I’m having a great deal of fun with Final Fantasy XV, and yesterday I talked a bit about the story, characters, themes, and settings, so today I thought I’d talk about combat.

The first real difference FF fans will notice is that combat is no longer turn based. Like FFXIII, you only control the main character, Noctis, while the rest of the team will do their own thing unless you command them otherwise. (I’ll be talking about  the PlayStation controls, so just keep your Xbox equivalent in mind) While in combat, holding circle will cause you to attack repeatedly until you stop holding circle, and likewise, holding square will cause you to dodge all incoming attacks with a quick teleport out of the way, provided you have the MP to do so, which drains slowly while square is held, and a little quicker when a dodge must be performed. You can also tap square to dodge out of the way manually. Annoyingly, sprint is also mapped to holding circle, so I’ll often be trying to sprint out of combat to regroup, only to find Noctis attacking the nearest enemy again. R1 locks you on to an enemy, but it must be held instead of toggled, though I’m sure there’s an option in the menu to switch that. If you press R2, you can pause time to bring up your item list. Tapping triangle will perform a warp-strike, provided you have the MP to do so. Noctis will throw the currently equipped weapon at the locked on target (or in whatever direction you please if you’re not locked-on) and teleport to that location. The farther away Noctis is from the target, the more damage the warp-strike will do, and you can even target specific body parts of enemies in an attempt to break them, doing good damage, and putting them in a state of Vulnerability, dealing extra damage and preventing them from attacking until they recover. If you take too much damage in battle, you can hide behind structures as denoted with square to restore your health and MP, or you can hold triangle, provided there’s a point-warp nearby, usually a vantage point where Noctis can hang by his weapon out of danger, provided he has the stamina to do so, and the enemies don’t have ranged abilities to pick him off with. Teleporting to a point-warp location will instantly restore your MP as well.

If you run out of MP in combat, you will no longer be able to warp or dodge for a decent amount of time in what is known as Stasis. Over time Stasis will wear off, but it’s best to just keep an eye on your MP gauge, and point-warp or take cover before you run out. Managing your MP is a major key in combat.

Sometimes during combat, an enemy will wind up for a big strike and the square button will flash onscreen. If you fail to block this attack, you’ll take heavy damage, but if you do manage to, you can quickly press circle afterwards to parry. Better yet, if a teammate is around (and they often are), they’ll often help out for even more damage with a link-strike, which not only looks cool, but makes you invincible for the duration of the animation, which can be useful in a pinch.

Another key to victory in combat is the Blindside mechanic. If you attack an enemy from behind, you’ll get a boost in damage known as a Blindside. Again, if a teammate is around, they’ll perform a link-strike. Circling around your foes to land more effective attacks and reading when they’ll counterattack is important to get a hang of as quickly as possible.

Pressing L1 brings up skills for your teammates to use, one for each of your buddies. These abilities are super useful, and can be used at will assuming you have enough of the link bar (I think that’s what it’s called) filled up. The link bar maxes out at 3, and each skill costs 1-3 bars to use. That said, using them typically makes you invincible for the duration of the animation, and can usually be followed up with an extra strike if it’s an attacking skill.

Final Fantasy XV is very lenient with dying. When you or a friend lose all of your HP, you go into into a state of Danger, where you can no longer perform any actions except using items and limping away. Going into Danger lowers your maximum HP permanently until you rest, eat, or use an elixir of some sort, and while in Danger, your Maximum HP will constantly deteriorate. A buddy can help you recover from Danger, as you can with your friends, which removes the Danger state, but your maximum HP will stay lowered, and your current HP will be around half of your new lowered maximum. Alternatively, a quick potion will also remove the Danger state. While in Danger, you can still be attacked, and if you lose all of your maximum HP in your Danger state, you’ll die. However, if you have a Phoenix Down on hand, you won’t get a game over, always giving you a second chance. If Noctis dies without a Phoenix Down, it’s game over, but if you win a battle and everyone except Noctis is dead, they’ll all come back with about 1/4th of their maximum HP. Maximum HP lost via Danger does come back slowly on it’s own, but resting, eating and elixirs will restore it immediately.

It seems like quite a lot, but it makes for a fun battle system. There is also a wait mode which pauses time when standing still, if you’d prefer to plan your attacks more. More FF stuff tomorrow, surely.