Several months ago, Square Enix showed us the “expanded universe” as it were of Final Fantasy VII is still very much alive and well when they announced a slew of new titles to go along with it. First up, we had another version of Final Fantasy VII Remake to look forward to with Intergrade – an updated and perfected version of the game for PS5 along with a new bit of downloadable content featuring Yuffie. Next, a separate “remake” projects of sorts was revealed with Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis. This title will feature retellings of the entire Compilation works spanning from Before Crisis all the way through Dirge of Cerberus. And finally, Square Enix revealed Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier – a battle royale taking place 30 years before the events of the original FFVII.
Recently, the publisher held the game’s closed beta test, giving a select few entry into the early beginnings of the game. I too had a chance to see what all the fuss was about thanks to an opportunity given to us by Square Enix.
After getting everything set up on my Android phone (a Sony Xperia 5, just for the record), The First Soldier throws you into the action right off the bat. Your original character drops down from the sky into the Midgar under city and it’s up to you to look around and find some items and weapons to use for your survival. As with any battle royale, there is of course other live players already on the field – so you can’t just leisurely scope out the area, no you’d better find at least something so you can fight back if you find someone shooting at you. If your HP does happen to reach 0, you can drop back in and try again.
Weapons, gear, healing items, materia and more are strewn over the battlefield, and it’s here you’ll need to make use of what you can before the map caves in on you. With luck you can even nab yourself a summon materia and use them against a group of unsuspecting foes. Other magic is available as well, though the game keeps you from spamming them as you might have in the original FFVII. By defeating enemies including monsters, your character will level up and you’ll gain new abilities too.
As for actually playing the game, well… I found it quite difficult just straight on my phone screen. Having to hold my phone like a controller with the face buttons and “analogue” controls on the actual screen felt a bit cumbersome and so I found myself taking frequent breaks as to not burn myself out. Abilities are also executed by tapping on the screen but it just feels out of place, like you’re better off getting a controller working and going from there. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test that in any capacity myself, perhaps if another beta opportunity comes along.
For a mobile game, The First Soldier looks well enough. I was able to run the game at its maximum settings, which is a good sign – though truth be told, I would have liked to try it out on my new iPad Pro (or even a console or PC) to see everything on a bigger screen. The map itself is pretty basic and you’ll recognize some Final Fantasy VII Remake assets that’ve been ported over. The game sports its own version of the classic Prelude, which was cool to see. Overall presentation is pretty solid considering the target platform.
With the game scheduled for a full release later this year, it’ll be interesting to see what improvements will come about from the beta test. Does it hold up to the other big battle royale games? Maybe not but it might be there for those who like the Final Fantasy aesthetic and want a little something to do during the downtime between Final Fantasy VII Remake or other Square Enix releases.
Disclaimer: Closed beta code provided by the publisher Square Enix.