It’s the AVATAR! It’s been almost a decade since an Avatar: The Last Airbender game was released for consoles, and fans have been looking forward to this longer than Zuko has been looking for his honor. Avatar fans rejoice! We finally have a new Avatar game! But don’t sell all your cabbages just yet, as I fear this journey is not worth the 100-year wait frozen in ice.
Avatar the Last Airbender: Quest for Balance was announced a few months ago, and as a massive fan of the series, I was initially happy to hear and then immediately concerned when I saw who was at the helm of this quest, GameMill! (insert massive eye roll) Co-developed with Bamtang Games, whose most notable games are all mobile games and Nickelodeon Kart Racer.
Tell Us You Hate Us without Telling Us
Straight to the point, this game is BAD and feels like a massive disservice to fans of the series. It feels like some suit at Nickelodeon signed a piece of paper without even looking at it, like, yeah, sure, whatever. Speaking for all Avatar fans out there, We deserve better! Avatar is the perfect setting for deep, rich action gameplay centered around martial arts and spirituality. It would make for a fantastic action RPG with deep mechanics and a rich narrative for which they already have plenty of source material. But instead, we get a game that barely qualifies as a kid’s game.
Let us start with the good because there isn’t much. The premise for this game is alright. The leader of the Ba Sing Se theater wants to reprise the tale of the Avatar after hearing about the historical inaccuracies in the original play by the Ember Island Players. So, she meets with Uncle Iroh, Bumi, and Master Pakku to fill her in on the real story of the Avatar. All of this is portrayed in some decent-looking drawings of the characters with some still-motion animation, and it is refreshing to see the characters freshly inked.
The game also portrays each start of a chapter in the classic Avatar style, with the white card presenting the Book and the Chapter, which is very nostalgic. The character models look suitable for the most part, and you can swap between members of your party most of the time, so I get to play as my boy Sokka!
That’s the extent of the good.
The Quest for Balance was clearly developed as a kid’s game, which is fine. Still, it’s beyond due time that we got a more adult game for those who grew up with the show and want a more mature experience. Even as a kid’s game, it’s just not fun and full of dull quests that have you running around completing mundane tasks. Collect some fruit, beat up some bandits, and collect something else. Plus, it all plays out incredibly slow, with constant pop-ups telling you how to play that take way too long to close and do the thing it’s telling you to do.
Most of the main quests feel disjointed and leave massive gaps in the narrative either out of laziness or assuming you know what happened from the show. One of the first missions takes place on the island of Kyoshi, where you meet the Kyoshi warriors. Still, for some reason, the village is populated with people wearing Southern Water tribe garb, and everything is covered in snow. Something isn’t right here!
This game feels very disjointed from the source material and will use dialogue from the show at the best of times. At the worst of times, it feels like someone read a script of the episode they were supposed to build a level on and couldn’t quite read the language. There are certainly some mistranslations happening, be it in the written text or game direction. To top it off, most of the characters don’t actually speak, and when they do, it is voiced by a wish dot com sound alike. The worst of these is Appa, who sounds like someone growling into a tin can.
Ready to be a “Pro” Bender
Avatar is all about the ability to bend the four elements: air, earth, water, and fire. Doing so with style! Quest for Balance allows you to switch party members and wield their individual skills like Sokka and his trust boomerang, Katara‘s waterbending, and, of course, Aang‘s airbending. Sadly, the combat is only paper thin. You will run into a group of baddies only to spam attacks, dodge, or block when you see them attacking. Rinse, repeat until they are all gone, and be on your way. You earn Pai Sho tiles used to level up and unlock skills for each character, but frankly, it doesn’t change battles at all. You still run into an arena, smash some faces, and carry on your merry way.
Then you have boss fights, which are silly. Either because they can’t really be called “fights,” or they are just meant to feel hard for kids, which is just cheap and annoying. Bosses like Zuko, who you face multiple times, are undamageable until after their attack patterns play out. Then you hit them until they take roughly ⅓ damage. Then, they go through their attack patterns again, where your only option is running around and avoiding damage. The Hei Bai Boss fight was just a box-sliding puzzle while avoiding harm, which was just laughably obnoxious.
The majority of exploration is boiled down to basic traversal of levels, where you solve some simple puzzles using your team. Only Aang can double jump, so you will utilize him more often than most. You will find chests throughout the world that reward you with coins and Pai Sho tiles. Each level also includes an Avatar trial to overcome and learn a new ability, which, in essence, sounds like a good idea but is poorly executed. Most of these trials are a series of uninteresting puzzles that require teammates and sometimes have nothing to do with being the Avatar. They are also fumbly put in to replace entire story elements, such as when Aang experiences his first spirit journey and learns about Avatar Roku‘s temple.
They also include mobile game-style runner sections that are boring and uninspired. These portions could have been a fun addition to the game, especially where it ties in well like Aang riding penguins or escaping the fire nation on Appa. Unfortunately, all you get is a hollow shell of what makes a runner game fun, with no consequence for failure.
The game looks the part of the show with some clean character models and a visual style that looks like a 3D version of the show. The frame is choppy, especially for the character moving around. Most of the effects in the game look like clip art that was dragged and dropped where needed, and most environments are bland.
Oh, and did I mention the camera is terrible? Every area of the game has a fixed camera with only a slight ability to turn it left or right by a few degrees. This often leads to the characters going behind an object with no way to see them. Or the camera will be blocked by something in the foreground, and you just have to deal with it.
For some extra context, I played Avatar The Burning Earth. A game that came out in 2007, although also not great, immediately felt better and more like I was playing an Avatar game. It is also fully voiced by the original cast.
Avatar: The Last Airbender Quest for Balance gets a 3/10.
Lacking any of the charm or soul that makes Avatar great, this game is just awful and definitely isn’t worth the asking price of $49.99. If you really want to play a new Avatar game, wait for this one to inevitably go on sale for next to nothing.
Avatar The Last Airbender Quest for Balance is available for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.