By Andy Humphreys
Despite being the most accessible Final Fantasy in years, Final Fantasy XV is far from simple for a beginner to get to grips with. This guide looks at the basics of combat, equipping you with a little more of the knowledge needed to take-on the game’s many challenging battles.
First-off, the most important thing to realize is that FFXV’s combat is made up of many separate component parts, and the game expects you to make full use of each of these parts to overcome your opponent — ignore one or more, and you WILL put yourself at a disadvantage.
FFXV gives you a toolbox with which to tackle its fights. Let’s take a look at each of the particular tools in turn, and see how each can be used in harmony to become a master of combat.
As dynamic as combat is, it still pays to think strategically, to take a moment and look at the bigger picture. The best way to do this is by switching the combat mode from Active to Wait in the options menu. Wait mode means that when combat begins, the action will pause when you’re not moving, allowing you to assess enemy weakness, check the status of your allies, and get a general overview of the battlefield.
Wait mode can also be boosted using Ascension upgrades, either by giving you a longer period to make your decisions, or even by increasing the damage caused while using Wait.
When encountering a new enemy, its always worthwhile taking a minute to learn its strengths and weaknesses. This can be done easily in Wait mode by targeting an enemy and locking onto them. After a brief interval, a box will pop up in the top-left corner of the screen. Take a look at the symbols: weapon or magic types highlighted in orange are those that the enemy type is weak against, so will do extra damage, and those highlighted in purple are those the enemy is strong against, so will do less damage. Use this information to tailor your attack style to the enemies you face.
Arguably Noctis’ biggest strength is his ability to use his kingly powers to even-up the odds on his opponents. Warping is an absolutely fundamental part of combat, and if you’re not using it to its fullest, the chances are you will fail.
Managing your MP usage is key to keeping this important ability in use. At the start of any combat, make sure you scope-out any areas of cover and identify where you can point-warp and recharge if need be. Utilize your MP defensively by dodging and parry attacks as often as you can, always keeping a close eye on the MP gauge, ready to move away from combat on foot or by point-warping to replenish the meter. Blocking and parrying also opens up options for team-up moves which dramatically increase the damage caused to the target enemy.
Offensively, warp-strike is a bread-and-butter move that should be used often. When dealing with smaller, weaker enemies, after defeating one, look for another that is far away from Noctis, and warp-strike towards them. The further the distance, the greater the damage bonus. If an enemy is on low health, always try to finish it with a warp-strike; you’ll gain a bonus unit of AP every time you take out an enemy this way.
Another aspect of combat that should not be considered optional, techniques are fundamental to how helpful your party members can be in combat. Many techniques deal massive damage to enemies on their own or can set up Noctis for a devastating team-up attack. Other techniques, such as Ignis’ incredibly useful Regroup, aid your team by gathering them together, restoring their HP and giving them a stat boost in the process.
Learning which techniques to use and when best to use them is key, as is keeping an eye on the technique gauge as it fills. You don’t win anything for holding back on Techniques, so unleash them as soon as you can, as often as you can during combat.
In order to pump-up your combat capabilities, it’s important your spend a good proportion of the AP you earn in-game on combat-centric stats. Focusing on Noctis’ warping abilities is always is pretty foolproof way of improving your combat readiness, either by decreasing the MP needed to perform warp moves or by adding new ones to Noctis’ repertoire. It’s also a good idea to unlock new techniques that better suit your play style. The single most beneficial thing to spend your hard-earned AP on, though, is health-boosting stats for Noctis and his party. Anything that keeps your group alive longer will not only mean you’re able to devote more time to damage-dealing rather than reviving but will also save precious potions and elixirs for when you really need them.
Weapons with the '+' symbol are much more valuable than their plain-vanilla alternatives because they can be upgraded to increase their effectiveness. These upgradeable weapons are useful throughout the game, so should be sought out at all costs, as should the recoverable parts that are used in the upgrading process. Simply take your weapons and parts to Hammerhead and give them over to Cid who, after a little tinkering, will hand them back with much improved stats.
Magic can be extremely powerful in FFXV, and so can really turn the tide when an encounter begins to go sour, so always make sure you keep some prepared spells ready, especially when facing some of the tougher enemies.
Always harvest elemental energy when you find it, and experiment with different catalysts when crafting to see what gives your magic the best boost. Try to have a range of magic of each elemental type ready at all times, so that different enemies’ weaknesses be exploited. Beware, though -- powerful spells often have an increased area of effect, so take care when using them to avoid damaging members of your own party.
When the battle starts to turn against you, it can happen really quickly, and before your know it, your party members are all in a ‘danger’ state, and your max health is dwindling.
As far as Noctis is concerned, try to recover before your situation becomes critical -- think ahead, and predict rather than react. Your other party members will quickly begin to suffer if they are constantly having to rescue Noctis from danger. Point-warp to get away as often as you can, or replenish health and MP quickly by standing behind cover.
All this aside, FFXV is not a game that can be beaten without using items. The game expects you to have to use stuff like potions, elixirs, and phoenix down frequently, so always make sure that you stock up on these essentials whenever you’re near a shop or embarking on a quest. You may feel like it’s eating away at your savings, but there’s no way around it. You’ll definitely have to spend your hard-earned gil to survive.
So those are the basics. Using each of these key elements of combat, you should now be suitably equipped to take anything FFXV throws up in its earlier stages, and by leveling up your stats and increasing your power and skill in these key areas, you should be able to up your game to take on the tougher opponents later in the game.
You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyJHumphreys