Final Fantasy 7 Remake's classic mode makes you feel like a back-seat driver

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn't only going to look better, but it's going to play better too. Square Enix has replaced the original game's turn-based battle system with one that gives you more control over what Cloud and co are doing – and I personally find it a welcome change.

Unlike in the original game, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has real-time action: you have full control over when your selected character will dodge, roll or block. Every time you perform these actions you charge up your ATB bar which, when full, lets you unleash a special attack on your enemy. 

However, not everyone will find this a change for the better, and Square Enix has acknowledged that. So, for those who do prefer Final Fantasy 7's original turn-based combat, there's an option to play in something called 'classic mode'. 

Classic mode has a much more hands-off approach. Instead of you controlling your character's movements, dodges and so on, this is done automatically – all you need to do is wait until an ATB gauge fills up, then initiate an attack. 

Square Enix has said this is for those who don't like action games or prefer to avoid the action side of things. So, during a recent hands-on with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I decided to kick it old-school and give classic mode a shot. And I found it boring.

Guess I'll grab a snack while I wait...

(Image credit: Square Enix)

I decided to try out classic mode during the Abzu boss fight which, for those of you who didn't play the original, is a fair way into the game. By that point, you have both Tifa and Aerith in your party, and have plenty of attacks at your disposal. Things should be pretty challenging by now.

It's a strange feeling, to go from having full control over your game to becoming something of a back-seat driver. The AI takes care of you dodging and moving, and you really only need to perk up when the ATB bar is fully charged. In fact, I got a snack and had a drink while I waited, occasionally weighing in on the battle to initiate a command to Cloud and team. 

While picking those attacks is a strategy in itself, I really didn't feel like I was doing much. I didn't feel invested in the battle; it was almost like I was a passenger in my own game, occasionally shouting out "turn left" or "make a right".

It was easier, no doubt, but I didn't feel like I had actually done much at all, and I missed the frustration of having to dodge and attack by myself. At least with the original that was the only option, and it felt completely normal. But having a taste of that extra control had me wanting more.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is so stunning that it feels a shame not to interact with it as much as you can. And I didn't feel like I was really interacting at all – I was actually quite bored. 

That's not indicative of Final Fantasy 7 Remake's combat as a whole – the real-time system is sleek and thoroughly enjoyable, even when it's challenging.

Unlike the likes of Resident Evil 2 Remake's 'assisted mode', you can switch between classic mode and normal at your leisure; it's not a case of choosing one and being stuck with that choice. Like me, you can try classic mode out for yourself and see if you prefer it because, after all, it comes down to personal preference.

Guilty gamer

(Image credit: Square Enix)

I felt a weird sense of guilt turning classic mode on, like I was taking the easy route with this boss battle. It's hard to pinpoint where that comes from. Maybe it's the mentality that some gamers possess that says a game needs to be 'difficult' for you to prove yourself, and choosing the easiest option makes you lesser somehow.

But let me say this: although I didn't always enjoy classic mode, it isn't necessarily built for people like me. It's not even necessarily for those who just prefer turn-based combat, even though that probably is a big factor. It's more about making games accessible to those who are perhaps intimidated by the combat, the action and the difficulty.

While Final Fantasy 7 Remake feels like it was built for us, those who played it back in the day, remakes also strive to bring in a whole new audience who may not know anything about a franchise. In this case, maybe they've never played a Final Fantasy game before, but want to see what it's all about; maybe they're more invested in Final Fantasy 7 Remake's story, and see that as the priority, with the action taking a backseat. 

There should always be options for those people, and it seems that developers are beginning to acknowledge that – look at Death Stranding's 'very easy mode'. Options like this may not always be for those accustomed to games, but they can encourage those trying to get into games to dip their toe in. 

After all, don't we want more people playing games? Plus, sometimes it's nice to just stick a game on easy every once in a while, take a backseat and just enjoy the experience.

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.