It would not be an exaggeration to call Final Fantasy VII one of the most important video games ever made. The adventures of Cloud Strife and co. have left an undeniable impact that can be felt in not just every modern RPG but, for better or for worse, nearly every modern game. Its cinematic storytelling, dense and complicated worldbuilding, expansive map and rich build-crafting set a standard that is still being chased nearly 30 years later.
What a shame, then, that it would be similarly apt to call the recently released Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis one of the most disposable games of the year.
If Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis is at all interesting, it’s only for the wrong reasons. The game was announced shortly after the release of the 2020 title Final Fantasy VII Remake, which proved to be less of a “remake” and more of a deconstructive, introspective and shockingly original science fantasy epic built on the bones of the 1997 classic. Ever Crisis was pitched as a less ambitious take on a remake of Final Fantasy VII, and unambitious it certainly is.
Ever Crisis is a free-to-play mobile game that adapts the story of Final Fantasy VII and some of its spinoffs into a bite-sized, episodic RPG format. When I started playing it, it felt kind of charming. I love Final Fantasy VII’s story and while I think the original game has aged beautifully, seeing it with a fresh coat of paint is still somewhat exciting. However, it didn’t take long to discover the real meat of Ever Crisis: the endless grind.
There’s only one thing that really matters in Ever Crisis, and it's your power level. Every episode in the story mode for Ever Crisis comes with a recommended power level. If your party reaches that level, you’re good to go. If you come up short, you’ll have to head to the Solo Content tab to grind for a bit. There are a bunch of different missions that offer a bunch of different rewards; some will give you materials to upgrade your weapons, some will give you raw experience to level up your characters and some will give you resources to spend in the game’s slot machine-esque gacha system (which will in turn give you other resources to spend elsewhere). Ultimately, though, they all do one thing: they make your power level number go up and they all take an agonizingly long time to obtain.
None of this would be all that much of a problem if Ever Crisis had a great combat system. Grinding is just playing if you’re having fun, but Ever Crisis doesn’t have great combat. In fact, it’s kind of dishonest to say that Ever Crisis even has combat. There are animations that play when you attack enemies, but that’s rarely an active affair. The game has an auto-battle mode that consistently makes absolutely perfect plays, and in my experience, it has always been a better move to leave auto-battle on than to turn it off.
Almost all of the build-crafting can be done automatically, too. Once you have the right resources on hand, there are dedicated functions to allocate them in exactly the right ways to every character. In fact, when I’ve tried to play the game for myself, I’ve found it to be a fairly unexciting affair. So, the core loop is to send your party on a mission to make a number go up while you sit and watch expectantly for what can easily turn into hours on end. The grind is all Ever Crisis has to offer. There’s no actual gameplay happening here, just a video that renders your phone unusable for a little while.
More frustrating than the game being bad, though, is the fact that it feels like its badness is by design. Ever Crisis follows a free-to-play model supported by in-app purchases. Almost all of those in-app purchases serve to speed up or bypass the grind. You can buy most of those resources that I mentioned in the cash shop rather than playing for them. This means the game has an express financial incentive to draw the player away from any actual gameplay and towards the cash shop. By making the gameplay not engaging, Ever Crisis encourages the player to pay to skip it. Every time you hit a wall, you are forced to choose between a “game” with almost no gameplay that doesn’t respect your time and a store that sells nothing. Ever Crisis isn’t a game, it’s an inconvenience and it doesn’t want to be played – it wants to be purchased.
Obviously, Ever Crisis isn’t breaking any new ground with this model. The mobile market in particular is littered with this kind of pay-to-win nonsense. But this kind of game design turned monetization scheme being paired with a game as culturally important as Final Fantasy VII is just depressing. All the industry-altering influential magic of that canonical masterpiece has been traded in for a cash shop with a few flashy 3D models stapled to its side.
Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a junior studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelquest.