When I first heard the name “The First Soldier,” I’ll admit, I was hoping for a remastered port of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core on modern platforms, but Square Enix had other plans.
Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier is actually a battle royale-style game where, well, you’ve probably seen enough Fortnite by now to know what this offers. There are 75 SOLDIERs during each bout, and the last one standing wins. It’s a simple enough premise. I’m certainly not very adept at battle royale’s, but hanging out in Midgar always sounds like a good time to me.
Although we don’t usually compare games with one another, I can’t help but draw similarities to other titles of this genre. More specifically, Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Aside from how similar the UI looks, you begin a match by falling from the sky and controlling your descent to the map below. There are chests scattered across the stage that contain items such as guns and ammo, etc. Furthermore, the more time passes in a match, the “safety zone” decreases, forcing players closer together. See, it’s virtually identical to the concept of the genre.
To defeat other players, you can fight up close and personal with a sword or shoot them from afar. You don’t start with a gun, so you have to explore the map to get one from chests. One of the major differences, apart from melee being a viable tool, is the Materia orbs you obtain from chests. These include needed spells such as Fire, Thunder, Cure, or even Gravity. These both work on a cooldown and consume a portion of your MP gauge, which is restored over time.
The map is a faithful reproduction of various parts of the Final Fantasy VII Remake game, with notable locales like the Slums or Corneo’s Mansion. The wide map is certainly great to explore around; you can even fight monsters on it and level up, replenishing your health and MP. However, it does require a lot of processing power, so be sure your phone can run the game. There are settings to control the graphics, but I felt like this would make a great PC experience to not limit it to phone hardware.
The controls take some getting used to. It’s never been easy to play a battle royal game on mobile devices, but this game feels stiff compared to using touch screen controls. If you plan to play this competitively, do yourself a favor and pair a Bluetooth controller because the camera controls are unresponsive. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to have full controller support yet either, as some inputs are currently missing, such as an input to collect your chest loot.
Only two modes were available in the Closed Beta: Teams and Solo, with the Ranked Matches of the same types being unavailable. The former is your standard 75-player mode game, while the latter has you join up with two other players. I was often disconnected almost immediately if I managed to even make it in, so I cannot give you too much insight into how it really works.
As a battle royal experience, Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier is a pretty competent game. It takes elements of Final Fantasy VII and brings them to a genre you’d never expect to see it in. However, aside from magical abilities and exploring the map of Midgar, it doesn’t do much to innovate the genre. It seems to be banking on having “Final Fantasy” on the name, but that doesn’t mean it will make a huge splash. I’m eager to see how this experience evolves through development because there could be something special here.
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