes it as a “first-person action adventure” that’s set in an “immersive, open world”. The description also states that the game will take players into a “standalone story” where they’ll “play as a Na’vi and embark on a journey across the Western Frontier, a never-before-seen part of Pandora”.
The first-look trailer gives us a brief look at this first-person perspective. We also see a Na’vi riding a mount – that doesn’t quite look like a Direhorse – suggesting that we will hopefully be able to partake in mounted combat, or we’ll at least be able to traverse Pandora on (kind of) horseback.
The world also seems to be inhabited by creatures we both have – and haven’t – seen in the film, so expect some surprises. There also seems to be some sort of hub for Na’vi to congregate in. We’re hoping this could mean online play – we also hope we can customize our Na’vi.
From the trailer, it also looks like Pandora’s native Na’vi will take on the RDA, like in the film, who threaten to destroy their world and have significant armed tech at their disposal. This trailer shows RDA helicopters on the warpath, trying to destroy a Na’vi. The Na’vi jumps on a Great Leonopteryx, firing arrows at the helicopter, before a final arrow fixed with an explosive device hits the vehicle, which then bursts into flames.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora: news and rumors
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
James Cameron shares his thoughts on Frontiers of Pandora
James Cameron revealed his thoughts on Ubisoft’s upcoming game during an IGN interview in 2022. Confirming he’s taking a hands-off approach, he explained:
“We’re very excited about what Ubisoft is doing with their game authoring. I don’t tell them what to do — they know their world, their business, their market. We just keep a close eye that they don’t do anything that’s not canonical in terms of Na’vi culture and what the RDA is doing on Pandora and all that sort of thing.”
Years of post-launch content
Ubisoft is planning a long life for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora when it releases later this year it seems. In a Q2 earnings call in 2022 (via TweakTown), Ubisoft CFO Frederick Duguet said, “Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a big game next to the highly-awaited movie. The development is progressing well and is a beautiful world delivered by the Snowdrop engine. That will be a very long game in terms of content delivered over many years.”
NPCs will “understand the state of the world”
In a video showcasing the tech behind the game, the development team of Avatar discussed how the game’s NPCs will behave and react more realistically to the game’s world. In the video, Lead Narrative Realization Designer, Alice Rendell, said that “the different activities that NPCs can perform in the world, and the different animations they have, can make the world feel really alive”. As a result, according to Rendell, the team “wanted to take this one step further and created a system where our NPCs understand the state of the world – for example, weather, player progression, or time of day”.
Even plant life will react in some way, with Senior technical artist Kunal Luthra explaining that “the advantage of Snowdrop is that it can handle quite complex shaders”. “To add life to the vegetation of Pandora, we’ve created many interactive shaders that can be affected by the player, from real-time wind simulations and interactions to intelligent plants reacting to your presence,” Luthra explained.
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
Powered by Snowdrop
We know that Frontiers of Pandora is built in Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine, with games such as Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle having already used this engine.
“In February 2017, it was announced that we are embarking on an amazing journey, together with Lightstorm Entertainment and FoxNext Games, to the world of Pandora, developing a new cutting-edge game set on the beautiful and dangerous moon from the prominent Avatar film franchise,” Massive Entertainment site reads.
“Our studio is leveraging its expertise and its proprietary technology, the Snowdrop engine, to deliver the wonders of Pandora to everyone. Players will be immersed in this astonishing world.”
A focus on the current-gen
Developer Ubisoft Massive has detailed why Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora won’t release on last-gen machines like PS4 and Xbox One. As you’d expect, it’s for technical reasons.
In an interview with IGN in 2021, Technical Director of Programming Nikolay Stefanov explained just how much more of a scene can be rendered on PS5 and Xbox Series X thanks to their more powerful tech, explaining: “[New consoles allowed] us to have much better object detail up close to you, but also when you’re flying high up in the air – to have a lovely vista and far-distance rendering, where we can even use the ray tracing to do shadows super far away, you know, three or four kilometers away from you.”
This should also mean that areas like dense jungles and forests will be able to load and render far more efficiently than on last-gen tech. Areas such as these traditionally struggle to maintain a steady frame rate and texture quality due to the sheer amount of objects that have to be rendered on screen at any given time.