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Lightning Returns Battle Team Talks Combat

July 31st, 2013 by Tony Garsow

Dengeki Online sat down with the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII battle team to talk about the combat system at length. In the final game of the Lightning saga, players will control the heroine and her alone when she heads into battle. The game evolves its turn-based style into something that blends more action in to the mix, as Lightning’s abilities are mapped to buttons and she’ll be able to maneuver around the battlefield. Square Enix’s Nobuyuki Matsuoka and Daisuke Inoue explain the details of what to expect in Dengeki’s brand-new report:

According to gameplay director Yuji Abe, the combat can be described “judge-and-respond“. They took the strategic elements of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2’s battle system and reworked them for a system centered around one playable character. The goal from the beginning was to create a battle system that made you feel like you are “playing together” with Lightning. Press the button and Lightning immediately performs the action or you tilt the stick and Lightning responds by moving around in battle — a 1:1 player/character feeling. In Final Fantasy XIII-2‘s “Requiem of the Goddess” DLC, we had our first taste of what it would be like to control Lightning alone, and from this the concepts and foundation of Lightning Returns combat were formed.

Lightning’s recovery options are more limited in this outing. Her HP will not automatically recover between fights, and restorative magic will use a precious resource called Energy Points. You’ll have a limited stock of items at your disposal, so you’ll need to use them wisely should you wander out of the vicinity of a shop, restaurant, or inn. This resource management is prevalent in Lightning Returns, and coupled with the one-on-one combat, the staff admitted that adjusting the monsters appropriately was challenging.

When you choose the Guard ability, you’ll be able to time it to mitigate the damage of incoming enemy attacks. Guard will consume ATB in the Schema it is set in, so you’ll want to use it wisely. A feature called Counterblow will allow you to land precisely-timed attacks to interrupt enemy actions and throw them off-balance. You’ll need to read the movements (judge-and-respond) of your enemies to pull these off successfully, and the team has made adjustments to monsters that have appeared in the series previously so that their attack patterns are not too predictable. Lightning can maneuver about in battle and even have the chance of dismembering parts of enemies that will affect the loot she’ll gain after battle — some items are obtained only by this method.

The post-battle scoring system from Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 returns in this outing, and includes the time elapsed in battle, your score, and a rating of up to five stars. Your high score is also displayed. You’ll be able to use a SNS feature to broadcast your scores to social media like Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re not so good at the action elements of Lightning Returns, you’ll be able to seek out equipment upgrades that will boost Lightning’s defense so that she takes less damage from improperly evading or blocking attacks. Customizing Lightning to deal with these different scenarios is where the RPG flavor of battle comes in. Just like arranging your Paradigm decks in the previous games, you’ll need to plan out the different Schema Lightning brings into battle and make sure your bases are covered. Equipping magic abilities like Fire, Thunder, Aero and Blizzard will be useful for enemies with different weaknesses, and you’ll be able to collect a wide variation of complex magic that combines abilities like Thundara and Aerora. Abilities can drop off of monsters and bosses.

Instead of casting Libra or fighting enemies repeatedly to gain more information about their weaknesses and drops, you’ll have to buy information from an informant NPC in town. The reports they divulge will let you know what abilities will drop from monsters as well. While the bestiary is still being finalized, the team says about half of the enemies that appear in Lightning Returns are new to the XIII series. At night there are monsters that will have glowing eyes or have different behavior patterns — you’ll need to watch for them.

At 6:00am every morning, Lightning automatically returns to the Ark that holds Hope and Yggdrasil, so if you’re seeking out a monster you’ll need to keep the clock in mind. Considering the open-world design the team is taking, enemies will grow stronger as the days pass, rather than stronger enemies being localized to specific areas. After the first four days from the start of the game, enemies become stronger on day five. Depending on your play style you may choose to prepare ahead of time for the challenges to come or to play it by ear when the challenges arise. It’s also possible to avoid many menial battles to progress, though that comes with its own risk. A lot of adjustments went into planning out the appearance of enemies in the field and their strength at various times in the story.

While Lightning’s parameters are greatly influenced by her gear, they’ll also increase by completing quests. Should you come across a situation where an enemy is too strong, you may want to head back to town and take up some quests to toughen up the Savior before you proceed. One of her abilities is a decoy that will draw attention away from enemies and allow Lightning to slip away for a counterattack or to chop off a monster’s tail. While that costs precious Energy Points, it obviously has its uses when there are many one-on-one or one-on-many battles in Lightning’s future.

Healing magic like Curaga will be highly important in when you use it, and you may end up agonizing on when to use it if the enemy you’ve sized up is more powerful than you expected. Planning out how you’ll use your healing resources like items and magic when you’re far from town is an important part of Lightning Returns gameplay. Conservation of your Energy Points will also come in handy when taking on the game’s bosses. When you return to the Ark at 6:00am every day, you’ll be able to replenish your HP and Energy Points via Hope.

You may want to plan to challenge bosses around this feature as you’ll have a fully-refreshed Lightning to fight with. This strategy is similar to previous Final Fantasy games in which you would recover fully at a save point before challenging a boss. Players who decide to play in the game’s Easy Mode will be able to slowly recover Lightning’s HP through moving on the field, and may choose to do so to avoid starting battles with a disadvantage. While adjustments are made for people playing on Easy Mode, further balancing is also underway for harder difficulty levels.

Matsuoka closed off his comments by saying he wants players to experience the vast world of Lightning Returns, including the volume of content contained within — from the large continents to the variety of enemies and situations you’ll find yourself in. Inoue said that while he felt some resistance from fans by splitting the ATB gauge into three separate ones, he looks forward to players experimenting with the battle system and thinking “I’m good at this”. He also looks forward to players customizing Lightning’s many outfits including the colors and adornments.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII releases on November 21st (Japan), February 11th (North America), and February 14th (Europe). Pre-ordering the game will get you a special Final Fantasy VII-themed Cloud SOLDIER outfit and Buster Sword for Lightning.

Via: Dengeki Online


  • alexsam

    The ability to change from an action-oriented style of gameplay to an RPG style, the enemies that grow stronger as time passes, as opposed to the different areas, the wide variety of different costumes, weapons and add-ons, the difficulty in deciding when to heal… All this gives me hope (no pun intended) that LR might actually surpass my previous favorite FF in terms of battle gameplay: Crisis Core.

  • Daniel Masterson

    You did intend that pun! You need a pun-ishment!

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