Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Nation Rising Review - An Elaborate Yet Uneven Take On Aang's Adventure

They say everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked, and that is the absolute truth for the Rising board game series. The hit game has a number of licenses under its thumb, and Avatar: The Last Airbender is the latest to join. As the newest addition, Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Nation Rising builds upon the framework The Op built for its previous Rising titles. And though it is thematically sound, the game has some frustrating pitfalls that would make even Aang despair.

The game itself is a fairly straightforward one, and it asks players to band together to stop Fire Lord Ozai from taking over the world. An impressive figure of the ruler is placed in the center of the board, and players must pick a hero who can recruit allies to fight. Along the way, players will have to navigate everything from villain phases to dice rolls and balance checks to keep the game going. So suffice it to say, there is always something to do when your turn rolls around.

(Photo: The Op Games)

The good news is that Fire Nation Rising goes deep into the lore of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so fans of the show will be pleased. You can recruit a number of allies who span the animated series, and the same can be said for villains. These pesky foes provide a challenge similar to the one Aang and the gang faced on screen, so you get a taste of how troublesome Azula was. And if you work with your friends, it doesn't take much to knock these foes out.

However, there is a catch to this victory. Fire Nation Rising does rely on strategy, yes, but it also involves a great deal of luck. The dice distribution never seemed stable no matter how often I played. This was unfortunate as several games I played were waylaid by one unlucky roll. Several others were steamrolled by a poorly shuffled deck, and for the sake of team morale, house rules were implemented to keep Ozai from winning The Day of Black Sun.

You might be asking what prompted the house rules, and the answer lies with a few pesky mechanics. For one, Ozai has a one-in-three shot of hitting you as he roles between each player, so those odds are never in your favor. The villains you pull are also empowered by the emperor, and they prevent you from doing regular actions each round. As such, it is easy for Ozai to injure potential allies and knock them out. The game ends automatically once a certain number of allies are downed, so my games often ended due to this stalemate.

The game's use of character history and lore is impressive, to say the least, but casual fans will want to think carefully before playing a round with friends. The gameplay is quick and often unforgiving in my experience. Though strategy is required, I found luck was often the deciding factor in winning a game against Ozai. But if you can look past the uneven odds, Fire Nation Rising is an intriguing, elaborate entry to the Rising IP. 

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Nation Rising is available in stores now.

Review copy provided by the publisher