Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora — Our Accessibility Test

Lecture intro

Avatar is a movie that’s left its mark on many people, not least for the beauty of its graphics. So, when the game, “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora,” was released, we had to dive in, and it’s been a welcome change of scenery!

The game cover
DeveloperMassive Entertainment
Release dateDecember 7, 2023
Rating16 years and over

James Cameron began developing the universe of Avatar in 2009 via a seminal film, which he expanded into a series of sequels, of which “Avatar: The Way of Water,” released in December 2022, was the first.

In this story, during the year 2154, Earth has become severely short on resources, and humans set out into space to find more. They find resources on Polyphemus’ exomoon and intend to exploit them, but a native race, the Na’vi, step in to protect their planet. In the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution, the RDA (Resources Development Administration) develops Avatars. The biological bodies of Na’vi avatars are remotely piloted by humans to facilitate communication with native Na’vi tribes and reach an agreement.

In the first movie, Jack Sully, a former marine, pilots one of these avatars as a bodyguard for the other avatars. But when he meets the Na’vi people, he falls in love with Neytiri and ends up rebelling against his own people by leading a revolt that eventually drives the humans off the exomoon. The humans won’t return until more than ten years later, as recounted in the second movie.

The game “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is set between the two movies, and it approaches the subject from the other way around. That is to say, it’s no longer about a human living among Na’vi but about young Na’vi children abducted and raised by RDA members to become, like avatars, a bridge between the two species. The children never leave the RDA base, and their childhood memories of Na’vi traditions fade over the years.

Sully’s revolt and the RDA’s retreat might have been fatal for the Na’vi children if their teacher hadn’t saved them and cryogenically frozen them before fleeing. So you, as a Na’vi child, wake up from cryogenesis when the humans return. The resistance frees you, and you discover the world of Pandora through fresh eyes.  

Massive Entertainment is mainly behind the controls of “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora,” and its Ubisoft studio is based in Sweden. While they’ve long been involved with licenses such as “Assassin’s Creed” and “Far Cry,” they’re best known for the two “The Division” projects. So, they’re no strangers to action games. “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is a first-person action game where you play a young Na’vi rediscovering its native world and its special bond with it, so there’ll be plenty of exploration in an unknown world. You’ll need to learn how to harvest and use resources, combining them to discover recipes or tools

Your character won’t really develop by gaining experience and by leveling. However, experience is required to unlock a skill tree divided into five branches. Moreover, as you explore the planet, your strong bond with it will teach you skills like jumping, called Ancestor Skills. Even so, most of your «level’s» effectiveness will depend on the strength and resistance of your equipment. You need to seek out and build the best equipment to be strong enough to take on the most formidable enemies. Making crafting a requirement puts this sometimes secondary aspect of role-play games back at the heart of your character development.

Of course, action games necessarily involve a lot of combat, and these battles will be tough! The Na’vis, towering at almost three meters in height and with strength to match, are undoubtedly powerful. But bows versus assault weapons and leather versus metal plating leave much to be wanted. As soon as you’re spotted and surrounded by enemies, you’ll often die and have to better prepare your attack next time. Co-op Mode will come in very handy! It’s always easier to affront enemies in a team of two people, especially since “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is cross-platform.

Combat is, therefore, demanding and ever-present. What’s hardest to deal with is the number of enemies you face at one time. As soon as an enemy attacks you, all of the enemies that are nearby come running to attack you, too, and they’re particularly aggressive and relentless. You won’t be able to run away from them very easily. Reduced visibility in the lush jungle environment also makes fighting difficult.

To avoid taking too many risks and facing certain death, planning your attacks will be crucial. Ask yourself, “Who are my enemies?” “How many are there?” “What do I know about their weaknesses?” “Where are they?” “How can I use my environment to my advantage by luring them to this field of explosive plants, for example?” These are just some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before leaping into a fight.

As you can understand, this type of gameplay will, by definition, create problems for a lot of people. So, we tested it with the team, with and without accessibility options, and we’re going to tell you all about it.

Lecture intro

What if I have a physical disability?

7 / 10


Your first concern, of course, will be setting the game up. Right from the starting menu, we noted that on the console, menu items can only be selected using a joystick or with a mouse on the PC. This primarily means that you can’t use any buttons, and in particular directional keys, to select options.

So, on the console, a joystick is mandatory. It’ll also be necessary for gameplay, of course, but it’s equally essential for menu selection. Let’s take a look at its configuration. There are some good points regarding this element because you can, in fact, set up two joysticks for independent use.

For people lacking strength, you’ll be able to fine-tune the controller’s responsiveness thanks to 400 degrees of precision. This is a very fine setting, but not where extreme sensitivity values are concerned. Also note, and this is quite rare, that you can create an external dead zone. This means that you won’t need to push the joystick all the way to reach maximum power during movement.

If you have difficulty making precise movements or if you have uncontrolled movements, fine-tuning the settings will also be helpful to you. In addition, you can set an inner dead zone. In that way, small, uncontrolled joystick movements won’t trigger any unintentional character movement.

Not including joysticks, buttons can be used in 16 ways. You can remap all the keys via the settings menu, and you’ll be warned in the event of a key bind conflict. You can use the same key by pressing it in three different ways: by clicking it once, by holding it down or by double-clicking. If you’re able to carry out these three actions, you’ll have access to 12 actions in total by using only four main buttons.

Another interesting point is that you can remap actions requiring a combination of default keys to a single key. For example, the default for throwing a grenade is X+Lb (Square+L1), but you can remap it to a single key. This wasn’t the case at game launch, but it popped up during a recent patch.

Be careful, though, because although some actions can be changed to avoid holding down a button, such as climbing vines, others can’t be changed, such as fast travel. These aren’t actions you’ll be using all the time, but they can add to your level of fatigue and reduce how long you can play.

All these elements, therefore, give us good flexibility regarding controller use. This is an essential point for physical accessibility, but now let’s look at their use in-game. How do they work out during gameplay?

“Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is a first-person action and shooter game. You have a wide variety of weapons, both human and Na’vi. The opponents, as we mentioned, are very aggressive and tenacious, and the lush environment won’t help you at all because it quickly turns into a game of hide and seek.

If aiming precisely is difficult for you, you’ll find a number of useful assists. Aim assist will help you track enemies by keeping your crosshairs aimed at nearby enemies depending on what setting you choose.

Selecting a different combat challenge level also allows you to tailor the game to your abilities. However, this setting ONLY affects damage. By increasing your damage, you’ll be more efficient, and by reducing your enemies’ damage, you’ll better resist their damage. By maximizing both, you’ll be able to hold out longer during fights.

However, that setting doesn’t make enemies less agitated or agile. There’s no way to reduce enemies’ ability to detect you. They’ll, therefore, continue to hunt you down and evade your shots, so expect resistance anyway. You’ll still need a good dose of fine motor skills, though, because this is one of the prerequisites for this play style. Ivar explained that the assists available in settings were all he needed to play using his adaptive controller with switches.

Avatar offers other gameplay options in addition to exploring the world and collecting objects and resources, such as recurring activities in the form of mini games. This is particularly true for resource gathering, which is necessary for crafting food and objects.

To collect resources, you’ll need to grab the object by lightly pressing the trigger halfway down. Then, the joystick begins to vibrate. Then, you’ll have to move the joystick, turning it gently until you find the angle where it stops vibrating. Only then can you finish pulling the trigger and collect the resource with a quality bonus. This rewards your respect for nature by harvesting resources under the best possible conditions.

Hacking is another mini game. By using a specialized SID tool (Y+Lb or triangle+L1), you can display the electrical current of specific devices. By following it to its source, you’ll get to the heart of the device, which you can repair or hack. To do this, an electrical circuit image appears as a false 2D maze, and you need to move a point, the electrical impulse, towards the output, and all that within a limited timeframe.

For these two mini games, collecting and hacking, your fine motor skills will have to be well-developed. You’ll not only need to move in the right way but also fast enough. This could be an obstacle for people with difficulties in these areas. Fortunately, however, the settings allow you to perform these actions automatically.

Lecture intro

What if I’m visually impaired?

6,5 / 10

On the visual side, we’re obviously going to focus on the way game information is presented to you. How will the game compensate for difficulty in understanding visual information?

As we mentioned before, “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” stands out for its rich graphics. The game is magnificent and very colorful, with a graphic palette that gives pride of place to green and purple. Green, of course, since you’re on a forested moon with mauve hues and nocturnal bioluminescence.

In terms of gameplay, you’ll depend on Na’vi vision to find your way around more easily. It’s a kind of sixth sense that lets you feel your surroundings since you’re connected to nature. In concrete terms, a blue-green halo takes up the middle of your screen. When you hover over an interactive element for a few seconds, Na’vi vision will highlight the object in a particular color.

The paths of potential enemies, aggressive or not, are displayed by a colorful trail running along the ground to help you track them or flee. Neutral creatures leave a white trail, resources you’re tracking leave a yellow one, and aggressive creatures leave a red trail.

Objects appear in white, and if you hover over them, an information page appears. This is your personal dictionary concerning the object or plant, and it can be found in the menus.

Your current quest objective appears as a rather aqua-green-colored aura. This aura steers you in a straight line towards the target, regardless of obstacles. The closer the objective, the larger the aura. The aura’s size is almost the only way to judge its distance.

When Na’vi vision is not active, interactive objects and elements are indicated by a bright blue dot hovering over the object. You can find it at the bottom of a vine that you can climb up, for example. As you move closer to the point, it becomes an interactive element. This way, you know how to interact with the object.

To be clear, there’s no audible ping when you approach these interactive objects. What’s worse is that there aren’t any audible cues when enemies are near. Add to this the absence of collision noises and the lack of an easy-orientation button to direct you back towards your quest, and you can easily understand that if you’re visually impaired, an open-world game without this kind of information will be unplayable for you.

We’ve discussed the world, but now let’s discuss the game interface. It’s unobtrusive, leaving plenty of room for the environment. It’s a game that aims at, and certainly succeeds very well at immersing you in its universe. So, these types of games tend to reduce their user interfaces as much as possible. You see where I’m going with this — for those of you who need these essential elements, it’s going to be a problem!

What immediately caught our eye was the compass. To find your way around in a vast world, you need information, and in-game, there’s no local mini-map, just a compass at the top of the screen. It’s actually just a gyrating marker, not a 2D map, and this compass is tiny! It’s a translucent band on which markers scroll by, and it only takes up no more than the middle quarter of the top of the screen. The amount of information is, therefore, minimal, and you’ll have to turn around a lot before understanding it all.

How do you get around? You’ll have to go to the menu. There, you’ll find an overview map of the game’s world. However, using it can quickly become problematic. It’s highly stylized, as if you were looking at the world from above the clouds, and the world is represented in 3D effects. For example, you could have a giant tree represented by a marker at its base and at its canopy. The map can only be zoomed out so far, and you can’t rotate it. So, it’s easy to get confused about where a marker is placed — is it on a tree or just behind it? What’s more, there aren’t any captions, and you can only tell apart the markers by their color because they all look like luminous dots.

Another essential part of the user interface is the health meter, which is a reasonably thin, curved, pastel green line that doesn’t have any segments to show you how much health you have left. So, it’s barely visible in a forested environment. What’s more, it can be difficult to judge how full it is. To its left, in the same color, are two small dots. They represent emergency health seeds collected from plants. Again, they’re not very easy to see.

Finally, below this health meter is the energy meter. It has the same shape as the health meter, but it’s blue-to-mauve in color. Mauve is another color that you’ll see a lot in the game. So there’ll be the same problems, and it’s just as problematic, if not more so. In fact, your health starts regenerating as soon as you’re out of combat, at least as long as you have energy. When your energy is at zero, your lost health won’t regenerate unless you eat life seeds.

It’s essential to keep an eye on your energy meter and eat something if you need to boost it. Fortunately, that empty energy meter starts glowing red when you equip a weapon, which is a welcome reminder.

Let’s move on to combat and Avatar’s basic gameplay. You’ll be mainly using ranged weapons, whether Na’vi or human, and you have crosshairs to help you aim that appear as soon as you start aiming. They’re white and can’t be changed, but you can increase their thickness to improve visibility. As you’ll see in the video, the change in thickness isn’t very apparent

When you target an ally, the crosshairs turn green to warn you not to shoot. When you target an enemy, the crosshairs turn red to confirm that you’re on target. Note that targeting an enemy marks it with a small red mark above its head. The mark remains as long as you have the enemy in your field of vision. However, these markers don’t stay at the edge of the screen when you turn.

To prepare for battle, you can use your Na’Vi vision to make opponents show up in red. If they have weak spots, such as a motor attached to an exoskeleton, they’ll appear in yellow. Your red crosshairs stand out better against these critical points and can inflict heavy damage.

Once combat has begun, enemies will only appear grouped together on the compass, which, as we mentioned, is very small. In other words, you have little warning that enemies are nearby if they’re outside of your field of vision. To remedy this, you can increase the size of your field of vision. By default, it’s set to 80°, but it can be changed from anywhere between 60° and 105°.

As you can see, when it comes to visual information, color plays an important role, and Avatar offers default solutions for people who have different types of color blindness. This starts with color filters, which cover all three types of color blindness by changing the interface’s colors.

However, you can also customize all this by changing the colors of each object. A menu allows you to change the color of danger-related information, so instead of red, you can choose from a panel of 16 colors. That’s a good point, but since it’s all about nuance and there are a lot of elements, you’ll get limited pretty quickly, but it’s certainly adequate for essential information!

If you’re photosensitive, there are a set of kinetosis-specific assists, for example, by adjusting the field-of-view and kinetic blur settings.

So, we have mixed feelings about the accessibility of “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” for visually impaired gamers. This is especially true if these disorders are significant. The game will be unplayable for non-sighted players. Don’t hesitate to give us your feedback in the comments section!


Lecture intro

What if I have hearing loss?

8 / 10


If you’re a player with hearing loss, you obviously need to have control over sound sources. This allows you to maximize important information. In “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora,” you can adjust every sound source. In fact, you can reduce the volume of ambient effect sounds and music in order to maximize the most valuable in-game sounds, such as dialogue and gameplay effects. You can also choose audio output types and, if necessary, switch to mono sound.

Even though Avatar’s essentially a shooter game, you’re constantly interacting with the environment, so subtitles will come in very handy. In cutscenes, you can choose from three subtitle sizes. The speaker and their relative position can be displayed. Finally, you can apply a dark background behind the subtitles, and you can opt for “closed captions” that add environmental information, so that’s great.

In terms of gameplay, as we mentioned in the previous paragraph, most information is essentially visual. So you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding your way around or getting the information you need to play.

The only time when you might run into trouble is when spotting enemies out of visual range. If you haven’t identified enemies beforehand, combat just erupts. Enemies outside of your field of vision only then become visible on the main compass. The main compass is tiny, so it’s a bit confusing to find your way around. The compass is more helpful in making sure there aren’t any more red dots and, therefore, no more enemies on your tail.

The best way to keep an eye on enemies is to mark them using Na’vi vision. That way, they’re clearly visible and marked with a flashing red marker. So don’t hesitate to use your Na’vi vision regularly to avoid rushing into a fight too quickly and getting overwhelmed!


Lecture intro

What if I have a cognitive disability?

5,5 / 10

Cognitively speaking, “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is dubbed in French (Note: This article was originally written in French). However, apart from the inventory, the menus aren’t very graphic. We got our hopes up when we saw that there was a screen reader that could read all of the text out loud, but it was only usable in English. So unless you’re an English speaker, you’ll have to read quite a bit of written information.

You can still follow the story, however, since cutscenes are available in French, but in-game information is more complicated. Still, there are plenty of icons to show you how to craft during ideal weather conditions or for inventory items.

As is often the case in adventure games, gameplay instructions are only displayed when you first encounter a situation for the first time. This information can be found in the menus under the “Journal” and “Tutorials” sections. Be careful because the icon is not very representative. It’s the one on the right, and it also includes a reminder of gameplay instructions. It has a few pictures but mainly text.

However, videos and audio clips do a good job of showing how Ancestor Skills work. It’s a pity that not as much effort was put into all the skills and tutorials.

Gear is essential in the game because it’s what determines your level, so you’re going to need the best gear. When you find new gear, you can compare it with your current gear. Color codes display its quality (gray, green, blue, purple, or gold), and colored arrows indicate which equipment is better. That’ll help you choose if you don’t have written information to rely on.

To make gear or food, you need to collect ingredients. Ingredient bonuses, for speed or health for example, do have icons to distinguish them, but they aren’t very meaningful, and it’s hard to understand without a glossary. You’ll need to test combinations!

When it comes to helping you concentrate, you can activate or deactivate many of the game’s cues. These include tips, the compass and incoming damage. You can adapt these settings to whether you need help or want to avoid information overload. For example, you can display your quest log permanently, but these are written instructions, so if you can’t read, remove them so you’re not disturbed by this block of text.

The biggest problem in the game, which troubled the team from the outset, was a lack of guidance. Once you’re in the forest, the world is open, vast and lush, so it’s easy to get lost! The quest objective isn’t permanently displayed, and you’ll need to activate Na’vi vision to “see” it. The quest objective’s direction is indicated by a glowing green aura, visible through the foliage, and which can be larger or smaller in size. So, if you follow it in a straight line, expect to encounter both walls and mountains. It’s up to you to figure out how to cross over them in a three-dimensional environment. Have you thought about climbing up that tree?

As well as being just a general directional guide, the quest objective doesn’t allow you to get any notion of distance. So, you have to guess how far away you are based on the size of the green aura. The bigger it is, the closer it is. And what about a map? There’s no mini map, just a map of the whole world as seen from above in 3D, so you’ll have to figure out how to handle it.

There’s a great risk of getting lost in this vast world, however pleasant it may be to discover. You’ll have to rely mostly on exploration, moving forward at your own pace.


Lecture intro

What We Think

“Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” is a magnificent game that will delight movie fans as they wander and explore this lush, verdant world.

In terms of accessibility, it offers some good features, particularly in terms of motor skills, but risks remaining inaccessible to people with more pronounced disabilities. It’s hard to find your way around, combat is demanding, and enemies are relentless.

Review Scores

  • Moteur - 7
  • visuel - 6
  • auditif - 8
  • cognitif - 5

We'd love to hear what you think! What difficulties have you encountered with this or other games?