Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier Impressions - A Battle Royale Dressed in Final Fantasy Clothing

When Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier was first announced, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. Described as a battle royale type spinoff based on the world of Final Fantasy VII, I began with a feeling of cautious optimistic intrigue which quickly devolved into exasperation and disappointment when it was revealed to be a mobile title. Nevertheless, as a massive fan of the larger world and series, I eagerly accepted when offered the chance to check out the closed beta of this new battle royal set 30 years before the story of the original game and last year’s Remake. 

Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier is, first and foremost, very much a battle royale game veiled in a Midgar and Final Fantasy VII dress. All the genre-defining mechanics are present: from dropping from an aircraft at the start of each map, scavenging weapons, gear, and restorative items to improve your odds, and a steadily shrinking map to force those tense multi-team skirmishes. The Final Fantasy-ness seeps into the formula with the added mechanics of leveling up during gameplay, materia, and even summons. 


Scattered around the battlefield (including the likes of Aerith’s house, Corneo’s Mansion, and the slums of Midgar), you will find assortments of weapons, accessories, and materia of varying color-coded levels of rarity. Every player starts with a dash and a melee weapon, but combat tends to quickly become a long-distance affair with guns. You can carry and swap between two different firearms and expand your arsenal with up to three different materia that unlock spells to use.

Series staples such as Cure, Thunder, & Fire are all here, tied to cooldown timers, and can dish out some severe damage if you nail enemies in their effect zones. The summons can be especially brutal if you catch a team in their effect, with a high likelihood of wiping the squad out. During the closed beta, I never got to use one myself, but I did see Ifrit getting summoned (from a safe distance, that is.)


As you defeat players or take out the various monsters scattered around the battlefield, your character will level up, which can improve and unlock abilities such as the protective dash you begin each round with. I like the idea of leveling up mid-match, but from the matches I played, I didn’t notice much of a difference from one level to the next. What mattered more was player accuracy and getting those headshots.

As I don’t have much experience playing games like this on my phone, I found it incredibly difficult to comfortably and accurately control my character using the touch screen. The whole “virtual thumbstick” feature has always been a turn-off for me that I could never get comfortable with. Virtual buttons — like the magic spells or the melee attack — are large enough to be easily used, but they left me feeling that they were more of screen clutter than a worthwhile replacement for a button press on a controller. So, I decided to try using a controller, my Dual Sense to be precise.t made the experience better, if only slightly. 


Moving around and aiming improves immensely when you are doing it with a couple of analog sticks; the rest of the controls, not so much. Many of the touch controls and interactions, such as using magic, searching crates, and basic menu navigation, don’t seem to be supported or mapped -t least on the Dual Sense anyway. Some of the other commands are tied to rather strange buttons, such as the menu button manually shooting your gun, the share button to look down your scope, L1 to use your melee attack, and R2/L2 to swap your ranged weapons. Not your traditional shooter controls, to be sure, and I wasn’t able to find anyways to remap the controls. Luckily, you will shoot any monster or enemy you have in your crosshairs, so there is no need to mash the menu button!

Visually speaking, Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier looks pretty good. Playing on my aging Galaxy S8+, it had no issue running on medium. After a game or two, the backside got noticeably hot, which didn’t add to the comfort of playing it using the touch controls. Some of the textures were a little muddied on the medium setting, but the draw distance and details were still discernible. On the high visual settings, the game does look nice, but with the hit in performance and the increase in heat, I dropped it back down after a match.


After spending some time as my character, Dunn Haizard, in Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier and taking home a win, has this game made me a mobile battle royal fan? No, not really. But, after playing it, I can certainly see myself investing more time in it, should it come to a platform other than mobile. I dig the idea of this prequel world,  seeing the formation of SOLDIER and seeing iconic locations as they were 30 years before. The inclusion of materia and magic is a novelty that could help Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier stand out in an arena of giants like Fortnite or APEX, but it won’t happen until it escapes from the confines of the mobile-only market. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the game does just that.