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Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis turns Square Enix's best into an avalanche of money-grabbing tactics


Close up of Aerith in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Image credit: Square Enix / Eurogamer

A close up on Aerith's eyes. She drops a flower. It's crushed underfoot. The camera pans back to an overhead view of Midgar as the orchestra swells and the horns fanfare. We zoom in on a train, Cloud perched on top.

It's an opening that will be familiar to any Final Fantasy 7 fan, from the original game to the recent Remake. Now it's present and correct in Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis too, a new free-to-play mobile game from Square Enix that encapsulates the whole saga and its spin-offs into a single, mission-based package. Initially, with this opening, it makes a good first impression.

But it's all a facade. Ever Crisis is an avalanche of microtransactions and frustrating mobile design that makes one of Square Enix's greatest achievements a miserable experience.

Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis Summer Game Fest 2023 TrailerWatch on YouTube

At least the visuals are good. Story missions are presented in a cute overhead style reminiscent of the original game's blocky Lego people, now with revised yet chunky almost Kingdom Hearts-esque models. It's how the original seemed back in the day, nostalgia flooding in. In battle, the character models are similar to Remake but viewed from behind, full of stylish magic effects. It all looks typically Final Fantasy.

Battles themselves have a small amount of strategy but can be played easily enough with one hand while on a train - internet connection permitting. The ATB gauge slowly fills by itself segment by segment, while characters initiate basic attacks automatically; the gauge can then be spent on various spells and abilities with a segment cost. The more powerful the ability, the more segments of the ATB gauge it'll cost to perform. You can also switch between attack and defence modes, each offering associated buffs.

To an extent, the game plays itself. At one point I physically put the phone down and watched a battle unfold without doing anything - and yet still received an S rank for my trouble. Boss battles do at least require some input.

Cloud and Barret chat in-game in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Zack against a boss in Wutai in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
I love the in-game character models | Image credit: Square Enix / Eurogamer

Story Mode is the main attraction, splitting up the original game, the Crisis Core spin-off, and last year's The First Soldier mobile game (RIP) into a series of abridged missions. These are usually a couple of minutes long at maximum, involving some brief dialogue and a battle or two. It's a pleasant enough way to re-play the original story, at least for fans seeking a quick reminder - this is by no means a definitive experience for newcomers.

Frustratingly, though, you're unable to choose which game's story to follow. Instead, it's a fixed path beginning with the original and then a forced swap to Crisis Core for a few missions and so on. It's all too easy, then, to lose the thread of a story as it jumps between games. More annoying still is Ever Crisis has been marketed as offering new story missions for young Sephiroth as part of The First Soldier, but these don't actually exist in the game yet - they're simply teased when you complete the current set of missions. For many fans, this will be the main draw of the game, but it's not yet playable.

So I'm pootling along through the story, rinsing through missions, admiring the cute visuals. All is well. But then as a reward I receive some Blue Crystals. What do these do?

Hoo boy. Right from the off, Ever Crisis pelts you with materials, quests, and bonuses. There are daily login popups, a premium hunt, a special shop with limited items, special weapon draws. The shop has special packs of legendary or epic items, multiple reward passes, memory packs, daily packs of items, and packs of Red Crystals - used as an in-game currency. At the bottom is a section for items purchased with Gil, a currency gained through completing missions, but these are barely useful.

Prices vary on these packs from £1.99 to £69.99, with some purchasable with Red Crystals. Red Crystals range from £2.99 to £69.99 for a bunch. The Monthly Legendary Bundle Pack, for instance, costs 5000 Red Crystals, which would require spending £39.99 on 6200 Red Crystals. The Premium Hunt Season Pass is £12.99, which rewards players with items and vouchers for more items.

Premium Hunt purchase advert in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Draw Types explanation in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Red crystal purchasing in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Special shop screenshot in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Treasure Hunt season pass in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
Summer event in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis
A selection of monetisation options | Image credit: Square Enix / Eurogamer

Then there's the Draw feature, which works as a gacha system to gain new weapons and outfits, which in turn can be levelled up with other items to improve your chances in battle. There are multiple Special Draws and multiple Featured Draws, which use Red or Blue Crystals. You can also Draw using Tickets, another currency gained (slowly) through normal play.

All of this is buried in a mess of awkward terminology and unintuitive menus. It feels deliberately confusing, designed to baffle players into spending money - perhaps needlessly. How much do you need to pay to win? I'm not sure. So far I've not spent a penny, much against the will of the game. But alas, I've also hit a wall in the story.

This leads to the wealth of other modes. Outside of the story, there's Solo Content consisting of daily quests, enhancement quests, and dungeons that all provide their own type of reward - be it items or currency. There are co-op battles where you join others online to complete quests. There are special events, the current one being beach festival themed which is just an excuse to have scantily clad characters. All of these cost stamina: this is mostly easily replenished simply by playing, though you can of course use Red Crystals to buy more.

There's even a Chocobo Farm where players can send out chocobo on expeditions for items and medals, the latter of which can be exchanged for upgrades like expanding the farm - or you can choose to pay. Those expeditions are timed and guess what? You can pay to speed those up too.

Close up of Cloud in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis cutscene
Cloud and Sephiroth square off in Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis cut scene
Cutscenes are well-produced from Remake | Image credit: Square Enix / Eurogamer

There's more I haven't even unlocked yet like summons and materia enhancement. No doubt these too will have opportunities for microtransactions. Ever Crisis is just full of stuff, with a design geared towards payments over fun. Where I was keen to experience Final Fantasy 7 in a new way, I've instead been bombarded with intrusive pop ups, payment opportunities, bonus gifts and notices, most of which make little sense to me. The good bits are utterly buried and everything has been monetised in some form, capitalising on fan nostalgia.

And now I'm stuck against a boss. I'm playing as Zack but, despite my best attempts at strategy, I am simply not strong enough to defeat it. The ATB gauge builds so slowly - and the necessary Cure spell, the only way to heal, uses so much of the gauge - that once I'm on the backfoot I can't catch up. Strategy out the window, the only way I can win is to simply be stronger.

How? Complete the daily quests and enhancement quests repeatedly to gain new items, risk running out of stamina and spend to buy more. Or I spend on the Draw feature and hope I get better equipment. Or I grind away at some other mission type and hope the rewards are in some way useful.

But I don't want to. I don't want to give this game my time or money. The Young Sephiroth missions might be calling to me, but nothing is worth putting up with all this.

Ever Crisis is the sort of experience that Shinra would be proud of. And that's absolutely not a compliment.

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