While having a persistent clock already marks a significant change for Lightning Returns, Square Enix has also returned to the drawing board for the battle system. Players have direct control of Lightning throughout the entire game, whether exploring the environment or fighting an enemy. Even outside of battle, players have significantly more control over their character: Lightning can jump, take cover, and dash even when exploring the town. This opens up brand new mission types for the game, like a stealth mission that has you stalking a key NPC through the map.
Combat looks more like a traditional action RPG, with players mapping different abilities to the face buttons. You can customize three loadouts. For example, you may want a magic-oriented loadout, with different spells assigned to the different buttons. You may want a physical loadout with brawling moves, or a defensive loadout with status-changing spells. You'll have access to all three loadouts and will be able to switch between them freely; it's essentially Lightning Returns' take on "Paradigm Shifts."
When in battle, Lightning can move around with the analog stick and, for the first time ever in the Final Fantasy franchise, will be able to dodge attacks. However, it
Lightning has a new arsenal of moves, both in and out of battle
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII certainly has a lot of interesting ideas. However, one can't help but wonder if may be coming too late. Given its late 2013 release, a new generation of consoles are likely to launch near this game's release--will players want to see how the FFXIII trilogy ends? And the shift to an open world design has clearly affected the visuals, which even Kitase admits are not yet up to "conventional standards." (It's something that will undoubtedly improve as the game gets closer to release.)
Lightning Returns will release on PS3 and Xbox 360 this fall.
Battles involve far more player control than before