Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Combat System Guide

In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, you will see a novel combat mode based on Active Time Battle (ATB).

Those of you who are new to the game might face some difficulty in fully understanding it. However, with a few hours of practice and the guide below, you will get better in no time.

For more help on Lightning Returns, read our Side Quests, Costumes Unlock and Boss Guide.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Combat


The whole Combat System of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII revolves around three Schemata which are interchangeable during the battle.

A Schema has different inventory slots for various items and abilities. A simple breakdown of a Schema includes:

  • A Garb
  • A Weapon
  • A Shield
  • Head Accessory
  • Arm Accessory
  • An Adornment
  • Four Abilities

All of these items can be customized as per your will and that is what makes it a flexible Combat System. You can create up to six Sub-Schemata in the Main Menu and equip 3 of them before you head into the game.

The Abilities can also be varied depending upon your will and includes:

  • Physical Damage
  • Magical Damage
  • Tank
  • Ailment

To get more insight about how Schemata and Abilities work, please refer to my Lightning Returns Schema Builds.

How Schemata Switching Takes Place

Each Schema in the game has its very own Active Time Battle (ATB) Gauge. Over the course of battle, the ATB Gauge starts depleting and when it empties, you will automatically switch to the other Schema. While you are on the second Schema, the first and the third one will start replenishing.

There are some abilities which can speed up the replenishing process. In addition to this, some of the Schemata initiate with the full ATB Gauge while others initiate with only 50%. Furthermore, some Schemata have more ATB Gauge replenish speed than the others. So keep that in mind!

Mastering the technique to keep all the Schemata going on is something which comes with practice.

How to Commence a Battle

Once you spot a monster, simply approach it and press the attack button. Depending upon your approach, you will drain some of the enemy’s HP from the very start of the battle:

  • Enemy did not notice you – The battle will open with 25% less enemy HP.
  • Enemy did notice you – The battle will open with 10% less enemy HP.
  • You could not attack first – You will have 5% less HP than normal.

At the end of a battle, Lightning is not directly leveled up to higher levels. Instead, you will receive different sets of Weapons, Head and Arm Accessories, Treasures, and other Key Items. Other than this, you will also receive EP which can be used to freeze time.


Once you start attacking monsters, you will eventually stagger them. Staggering is an effective way of ending battles far more quickly. But how do you induce stagger?

Once you start attacking an enemy, you will see a Stagger Wave upon its HP Gauge. The higher this wave goes; the more chances you will have of staggering your opponent. In order to speed up this process, you must exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.

Some Abilities have built-in Staggering Power. Using them over and over again will cause your enemy to stagger at a much faster rate.

Then there are some Abilities which are equipped with Stagger Preservation; meaning that the Staggering Wave remains stationery and does not reset until the next Staggering Attack is launched.

During the Staggering Condition, an enemy is not able to attack and you can hit it without worrying about retaliation. Also, some of the gigantic enemies have more than one Staggering Conditions.


This is pretty straightforward! Guarding usually negate the damage taken from enemy attacks. What you need to achieve is called Perfect Guard.

A Perfect Guard can be achieved by hitting the Guard just as when enemy is about to hit you. You can even stagger enemies with a Perfect Guard along with completely negating the damage.

However, using Guard always consumes a small portion of your ATB Gauge. Keep that in mind!

Recovery Items

Although Lightning’s HP keeps on replenishing over the course of time, you can also do it manually by consuming certain Potions.

These Potions can be bought from various Merchants and does not require any of your ATB Gauge.

How to Identify Enemy’s Weaknesses

Like I have mentioned above, large enemies often have more than one Staggering Conditions and have more than more Elemental or Physical Weaknesses.

Elemental Weakness
It is a good idea to keep on checking an enemy’s database by pressing R2/RT. Keep on attacking your opponent with different types of attacks and check the database to know about the Elemental Weaknesses.

Once you open the Enemy Database, you will see various vulnerabilities of that particular enemy listed as Halve, Normal, and Weakness.

In order to check the effect of a particular attack, simply hit the enemy with that type of attack and open up the Enemy Database. The ED keeps on updating and you will see all the effects of that particular attack.

This also holds true for all Physical Attacks.

Staggering Conditions
There is no hard and fast rule as to what causes the Staggering of an enemy like the Elemental Weakness.

Like I have mentioned above, you will see a Staggering Wave over the enemy’s HP and attacking the enemy will alter this wave. You need to see which of your attacks cause this wave to rise and then use that attack more frequently.

Once you have successfully staggered an enemy, that particular Staggering Condition will be updated in the Enemy Database for you to review it.

Found anything missing or confusing, let us know in the comments below!

Haider is a freelance contributor, who loves video games, playing guitar, and aviation. He is a competitive FPS player and also enjoys exotic RPG games like Diablo and Xenogears (his favorite game of all time) ...