THQ's Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Burning Earth follows the adventures of Aang and his fellow Avatars as they seek to save the earth from the Fire Nation. The game, based on the popular cartoon series on Nickelodeon, was unveiled today for the first time at Comic-Con 2007, and we got our hands on the Xbox 360 version to see how it's shaping up.
Much like the cartoon series on which it's based, The Burning Earth tells its tale in a novelistic way, with each series of adventures forming a chapter of the overall tale featured in the game. In the opening chapter of The Burning Earth, Aang is seeking out a teacher who can tutor him in the ways of earthbending to complement his already-honed skills of air- and water-bending. Benders, of course, are those who can manipulate the four essential elements--air, water, fire, and earth--to their own needs.
As the first chapter opens up, Aang and his female pal, Katara (herself a skilled waterbender) are accosted by multiple foes in an effort to teach the player the basic skills of combat. The A button handles basic strike attacks, and you can use a quick dash move by pressing the X button. Aang can also use his airbending skills to throw bolts of compressed air at foes--to do so you simply press the B button. Holding down the B button will add some oomph to your shots, and using these ranged attacks to soften up enemies before they get close to you is an easy way to find success early in the game. In addition, you can pick up tokens to earn special moves, and perform dodge rolls by pressing the right trigger and moving the left analog stick in any direction.
While the enemies featured in the opening levels of the game weren't anything too tough, the game does seem like it will throw a lot of different enemy types at you. In addition to the standard grunts that you'll mow down with ease, you'll also have to face slightly smarter earthbending enemies who will look to hurl huge boulders at you in order to slow you down. After mopping up the scrubs, we challenged an earthbending master who was able to use his skills at manipulating rocks to his advantage in several different ways--from summoning huge stone wheels to smash Aang and Katara with, to blasting forth with shock waves of earth and rock that we quickly learned were tough to avoid.
Should one of Aang's companions be in danger of going down for the count, Aang will be able to summon a special power, which will give him access to special options and more powerful attacks. Should Aang go down in battle, you'll immediately take control of the secondary character in the battle (in this case, Katara)--though we couldn't figure out if there was a way to revive a downed ally in the game.
The game's cel-shaded graphics, Asian-inspired settings, and somewhat muted color palette seem to match the visual style of the Avatar television series, and the game's action-first take on gameplay should be a draw for fans of the show. We'll have updates on the adventures of Aang and his pals as they strive for elemental mastery in The Burning Earth as we get closer to its release, so stay tuned.