As you might expect, Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier looks and plays like a battle royale. You’re dropping from Shinra helicopters into the slums below Midgar’s plates. (Where are all the people who normally would be there? Who knows?) The color palette is decidedly muted and includes all the sepia variants, which makes sense given the area. 75 players go in, and only one comes out. But it’s the little things that suggest the final game game could have the right “flavor.”
To start, some of the introductory elements in the FFVII The First Soldier closed beta help make things feel more plausible. Instead of random warriors fighting for glory, this Final Fantasy battle royale is a prequel that casts everyone as a SOLDIER candidate. Which makes sense, given the installment always noted how competitive the selection process is. To further that, before you head into a map, you choose your class. The tutorial casts you as a Warrior, making you a sword wielder along the lines of Zack Fair or Cloud Strife. But people could also choose to be a Monk, Ranger, or Sorcerer, allowing for different approaches to dealing with other players and monsters.
Yes, monsters are present. As you go around the map, you may run across things creatures like Bombs, Cerulean Drakes, or Hedgehog Pies. These can be fought to increase your level and boost your strength. Which means if you run into another SOLDIER candidate in the field, even if you both go in with no materia, no guns, and only your default weapon, you could simply overpower them.
You’ll notice I mentioned materia there. As you might expect from a Final Fantasy battle royale, FFVII The First Soldier does offer magic. But you don’t drop into the field with it. Rather, you drop in with nothing and have to hope that the empty homes you explore, treasure chests you find, or supply drop you claim might have useful equipment. Most often, you’ll find guns, ammo, and accessories. (For example, an item you equip might show where monsters are on the map.) But sometimes, you’ll get materia too. Each one will require a certain amount of charges to use and involve a cooldown. The most invaluable one I found would always be Cure, which would heal and be a godsend when I was out of potions. But a poisoning Bio attack can also be handy. And someone could also use spells like Fire and Thunder to attack.
I also appreciated how the FFVII The First Soldier closed beta included such familiar touchpoints in its map. For example, Aerith’s church is there. (Though, since this is a prequel, it isn’t really “hers” yet.) You can visit Sector 7. Don Corneo’s Mansion is there. (He was still a force to be reckoned with even back then?) If you look up, you see the plates of Midgar obscuring your view of the sky. And battle royale staples like motorcycles and jeep-like vehicles appear. But also, if you can find a stop, you can summon a chocobo to ride in this Final Fantasy battle royale. And you might see people in Chocobo hoodies if they’ve collected pieces, opponents might be in chocobo hoodies.
The core of FFVII The First Soldier is that yes, it does feel a lot like any battle royale already out there with its focus on guns, shrinking maps, and general ambiance, but it adds a slight Final Fantasy touch. Once you equip your first materia or summon your first chocobo, it might start feeling a bit more like home. But know that while those little touches are there, it does largely feel more like a battle royal than any FFVII game.
Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier will come to Android and Apple iOS devices. Its closed beta runs until June 7, 2021.