Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier beta impressions — a diamond within the tough

When Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier was first revealed in late February, I admit I discovered the concept fairly humorous.

My favorite recreation of all time is Final Fantasy VII, however a PUBG-esque battle royale prequel to the long-lasting turn-based JPRG wasn’t precisely one thing I needed. Unfortunately, after spending quite a lot of hours with the sport’s not too long ago concluded closed beta, I’ve come away feeling considerably blended on the expertise.

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Right from the beginning, I ought to point out that the overall premise Square Enix and developer Ateam have gone for in The First Soldier is sort of clever. Tetsuya Nomura, the general inventive director of the Final Fantasy VII subseries, has a irritating tendency to incorporate narrative parts within the cell entries of a franchise which might be important to understanding the broader story — look no additional than Kingdom Hearts.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem with The First Soldier, because it’s predominantly a standalone story concerning the origins of SOLDIER, the Shinra megacorporation’s elite superhuman process drive, set 30 years earlier than the occasions of Final Fantasy. Nomura has additionally mentioned narrative parts might be saved to a minimal, which is certainly reassuring should you’re a fan of the continued Final Fantasy VII Remake saga like I’m and had been initially anxious concerning the story changing into extra convoluted.

But after all, The First Soldier is a battle royale initially, and therein lies each its strengths and weaknesses. As is customary for the style, The First Soldier has you and a bunch of different gamers (on this case, 75) thrown into a big map in an enormous battle to see who’s left standing.

Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier church

It’s right here that The First Soldier is at its most profitable. The recreation’s map is predicated on a far much less populated model of the long-lasting Final Fantasy VII metropolis of Midgar, making it acceptable for a battle royale. What’s extra, The First Soldier cleverly mixing recognizable parts of Midgar just like the Sector 7 slums, Aerith’s church, the Collapsed Expressway, Don Corneo’s mansion — all based mostly on their Final Fantasy VII Remake designs — whereas taking inventive liberties in laying out the desert stretches. It’s cool to see Midgar — usually depicted as a large industrial dystopia — in additional of a fundamental kind. There are additionally little easter eggs for FFVII followers, just like the hidden base for the Avalanche eco-terrorist group in Tifa’s Seventh Heaven bar.

What makes The First Soldier extra difficult, although, is its core gameplay mechanics. Like most battle royale video games, you could have your customary assortment of weapons to make use of, like assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. But the issue right here is that the taking pictures simply doesn’t really feel responsive sufficient on cell. Problematically, there’s no controller assist as of but for The First Soldier (though Square says it’s “being considered”), which makes gunfights really feel clunky with the on-screen analogue stick. Vehicles fare even worse; there’s no such stick in any respect, so it’s a must to awkwardly faucet ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons to steer.

Meanwhile, The First Soldier doesn’t clarify how merchandise rarity works in-game (not even within the obligatory tutorial) — a baffling alternative meaning you’ll have to determine the variations between the 4 ranges of rarity as you go. The 4 lessons you possibly can select from as nicely — the Warrior, Sorcerer, Monk and Ranger — are additionally not very nicely defined. While I used to be happy to find every has its personal development system, they didn’t really feel distinctive sufficient to drastically change the move of fight. Auto-targeting for the melee-based Warrior and Monk jobs additionally felt too janky and unreliable. (In phrases of constant decision and body price, the sport happily appears to be like and runs pretty nicely).

FFVII The First Soldier combat

These points are particularly irritating as a result of a few of The First Soldier‘s different mechanics really carry a good bit to the style. In specific, Ateam has executed a superb job translating a variety of parts from Final Fantasy VII into The First Soldier. The greatest instance of that is Materia, which characters in Final Fantasy VII use to forged magic. You can loot Materia all through the map from chests or different gamers, and this provides you entry to traditional FF spells like Fire, Thunder, Bio (poison) and Cure.

You may even degree up Materia to extend its efficiency by discovering extra of those you could have outfitted. Spells have an space of impact (AOE) to make them fairly helpful, however they’re additionally neatly balanced with an MP metre that recharges over time. Aero, particularly, got here in helpful, because it created a gust of wind that launched my teammates and me into the air to make a hasty retreat if wanted. Again, the touchscreen controls sadly hamper how exact you could be with these spells, however the core system at the very least works nicely in any other case.

The First Soldier provides one other attention-grabbing wrinkle to the battle royale components within the type of monsters, that are additionally taken from Final Fantasy VII. As you traverse the map, there are random creatures which you could defeat to finish challenges and procure loot. Lower-level monsters are good methods of farming Gil to buy gadgets from purchase stations (and even respawn fallen allies), however there are “mini-bosses” — like Final Fantasy VII‘s opening Scorpion Sentinel boss — that supply even higher rewards when overwhelmed. As a pleasant contact, a number of the unbelievable music from Final Fantasy VII Remake performs throughout these moments.

FFVII The First Soldier Scorpion Sentinel boss

In uncommon situations, you possibly can even snag Summon Materia to name forth highly effective beasts just like the fire-wielding Ifrit to assist your group achieve the higher hand. Overall, I appreciated having a 3rd “faction” of kinds within the combine, because it encourages you to additional discover the map and hold issues a bit brisker than simply fixed player-vs-player encounters.

In the top, there’s a good quantity to love about The First Soldier, particularly should you’re a Final Fantasy VII fan. The recreation makes good use of VII‘s world, especially when it comes to magic and enemies, thus helping differentiate it from the litany of other battle royales out there. However, they’re held again by spotty cell controls and a few half-baked job mechanics. Given all of that, it’s laborious to see what viewers the sport may discover past hardcore FF followers like me within the oversaturated battle royale market.

Even then, I’m way more excited for Ever Crisis, the cell remake of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, and the way forward for Final Fantasy VII Remake, beginning with June tenth’s Intergrade on PS5.

The First Soldier will launch later this 12 months on Android and iOS.

Note: The recreation might be free-to-play with in-app purchases, though we don’t but know their value or how in depth they are going to be.

Image credit score: Square Enix

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Written by Gideon


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