The latest report out of Dengeki Online focusing on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII focuses once again on its various battle systems. While somewhat similar in many ways to the systems of XIII and XIII-2, Lightning Returns attempts to combine action-based mechanics into the mix in a style similar to a mix of the former, such as the systems found in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Type-0. The details of this system – dubbed “Amazing ATB” – are further explained by Square Enix’s own Daisuke Inoue and Nobuyuki Matsuoka.
The keywords of the game’s battle system are “judge and response,” according to game design director Yuji Abe. The systems from FFXIII and XIII-2 have essentially been taken and adjusted to a new one focused on a sole player character. From the beginning, the team had a goal of creating a battle system that allowed the player to feel like they were “playing together with Lightning.” Similar to FF Type-0, pressing a button will immediately cause Lightning to react – whether through button placed skill action or simple movement on the field via the analog sticks, it allows for instantaneous player to Lightning conversion. FFXIII-2’s Requiem of the Goddess DLC offered players the first look at what a singular character experience would be like, so using those concepts as a base, the overall battle foundation of Lightning Returns was formed.
Unlike XIII and XIII-2, however, Lightning’s recovery options will be severely limited this time around. HP will no longer automatically recover after each battle. If the player wishes to heal her, they’ll have to make use of a new resource called Energy Points. Healing can also take place from potions and other items, but the limited nature of those will be made apparent straight away. Resource management is a key element of Lightning Returns – and together with the solo-based combat experience, the team describes adjusting monster difficulty as being sufficiently challenging.
Similar to most action games, using the Guard ability will allow Lightning to lessen damage from enemy strikes. Unlike most action games, however, the use of Guard and other defense abilities isn’t free – ATB allocation will be consumed in the process. One of the newer features to the series is the inclusion of Counterblow, a sort of bonus mode that will allow Lightning to interrupt enemy actions with precision timed attacks. In order to execute Counterblows successfully, the player will need to “judge” the monster’s movements and form a “response” based on what they see. The team has taken steps to adjust movements of enemies that have appeared in the previous two XIII titles so players might experience something a little more fresh. As Lightning has the ability to move around the field during battle, those extra-skillful can lop off parts of specific monsters if they please – the bonus being these broken parts offer up exclusive loot.
One particular ability Lightning can make use of is a decoy of herself that can keep an enemy at bay while the player can maneuver around for a back end attack. This ability will also cost Energy Points, but is just one example of the many useful things Lightning can do in her solo battles.
Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2’s battle scoring system remains in place – including the player’s battle score, stars earned out of five, and time elapsed during battle. Using the social network features built into the game, players can upload their own high scores for the world to see on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Those wishing to take a more laid back, defensive approach to the game will be able to make use of various items and equipment that will boost Lightning’s damage soak. Being able to customize Lightning is part of the game’s RPG flair – and one similar to some of the party customization from FFXIII and XIII-2. Instead of Paradigms, the player will establish specific equipment sets – or Schema – to lay out abilities and stats Lightning can take into battle. Enemies will of course have various weaknesses, so equipping the correct magic or other attack skill is key. Some abilities will come as rewards for defeating monsters or bosses, including some that combine magics for wider use.
Lightning can make use of healing magic such as Curaga at the cost of EP, although like most things in the game, making use of such resources should be done with caution. Conservation is key and Energy Points will surely come in handy against some of the game’s bosses.
Information on monsters and their weakness won’t come from Libra/Scan this time around but through conversations with a specific NPC in towns. They’ll be able to provide Lightning with information on a monster and it’s potential drop abilities. The bestiary itself is still in its final phases, but around 50% of the enemies appearing in the game will be new to the XIII series. Enemies at night will react differently, possibly with glowing eyes – this is something the team says players really need to watch out for.
The amount of time left in the world of Nova Chrysallia is extremely important, even for monster hunting. As time passes, enemies will gain strength rather than strong enemies being confined to specific areas. After four days pass, enemies will be stronger on the fifth day so it may be wise to plan some of the bigger battles ahead of time to avoid unexpected challenges. Players can avoid normal battles if they wish, although the team has focused a lot of adjustments on enemy appearance on the field and their power levels throughout the story.
Not only will Lightning’s parameters increase through the use of whatever she’s wearing, but also through the process of quest completion. In lieu of battle, Lightning can shoulder some quests should the player find themselves stuck on a particular enemy.
Every day at 6am, Lightning will return to the Ark, where she’ll regain HP and Energy Points – similar to the properties of save points from some of the previous Final Fantasy titles. The team suggests planning big fights around this feature, as it’ll give players that extra security before going into battle. The game will offer an Easy Mode – along with a Normal and Hard Mode – which will allow Lightning to slowly recover HP on the main field. The development team is currently making adjustments for this mode as well as balancing for the other two difficulty levels.
Matsuoka finished the article by saying he wants players to experience the large, content-filled world of Lightning Returns. Inoue said that while he felt there was some resistance from fans by splitting the ATB gauge into three segmented parts, he looks forward to players experimenting with the battle system and gaining some satisfaction from it. He is also looking forward to players customizing Lightning’s outfits and her wide variety of color options and accessories.