‘Final Fantasy’ meets ‘Fortnite’ is more fun than it should be

Fortnite and Final Fantasy. A doomed pairing of the most lucrative recent gaming phenomenon with one of the most storied video-game franchises spanning over 30 years? I love Final Fantasy, mostly. I’m lukewarm on Fortnite and the battle royale format in general. With Metroid Dread, Shin Megami Tensei, Alan Wake Remastered and Deathloop on my to-do list, why am I still glued to a free-to-play mobile game?

Probably because it’s expanding the already very-expanded Final Fantasy VII universe. The game that got the sequel CGI movie, the remake, multiple mobile games and more. And yet, barring a smart intro movie that cribs from the opening scenes of FF7R, you won’t see the protagonists (or antagonists) of the iconic RPG — though you’ll be able to cosplay as them.

In First Soldier, you play as, well, recruits looking to become the first Soldier — a specific top-class army member. Cloud, from FFVII, is introduced in the original as “Soldier, First Class” and this game takes everything back 30 years to the early formation of Shinra Corp’s military finest.

The setting, then, is a battle royale to see how augmented soldiers fare against each other (and whatever beasts come their way in the process). The battleground is a surprisingly expansive map on the outskirts of Midgar — while also featuring many of the major landmarks of Midgar’s sectors. Aerith’s church and childhood home is there to be shot at, as is the arena, Sector 7’s markets, the abandoned trainyard and more. The battle theme of FF7 kicks in as helicopters swarm into the area, dropping off recruits. It still gets me excited every time.

The grounds are littered with guns, from handguns to sniper rifles, as well as materia (magic orbs that offer both offensive and support capabilities) and even pretty rare summoning spells. I’ve yet to summon anything so far. There are also potions to pick up and help extend your chances of survival.

These are the baseline weapons and items. Differentiating itself from Fortnite — if not all BR games; we see you Apex and Warzone — you can also choose a job role, a la most RPGs. This mostly affects your special ability, your melee weapon and how you attack with it. Warrior is a straight-shooting class with a sword and a rush special that closes distance so you can wallop your rivals before they can get a shot in. Monks have the ability to heal themselves when they mete out damage, while Ninjas get an extra jump and the ability to hide in stealth mode for a few seconds.

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