Version 1.6, © 2010 by Bill Pringle, all rights reserved.
The purpose of this FAQ is similar to my FF XII Gambit Systems Guide: it explains the battle system and gives some tips on how to adapt the system to your particular flavor of fighting. I have also included sections on some other aspects of the game, such as power-up locations and instructions on upgrading items. You can find my other FAQs, including a FFXIII Upgrading Guide and an Upgrading Calculator tool on GameFaqs or on my web site at http://billpringle.com/games/
The Paradigm System for Final Fantasy XIII allows a player to configure their characters to behave in one of a variety of roles. Behavior can be customized to match a player's personal style (mostly fighting, mostly magic, aggressive, conservative, etc.) When configured properly, the player controls the actions of the lead character, while at the same time assigns the remaining party members what roles they should assume. As characters understand the nature of an enemy, they will probably do pretty much the same thing as when the player is controlling that character. You can change the role setting during fights, if necessary, but only to one of the paradigms you defined before the fight.
This document describes the Paradigm System for Final Fantasy XIII. In addition to how it works, some tips and suggestions are given to help the reader configure the AI of their parties to match the player's fighting style.
This page can be found in two forms: an HTML (web) page at http://BillPringle.com/games/ffxiii_paradigms.html, and as a text file on GameFAQS. The HTML page will probably be updated more often, and tend to be the latest version. The HTML web page will include hyperlinks, so you can click on a link to find the appropriate section. The text file was created by the FireFox browser, which inserts hyper-links inside angle brackets (<#like-this>). To find that location with a text editor, use the search feature to find the target name in square brackets ([like-this]). The link inside angle brackets will usually start with a pound sign (#), indicating that the target is on the current page. The square brackets won't have that pound sign. For example, to find the target of link <#intro>, search for [intro].
This guide was written using the X-Box 360 version of the game, so if I mention specific buttons, you should translate to the appropriate PS3 buttons.
If you find any mistakes and/or have any questions, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you have something like "Final Fantasy Paradigms" in the subject. I get a lot of spam, and will delete things without looking at them if I don't recognize the sender and the subject line doesn't stand out as legit (for example, a message with a subject of "a question" will probably get deleted without me looking at it.)
You can have up to three characters in your party. You control the lead character directly, and by selecting a paradigm you assign roles to the other party members. Each character has an ATB bar with from 2 to 6 slots. At the start of each battle, the ATB bar begins to fill. As the bar passes each slot, the slot is filled (e.g., if there are 4 slots, at 1/4 full, the first slot is highlighted, at 1/2 the second slot, etc.) While the bar is filling, you can select what commands you wish to perform during this turn for the lead character, and the target for this turn. Basic commands take one ATB slot; more advanced commands may take more slots. When the bar is completely full, the commands are performed. If you haven't finished entering the commands and target, the game will wait for you to finish before starting.
During the early part of the game, you will have a predefined party that you cannot change; later in the game you will be able to form a party with whatever characters you want. Also in the early part of the game, each character can only assume up to three roles. Between this and the fact that the parties are predefined, you are pretty much limited to what you can do at this point. Even so, you can still configure the paradigm system to match your playing style.
You can configure up to six paradigms for each party, and you can change that configuration before each battle. That means that during a battle, you can choose up to six different ways to fight. During the battle, you can switch to any other paradigm at any time, but the ATB bar is reset, so you probably want to wait until the current turn is completed for the lead character.
In addition to an enemy HP gauge, there is a chain gauge. Attacking the enemy drives up the chain gauge, while between attacks the gauge falls. Different types of attacks affect how fast the gauge rises or falls. If you fill up the gauge to a certain threashold, the enemy becomes staggered, which impedes their ability to attack. Being able to stagger an enemy can make the difference between winning and losing certain battles.
If you can sneak up on an enemy, you can get a pre-emptive attack. When this happens, the lead character gets a free attack on each enemy, placing them close to stagger condition. You should be able to stagger at least one of the enemies when this happens. This is the only way you can defeat certain enemies when you first encounter them.
You can gain Crystarium (aka Crystogen or Crystal) Points (CP) by defeating enemies. You can also gain "loot" (similar to FF XII) which can either be used for enhancing weapons or accessories, or sold to gain Gil. You don't win Gil directly from defeating an enemy.
You never really get an "End Game" because you always have the option to "Retry". If you select Retry, you even have the option to walk away from the fight. If you realize there is no way you can win a fight, you can hit Start / Back to quit (retry) the fight. This is helpful if you need a pre-emptive attack to win. If you don't get it, do a retry and keep that up until you can surprise the enemy.
Final Fantasy XIII defines a set of character roles that define the basic behavior of a character while in that role. This is not unlike many of the other Final Fantasy games. The difference, however, is that their physical characteristics (HP, Strength, Magic, etc.) are basically the same when they switch roles; what changes is what abilities they have while in those roles. In former games, switching from a white mage to a monk would significantly change the stats of a player; that doesn't happen in FF XIII.
During the early part of the game, a character is limited to three pre-defined roles. Later in the game, they can assume any role, although some characters are better at a specific role than others. In fact, you can have two characters in the same role, but with different capabilities. This is because of the structure of their Crystarium entries, which is explained later. When you also consider that you can define only six paradigms at a time, you probably want to favor a fixed number of roles for any one character. The available roles are:
A paradigm assigns a role to each of your party members. You can have up to six paradigms defined at any time. During a battle, you can switch to any of your predefined paradigms. You can change those paradigms between battles.
When you pick the roles for your characters, the name of the paradigm will be displayed. These names are based on the combination (not permutation) of roles, so it is possible to have two different permutations with the same name. For example, if you pick "Commando/Medic/Ravager" you will get "Diversity". If you then pick "Ravager/Medic/Commando" you will also get "Diversity". If you really want to do that, take time to remember which paradigm is which.
It is important to realize that the role system in FF XIII is not like the role systems in past games. In former games, a level 1 white mage could perform a set number of spells, and when they got to level 2, they could perform some other spells. That isn't the way that FF XIII works. What capabilities they have depend on their Crystarium entries (explained below) and which optional capabilities you decided to acquire for that character.
As mentioned before, the role alone doesn't define what capabilities a character can have. In fact, the role and level won't do that as well. It is possible for some characters to get a capability when at level 1 of a role, while other characters may not get that capability until level 2 or 3 (or perhaps never.) For this reason, certain characters are better suited to certain roles than others. For example, Fang and Snow are good sentinels, but using Hope or Vanille as a sentinel would be silly.
The Crystarium entries differ for each character, role, and level. You have a series of nodes arranged in circles with possible branches. A node can represent a stat change (HP + 10, Magic + 2, etc.) or an ability (Cure, Fire, Slow, etc.). A character can only use a given ability when they are functioning in that role, but the stat increases apply regardless of their role. Each node is assigned a number of points. To activate the node, you must have enough points. If you don't, you can create a path partway to the node and finish it later, or you might decide to work towards a different node. You can only activate a node that is adjacent to an already active node. This is similar to the growth systems for FF X and FF XII.
These circles of nodes are stacked vertically, with a connection going from the center of the lower circle to the edge of the higher circle. To get from the edge of a circle to the middle, you must activate a series of nodes going around the circle. Once you complete the circuit, there is a connection to the node in the center, which may or may not connect to an upper level at this point. (This might sound complicated, but if you look at the Crystarium entries for a couple characters, then it should all make sense.)
While traversing the circle, you may encounter branches out from the circle with additional nodes. These are optional nodes that you can decide to get now or press on to the center. If you bypass a node, you can go back at any time to enable the node, provided of course, you have enough points.
Periodically the center node will be increase the role level of the character. These nodes look very different, so it will be obvious when you enconter them. If you are low on points, you might want to focus on getting to the center, since an increase in role level can include some buffs for that character that are present when they are in that role.
The Crystarium expands at a fixed rate. At the beginning of the game, only so many levels of the Crystarium are available. At a certain point in the game, the next few levels are available. This means that you can't buff up faster than the game wants, although you can bank points for when the next levels become available. This is usually not a great idea, since the number of points you gain tends to increase as the game progresses, as does the number of points you need to activate nodes. Rather than spending a lot of time gaining small numbers of points, wait until the Crystarium expands and then start farming CP until you have activated all the available nodes.
At the beginning of the game, you will meet a collection of characters that will come and go. The story will switch betweeen certain groups of characters. During those times, you are forced to play with the characters that have been defined, and the team leader is selected for you. About half way through the game (when you switch to disc 3), they will all be together and you can select the team and team leaders as you see fit.
While you will eventually be able to have any character assume any role, some characters are better suited for certain roles. While you can put them into a different role, they won't be as good as another character who is better suited. Having said this, since you can only have three characters at a time on your team, you might want to put a character into a role (e.g., Medic) where they aren't as suited as another character because you need them to perform some other roles during the battle.
A good example is Lightning. She doesn't excel in any role, but she does reasonably well in several. Depending on your fighting style, you might want a character that can assume a wide variety of roles, even if they aren't the best in certain roles. How well a character is suited for a role is due to a combination of their HP, strength, magic, and capabilities available in that role. In general, the three roles they can assume during the first part of the game are the ones that they are best suited for. Here are the characters you can select for your team:
The nodes in the Crystarium include ability nodes, which will give the character that ability when in that role. Some abilities are found in the outer branches of the circle, which means you can decide whether to get that ability for the character or not. Other abilities are found along the circumfrence. These are required if you want to continue along the path. In addition to actual abilities, there are nodes for ATB Level and Accessory, which are included in the list. There are also a few techniques included. The difference between a technique and an ability is that an ability is only available when the character is in that role, while techniques are available at any time.
The list below contains the abilities each character can achieve for each role. They are listed in the order that they can be obtained. You will notice many differences between what abilities are available, which is part of what makes a given character good or poor in that role.
Even though two characters might get the same ability, how long it takes to get there can vary. For example, even though Hope is considered a better Medic, Vanille gets better cure spells earlier in the game than he does. You should also check for where a character gets their ATB Level and Accessory slots, and make sure you build them up enough to get those at least.
You can create a paradigm any time you are not in a battle. Press the "Y" button to bring up the main menu. Select "Paradigms" and then "Custom". You will see the current list of paradigms that you have defined. There are six slots, some of which might be blank. You can either create a new one or redefine an existing one.
Highlight the slot where you want to define your new paradigm using the D-pad. Click "A" until you are located in the role slot for the first character. Click "A" again to see the list of roles that the character can assume, and select the role you want for this paradigm. (If it was already on the role you wanted, just go to the next character.) Use the D-pad to select the next characters and their roles in the same way. When done, click "B" which will return to the left and display the name of the paradigm you just created. There is no undo, so if you are just experimenting, you might want to make a note of the configuration before you change it.
You can have up to six paradigms defined at a time. This collection is referred to as the paradigm deck. What paradigms you include in this deck depends on your own personal fighting style. My favorite paradigms might be terrible for you. I didn't like many of the ones identified in the official strategy guide, and found I did much better in fights when I had paradigms that fit my own personal fighting style.
When you form a new party, certain paradigms will already be defined. You can leave them, change them, or delete them if you want.
I created a few paradigms that I was comfortable with, and then used those regardless of the party for most combat. When a tough boss or a large group of enemies are coming up, you might want to create some paradigms for that specific battle. If you are having problems defeating an enemy, you can Retry the fight and modify your paradigm deck before starting the next battle (or perhaps decide not to fight.) If you are farming for CP, you might want to set up paradigms for the specific enemies you are fighting.
You can switch to a different paradigm at any time, but you would be better off to at least wait until the current turn is over. If you still have commands being executed, they will be canceled if you change to a different paradigm. When you switch to a new paradigm, the ATB bar is either reset or completely full.
If you have been in the current paradigm for at least two turns and switch to a different one, then the ATB bar will be completely full for your entire party. For this reason, I tend to spend at least two turns in each paradigm. Sometimes I switch to a new paradigm not because the current one isn't working, but rather I want to get a full bar and so I switch to a different paradigm that would also work for the current fight. Actually, if you switch to a different paradigm on every turn, you will get a full ATB bar on every other paradigm.
If you don't like to use that many different paradigms, you might consider creating two copies of your fighting paradigm (I tend to use Relentless Assault) next to each other. You can then spend two times on the first paradigm, switch to the second one for two turns, and then back to the first. Why would you do that? Because each time you switch you will have a full ATB bar, which means no wait for that attack. Not as good as haste, but a help.
While you can manually enter commands for the leading character, most of the time you probably want to use the Auto option instead. The AI is pretty good, and will even switch queued commands faster than you can if the situation changes. For example, if an area attack is queued, then all but one enemy is killed off, the AI will switch to single-target attacks instead.
For those of you who like to micro-manage your battles, you can mash buttons, but in the long run you probably won't be able to beat the AI system. Regardless of how you handle the lead character, the other party members are controlled by the AI.
Each party member performs commands according to the role they have been assigned by the current paradigm. This includes the lead character, so if you have your lead set up as a commando, those are the only commands available to you. If you want to do something else, you need to switch paradigms so that your lead character has the appropriate paradigm.
The AI uses the current information about an enemy to decide what commands to perform. It can learn this information from experience in former battles. For example, if it encounters a new enemy, it will cast fire, ice, water, etc. The damages are then compared to determine if the enemy is weak, strong, immune or absorbs each element. The damage from physical attacks are determined as well. Once the characteristics of the enemy is known, the AI will use only those attacks that will do the most damage. (This includes Saboteurs, who will not bother to use commands that have no effect on the enemy.)
The AI can also learn if the lead character performs a "Libra" technique, which will analyze the enemy and determine its characteristics. You could also use a Librascope, which is expensive, but analyzes all enemies in the battle.
So, unless you have a really good memory, and can make snap decisions without errors, you are probably better off clicking on the "Auto" button instead of trying to select the specific spells.
The AI system usually picks the best enemy to attack next when you encounter a mixture of enemies. Once you have selected a type, the AI assumes you want to finish all of that type. You can usually simply click the Auto option and the enemy that the AI selects, especially in the easier battles. This means that when you are powering up, you can be doing something else while you click the "A" button every couple of seconds. A great opportunity for multi-tasking, especially since if you lose a battle, you can simply retry and pay more attention next time.
Enough theory. Let's look at some concrete examples. The goal of using the paradigm system is to create a set of paradigms that cover the different situations you might encounter in the upcoming fight(s). For example, you will want an attack paradigm and a recover paradigm. You might want more than one attack or recover paradigms, depending on your preference. You might also want special paradigms for when things get tough and you are in danger of getting overwhelmed. Try to anticipate the possible situations, consider your current party, and set up the paradigms. Keep in mind that you can always Retry the current fight, modify the paradigm deck, and then try again.
During the first part of the game you are forced to use certain parties, and you have probably developed a comfortable fighting style for each group. Later in the game, you can now select your own three characters, so you might want to duplicate those same combinations in order to continue whatever type of fighting you preferred during the earlier part of the game. You might also want to swap out one character for another who can perform certain roles better than the first.
In some ways, the characters you pick will determine what paradigms you can use. For example, if your party doesn't include Fang or Snow, you probably don't want any paradigm that includes a Sentinel role. On the other hand, if you do have one of them, then a Sentinel paradigm makes sense. When you were fighting with Sazh and Vanille, you probably got used to buffing and debuffing at the start of a fight. When you had Lightning and Hope, you might have done less buffing and more fighting. Decide what kind of fighting you want to do, and that will help you decide who you want in the party.
Here are some examples of parties and how you might use the individual characters. Again, this will depend on your fighting style, so pick a party that best fits how you want to play the game.
During the early parts of the game, you can rely on a Medic to keep your party healthy. When you get further into the game, you might instead depend on a Sentinel. This means that during the early part of the game, you will want Hope or Vanille in your party (of course, you can't really control your party until later in the game.) During the later parts of the game, you will depend on either Fang or Snow.
If you want to use a Sentinel, you probably want to fill the rest of the party with a good Commando and a good Ravager. The more roles these characters are good at, the more flexible your party becomes. While Lightning is a good overall fighter, don't over look the other characters. Hope is a good Medic, Ravager, Synergist, and Sabateur, but his low HP can be a problem. Vanille is not quite as flexible as Hope, but her higher HP tends to compensate, plus I find that she seems to do a better job healing the party. (And frankly, I would rather listen to her perky comments than Hope's moans and groans.) Sazh isn't as good as Hope and Vanille at anything except for Synthesist, but his high HP means you won't have to worry about keeping him alive as much as the others. He might even be useful as a Sentinel in a pinch.
Here are some sample configurations. In most cases, you can substitute Snow for Fang, depending on what non-Sentinel roles you want to use. Likewise you could substitute Vanille for Hope if you are mostly using them for Medic. Try different combinations, and you will probably find yourself fighting differently depending on the party. That can be a great help when you come across a boss, since you are already comfortable with different fighting styles, and can choose what party and paradigm deck best fits your need.
The reality is that you should be able to pick any three characters at random and come up with a paradigm deck that would fit those characters. The more you do something like that, the more flexible you will become as a player, and the better your chances when your "A" party runs into something they can't handle. If you are just farming CP, why not put in combinations you haven't tried yet and see how they fight. You might discover new strategies that you hadn't thought of, and that might help you through some tough places later on in the game.
Once again, it comes down to personal preference. However, the more you try to extend those preferences, the more rounded you become as a player. It is hard to imagine how being more flexible could be a bad thing for this game.
The following are some sample scenarios on how you can approach a fight. When you are dealing with a few weaker enemies, you can pretty much blast away and take them all down, but for larger groups or stronger enemies, how you transition between the various paradigms you have set up can make the difference between a win and a game over. (Fortunately, game over just means try the fight again, so don't be afraid to experiment.)
The consensus seems to be that you need a Sentinel starting in Chapter 11. While I had Fang in my final party, I didn't use her as a Sentinel all that often. My "normal" party was Lightning, Hope (or Vanille), and Fang. I had the following Paradigm Deck:
Rather than concentrating on specific paradigms, I would encourage you to think in terms of what you want your party to be doing, look at the capabilities of the people in your party, and determine the best combination of roles your characters should assume. I tend to think in terms of "combination physical and magic attack (to slow how fast the chain gauge drops)", "all magic attack (to drive up chain gauge)", "strong physical attack (to do the most damage)" "attack and heal (to keep the party healthy)", "buff and debuff (to give my party an advantage)", etc. I then look at my characters and determine the best combination of roles that those characters can assume. For example, when I have Fang, Vanille, and Lightning, my "strong physical attack" is actually Aggression (Com/Rav/Com) since Vanille is a much better Ravager than Commando. If, however, I have something like Fang, Lightning, and Snow, I will use Cerberus (Com/Com/Com). At one point I had Fang, Vanille, and Snow in my party, and Snow was my main Medic. The reason is that I was using Vanille to spam Death, and Snow has Curasa while Fang only has Cura. I wanted Fang and Snow with Vanille because they would spend most of their time keeping Vanille healthy rather than healing themselves.
You should also keep in mind the special abilities of your lead character. Fang has the Commando ability Highwind, which does serious physical damage when the chain gauge is high. Lightning has the Ravager ability Army of One, which drives up the chain gauge quickly. So if Fang is your leader, use something like Tri-Disaster (Rav/Rav/Rav) to work on getting the chain gauge up so you can use Highwind; if Lightning is your party leader, use Army of One to stagger the enemy, and then switch to something like Agression (Com/Rav/Com) or Cerberus (Com/Com/Com) to perform physical attacks and do major damage. If I can probably take out the enemy on the first stagger, then I will tend to have Fang as party leader and use Highwind to finish the fight; if, however, I expect to need several staggers, then I might put Lightning in the lead to speed up the staggers.
For most of the battles, I have the lead character as a Commando so that I can direct which enemies to attack in what order. For normal fights, I start off with Relentless Assault (Com/Rav/Rav), switching to Diversity (Com/Med/Rav) if they need healing. Relentless Assault drives up the chain bar quickly, while Diversity drives it up less, but keeps your party healthy. If there is only one enemy, I will switch to Aggression (Com/Rav/Com) or Cerberus (Com/Com/Com) once they stagger, and not switch until they recover from stagger, at which point I go back to Relentless Assault or Diversity, depending on the health of the party.
For tougher opponents, I might start off with Bully, switching to Evened Odds if the party is taking damage. If I have Vanille and Fang, I might use Exploitation (Com/Sab/Sab) or Assassination (Rav/Sab/Sab). Once the party is buffed and/or the enemy is debuffed, I then switch to Relentless Assault or Delta Attack (if you want to use a Sentinel), healing with Diversity when necessary, and then back to Relentless Assault. If they take serious damage, I will switch to Combat Clinic or Discretion for a few turns to get everyone back to green. If the buffs wear off, I go back to Bully or Evened Odds and start again.
If you want to use Sentinels, your strategy changes (depending on your fighting style). Instead of healing your party, your Sentinel deflects the damage. You will probably still have to heal at some point, but not as often if you are using Fang or Snow as Sentinel. I usually start off with Relentless Attack and try to stagger the enemy. If the party starts taking damage, and the Medic can't keep up with Diversity, I will switch to Delta Attack, and then use either Solidarity (Com/Med/Sen) or Entourage (Rav/Med/Sen) for healing, depending on if I want to attack physically or with magic. (Entourage can sometimes keep the chain gauge from dropping, so you can continue once the party is healed.)
When everyone is healthy, you can have all three characters fighting (although you are taking a risk if the enemy has very powerful hits.) When they start taking damage, you can have your Sentinel absorb damage while the other two fight. After the party has sustained significant damage, you can have one of the fighters heal. (Another option is to use Potions). If things are really bleak, use Combat Clinic, which is one Sentinel and two Medics. Remember to consider what type of damage would help you the most (usually Commando or Ravager), and then have the other character be the Medic. If your Sentinel is Fang or Snow, then your healer doesn't have to be top notch, and if they can't keep up, switch to Combat Clinic until they are all healed.
In some cases, you have a tough enemy along with some weaker ones. Usually it is better to finish off the smaller foes before tackling the big one, although you might want to stagger the stronger one and then take on the smaller ones. Don't get overconfident, especially if the smaller foes can apply status ailments. Nothing is more frustrating than having your leader dazed and have to sit there watching your party get decimated.
Having said all this, I found that by the final boss fights in the game, I pretty much stuck with Relentless Assault, Diversity, and Aggression, rarely switching to a buff, debuff,and/or heal paradigm. There is no right or wrong; it depends on your personal fighting style.
Here are some of my favorite paradigms, along with some others that I found in various places. Again, it is up to you to decide which paradigms fit your fighting style, so I might like something, and you might hate it. Don't bother sending me any messages about how you don't like any of these. They are for you to study and decide which ones you want to use.
Also, remember that a paradigm is named based on the combination of roles. Who you put into those roles is up to you (but usually obvious when you look at your party.)
The first four paradigms are almost always in my Paradigm Deck. The others I might switch around, depending on the upcoming fight. I prefer to have certain types of paradigms always in the same position so that I don't have to think when I am switching between paradigms. I know that the top paradigm is for initial fighting, then healing, then finishing the enemy, while the last one is for when things get tough. You are welcome to arrange them in whatever order makes sense for you.
Once you get into chapters 10 and 11, some people like to have a Sentinel in their party. While having a Medic was enough to keep your party in good health at the beginning of the game, having a good Sentinel can be even more important than a good Medic. This means that you will probably have either Snow or Fang in your party, depending on your preference. Personally, I tend to favor Fang, but I know others who prefer Snow. The choice is yours, but if I were you, I would get them both maxed out on at least their Sentinel role. While I used Sentinel every so often, for most battles, I just used one or sometimes two Medics for healing, and the Sentinel was only used if the party took a lot of damage and I needed something like Combat Clinic to restore health.
The above examples should give you some ideas on what paradigms fit your fighting styles. In some cases a Medic is used to protect the party; in other cases a Sentinel. You also have the option to have everyone fighting, or more than one Medic to recover the party. The choice is yours and yours alone. Even if two players have the exact same paradigm deck, they can fight totally differently by switching to different paradigms at different times. You can think of the deck as a tool box; how you use those tools is up to you.
Most of the time you want your party with balanced roles, but sometimes it helps to have everyone doing the same thing. I noticed somebody talking about how they fought Attacus, the Soulless. He used Rapid Growth (Syn/Syn/Syn), Salvation (Med/Med/Med), Tri-disaster (Rav/Rav/Rav), Tortoise (Sen/Sen/Sen), and Cerberus (Com/Com/Com). I tried that, but didn't like it since the chain gauge kept dropping, but at the same time it was very nice to have everyone doing the same thing. For example, if someone's HP was low, having everyone heal meant that in one or maybe two turns, the entire party was healed.
What I did instead was to have at least one person fighting or doing damage while the other ones were doing whatever operation I wanted. I had Fang, Lightning, and Snow in my party. I used All for One (Syn/Syn/Com), Discretion (Med/Com/Med), Tri-disaster (Rav/Rav/Rav), Exploitation (Sab/Sab/Comm), Tortoise (Sen/Sen/Sen), and Cerberus (Com/Com/Com). I started out with shrouds to buff my party and began debuffing Attacus. Once enough debuffs were on, I switched to Tri-disaster to build up the chain gauge, healing, debuffing, or buffing as needed. I had intended to use Tortoise for the big attacks, but found I didn't really need it, so I simply switched to Discretion to heal quickly and then resume attacking. Once his HP was down pretty far, I switched to Cerberus to finish him off. I got 5 starts, so that approach seems to be a good one.
The basic strategy for getting five stars is to kill the enemy in a very short time. The stars battle rating is based on how fast you defeat the enemy. It doesn't depend on how you fight, although indirectly it does, since it would be hard to get a good rating if your strategy is poor. It doesn't depend on the health of your party. Your other two members could be dead, and your lead character with a sliver of HP, and you might still get a 5 star rating. The target time will change depending on how many times you have fought the same types of enemies as well as the level of your party.
The target time established for five stars depends on your previous experience as well as your level and the level of your equipment. If you are having problems getting five stars now, but you were able to get them earlier in the game, that might be the reason. When you were weak, they gave you lots of extra time, but once you are much stronger, you are expected to win in a much shorter time. So, if you are having problems getting five stars because of how strong you are, try using lower level weapons and see if that helps. Hopefully you higher strength will do more damage than is expected from the lower weapons.
In general, you should quickly stagger the enemy, and then use Commandos to produce damage. Usually that means start with something like Relentless Assault or some paradigm that involves a saboteur. As soon as the enemy is staggered, use something like Cerberus or Aggression to inflict serious physical damage. Experiment to see what works and what doesn't.
The absolutely easiest way to stagger an enemy is to get a pre-emptive attack. If you can sneak up behind the enemy or use Deceptisol, you get a first strike and leave the enemy almost staggered. During the next turn, you should be able to stagger. If you get a pre-emptive attack and don't get 5 stars, then you should seriously re-evaluate your fighting strategy.
If you are having problems, try putting one or more character in the Saboteur role. Assassination (Sab/Sab/Rav) works well. It will weaken the enemy while at the same time the Ravager is driving up the chain gauge. Another good paradigm is Guerilla (Rav/Syn/Sab), which buffs and debuffs while attacking at the same time.
For particularly tough enemies, consider using shrouds just before the battle. Use Fortisol and Aegisol by pressing the left shoulder button (LB) and selecting the top two sections. If you are having problems getting a pre-emptive attack, also select Deceptisol.
Once an anemy is staggered, the Commando role does the most damage. If there is only one enemy, then either Cerberus (Com/Com/Com) or Aggression (Com/Rav/Com) will do significant damage. If there are more than one enemy, then I would recommend Relentless Assault (Com/Rav/Rav) to concentrate all the damage on the staggered enemy. (If you have more than one Commando, they will attack different enemies if there is more than one.)
This section provides you with the paradigms and strategies that I used against specific enemies, as well as a general approach for most regular enemy fights. Each person has their own fighting styles, so these examples probably won't suit yours perfectly, but at least will give you some ideas on how to approach certain fights.
My typical party is Fang, Vanille, and Lightning, although I will use Snow instead of Lightning for enemies that do large amounts of damage because of his higher HP. I usually have Sprint Shoes equipped on each person, and Genji Gloves on Fang and Lightning/Snow. My typical paradigm deck for most enemy fights once I had my characters fairly well developed was:
My default paradigm is Relentless Assault. In most cases, I can just stay in that paradigm and win the fight, usually with 5 stars. If the enemy has high defense, I will start off with a round or two of Assassination until the enemy has a few status ailments and then switch to Relentless Assault.
If the party is starting to take some damage and I don't think the fight is almost over, I will switch to Diversity until everyone is in good health. If the enemy has strong attacks, I might simply stay in this paradigm for the entire fight.
For stronger enemies, after a round or two of Relentless Assault, I will switch to Tri-Disaster to drive up the chain gauge until the enemy is staggered. Once staggered, what I do next depends on how many enemies I am fighting. If there is only one enemy, I will switch to Aggression to finish the fight. If there is more than one enemy, I will switch to Relentless Assault until the current enemy is defeated. I will then continue for a round or two on the next enemy and then switch to Tri-Disaster as described above.
The paradigm Descretion is used on longer fights with tough enemies. If Diversity is not keeping the party healthy, then I will switch to this to let Lightning help Vanille cure the party. For really tough enemies, I will have Snow instead of Lightning, and he does a much better job of healing, since he knows Curasa and Lightning only knows Cura. I will also use this paradigm if I want to use Fang's Highwind attack and want the party to be in good shape when the attack is done.
I describe my approach to this boss in the Fighting in Unison section.
The Adamantortoise is actually three enemies: Left Foreleg, Right Foreleg, and Adamantortoise (Body). You must take out the Left Foreleg, and the Right Foreleg before you can do any damage to the Body. It is important to keep the party healthy, so I have a Medic on duty during most of the fight. The legs have very high defense, so I use the standard pattern for tough critters:
My paradigm deck for this fight is:
I start the fight by switching to Recuperation. This will allow Fang and Vanille to buff the party while Snow/Lightning keeps everyone healthy.
When you are buffed, switch to Espionage to inflict several status ailments on the Left Leg while Snow buffs the party. (There isn't much for Snow to do the first time, but we will use this paradigm later in the fight.) Be careful because as soon as you inflict a status ailment on the Left Leg, the AI will want to target the Right Leg; manually set the target back to the Left Leg and it should keep targetting it.
Once the Left Leg has enough status ailments, switch to Thaumaturgy and drive up the chain gauge. Once the Left Leg is staggered and the chain gauge is full, switch to Discretion, which allows Vanille and Snow to max out everyone's HP while Fang takes out the Left Leg. (Use Highwind to speed this up.) When the left leg goes away, immediately cancel your attack chain and manually target the Right Leg (the AI will target the Body, which you don't want.)
Once the Left Leg is gone, switch back to Espionage and debuf the Right Leg. This time, Snow will probably have some buffs to apply. When the Right Leg has enough status ailments, switch to Thaumaturgy and drive up the chain gauge. When full, switch to Discretion to take out the Right Leg while topping off the party HP.
As soon as the Right Leg is defeated, the enemy will collapse to the ground, and you can finally damage the Body. Switch to Espionage and get as many status ailments as possible. Next, switch to Thaumaturgy to drive up the chain gauge. As soon as the Body is staggered, switch to Aggression and finish him off.
If you don't finish him up before he gets back up, have Fang use Highwind to do as much damage as possible. If you don't take him out, then start over again with Recuperation, Espionage, Thaumaturgy, and Discretion. When you get back to the body, it will have the same HP it had when the legs come back, so you should be able to finish it off this second time.
Don't rush any of the stages or you will end up taking even more time. When trying to debuff the legs, if a leg doesn't have 4 status ailments, keep trying. What often happens is that there are no new ailments until the leg staggers, and then they appear. When driving up the chain bonus, don't switch to Discretion until the chain bonus is up around 800-900%. When you are debuffing the body, don't stop until you see 5 status ailments, and don't switch to Aggression until the body staggers.
The strategy for taking down a Long Gui is basically the same as fighting an Adamantortoise with one exception. The Long Gui has some really high attacks that can wipe out your party. If you look at the Paradigm Deck for Adamantortoise, you will see Relentless Assault, which I don't mention in the strategy section. For the Long Gui, change that entry to Tortoise (Sen/Sen/Sen). I recommend that you move that paradigm to the middle of the deck and always keep in mind where that paradigm is from your current position.
The strategy for a Long Gui is exactly the same as that for the Adamantortoise except that you want to switch to Tortoise any time you see one of its attacks being queued. As soon as the attack is over, switch to Discretion for double healers. I generally have Fang just stand there or throw potions until she has close to a full HP bar, and then switch to whatever paradigm makes sense (probably Recuperation or Espionage.) You will have to take the Long Gui down at least twice to finish it off. For an Adamantortoise, you can usually finish it off with only one take down.
As with Adamantortoise, take your time and don't try any short cuts. Your main goal is to keep your party healthy. This is even more important than with the Adamantortoise. If you let your HP get low, you run the risk of losing the fight from one of the big attacks.
As I mention in my Upgrade Guide, I use Bomb Cores, Bomb Shells, and other items I get from fighting to upgrade my accessories and lower weapons for free. (You need to buy Ultracompact Reactors and Particle Accellerators when you need huge amounts of EXP to upgrade.) When I need Bomb Shells, I will go to the Faultwarrens and pick the left exit for each location. That will get me 16 Bomb Shells and a Tonberry Figurine, which sells for 28,500 Gil.
If you can get a preemptive strike, this fight is super easy, but I usually don't have the patience to wait for them to all be facing away from me. The basic strategy for this fight is to soften them up and then take them down.
I start out by using whatever paradigm I have with Saboteur. The goal is to inflict some status ailments on your first target. I then switch to Relentless Assault, dropping back to Diversity if the party is starting to take some damage. I generally have Fang as the lead character and have her perform all Blitz attacks at the start of the fight. (The AI will often do this if your target is near another Tonberry, but I find they group together so often that it is better to just manually do all Blitz attacks.)
Once your target is defeated, do the same for the next one: Saboteur followed by Relentless Attack and Diversity. When you are down to one left, use Soboteur followed by Aggression or Cerberus.
This fight will take a long time. Relax and don't get impatient, or you might lose and have to start over again. Your main goal is keeping your party healthy. If you can do that, you will win.
My party was Fang, Vanille, and Snow. (Lightning doesn't haven enough HP and can't cure that well.) My paradigm deck was:
My default (start-up) paradigm was Safe Subversion. You use this arrangement to remove whatever buffs the enemy has, and apply some status ailments. The important ones are Slow, to counter his high speed, and Poison, to help deplete his high HP.
Once you have applied enough status ailments, switch to Relentless Assault to do some damage. If your HP is down a little, switch to Tireless Charge to continue fighting while getting some damage in. (You could probably use Diversity instead of Tireless Charge).
When the enemy goes into its shell, it is time to heal and rebuff. Use either Convalescence or Recuperation, depending on if you need more HP or more buffs. Once your party is in good shape, you can either wait until it drops its shell or just start spamming Safe Subversion so that you are ready as soon as it becomes vulnerable.
They key to this fight is to watch for "Wicked Whirl" and immediately go into Tortoise. As soon as the attack is over, switch to Convalescence, followed by Recuperation once everyone's HP is good. I suggest you place this paradigm in the middle of the deck and always keep in mind where it is relative to your current paradigm. You won't have a lot of time to think once you see the attack name.
There will be times when the enemy is vulnerable but you will want to heal and debuff instead of fighting. As I said above, patience is required to win this fight. While you might be able to live on the edge for most fights, I seriously doubt if you can consistently pull it off for this one.
Beating Orphan is pretty easy; the problem is getting five stars. There is a very tight time limit for this fight, so you can't afford to to anything that isn't absolutely necessary to win the fight.
My party was Fang, Hope, and Lightning. Here were the paradigms that I used:
Start with Guerilla. As soon as everyone has three buffs, switch to Tri-Disaster. As soon as Orphan staggers, switch to Relentless Assault. As soon as the chain bonus reaches 800-900, switch to Cerberus or Aggression. Keep going and cross your fingers. You will see the Achievement notice before you see the five stars.
A lot depends on luck and timing. I tried the above approach many times until I got it. You can make absolutely no mistakes, and switch perfectly, but still not get five stars. In fact, if something happens to mess you up, you should probably do a retry so you don't have to fight the other two bosses before trying this again. I first had Vanille instead of Hope, but noticed somebody on YouTube used basically the same approach but with Hope, so I tried him. It still took several tries, so I might have gotten 5 stars even if I had Vanille.
If you are low on CP, consider sticking to the circumference of the circle in the Crystarium, ignoring the nodes that branch out, especially if there is a level-up node in the center. This is especially true if the branches cost more than the nodes along the circumference. When you activate a level-up node, it adds some buffs to your character for that role. The exception to this rule is if the branches lead to abilities that are useful to the way you are using that character.
The game limits how much you can power up your characters. During the early part of the game, if you don't avoid any enemies, you should be able to max out the Crystarium levels with little or no extra fighting. Once you have maxed out the current levels of the Crystarium, you have to wait until the next expansion.
Once you can upgrade your weapons and accessories, read my Upgrade Guide. Most FAQs and the Official Strategy Guide tell you that it really isn't practical until you can purchase components that will allow you to upgrade efficiently. What they don't take into account is that you can upgrade accessories and lower tier weapons for free by using components that you get from fighting.
There are however, times when grinding away makes sense: just before a new Crystarium level opens, and when you can rack up significant money. I felt no need to make money until it was time to upgrade weapons, but once that happened, I realized that there were times when I could have stockpiled a lot of money to make upgrading easier.
During the early part of the game, remember that when any party gains CP, the other characters gain those points as well. So if you are about to swith to a different group of characters, you might want to collect some CP so that they can upgrade their Crystarium nodes when you switch to them. In particular, when you first get Fang, she will probably be behind on her CP points, so once she joins, even if she isn't in the party, the next time you can control her, you will be able to upgrade her using however many points you have collected. When Snow finally is back in your party, you will have all kinds of points you can use to upgrade him.
Just because you don't plan to use a character at a role, that doesn't mean you don't want to level them up for that role. The reason is simple - it can be cheaper. As you go up in the Crystarium entries, the nodes become more and more expensive. If you want to increase your character's HP, it might be cheaper to have them work on the Sentinel role so that they can buy HP upgrades at a fraction of what it costs at higher levels for their optimal roles. (Of course, if there is a Role Level node available, you want to work towards that node before going elsewhere.)
When you get to Chapter 11, you have plenty of chances to gain a lot of CP. Once you have maxed out the primary roles of the Crystarium, you will need less than 600,000 CP to finish the last expansion. If you have more than 600,000 CP before the final Crystarium expansion, then consider using the extra points to build up at least one of the secondary roles for each character. (I was able to max out one of the secondary roles for each character before the final expansion.)
There may also be times when you will want to put a character in for one of their secondary roles either because the experts in that role are not in the party, or you want more than one character performing that action. Medic, Synergist, and Sabateur are good examples where more than one character can help heal / buff / debuff quickly.
If you are having problems defeating a new enemy, consider doing a Libra on them at the start of the battle. This allows the AI system to immediately work on the weaknesses rather than experimenting with spells that are less effective. It costs 1 TP each time, but you can recover the TP fairly quickly with a few good fights.
The button pushing seems to be off. If I click too fast, it seems to miss a click. There have been several times when I noticed that my lead character is waiting for me to select a target, and I am sure I clicked on the "A" button.
There is no reason to click fast (but I still do). Nothing can happen until at least the first ATB slot is full. Take your time and think out what you want to do. Also, if you change your mind, you can click the "B" button to cancel the queued commands. This will not reset the ATB bar, which will continue to fill. If you don't want to wait, you can click the "Y" button to trigger the commands that have been queued so far.
If you want to try treasure hunting using a Chocobo, there are some things that might help:
Equipping more than one of the same kind of catalog doesn't seem to help, but having different types of catalogs does seem to help. Once I had the Survivor's, Collector's, and the Connoisseur's Catalogs equipped the items dropped seemed to improve. They don't have to be equipped on the lead character; in fact, they don't have to be equipped on the same character. I originally had the Collector's and Connoisseur's Catalogs equipped, and then noticed that the Survivor's Catalog would cause shrouds to be dropped. So I equipped a Survivor's Catalog on a different character and started seeing shrouds on my items dropped. Shroud drops seem to be independent of item drops. In other words, you don't get a shroud instead of an item. I have seen cases where I fought two enemies and got two items and a shroud.
It seems that high scores tend to increase the chances of rare drops, medium scores produce normal drops, while really low scores tend to produce shrouds if you have the Survivor's Catalog equipped so if you are low on shrouds, simply let your characters stand around for a few rounds before you finish off an enemy group.
Never save in the same slot as you loaded. If anything goes wrong with the save, you might lose your entire game. (It has happened to me - not on this game, though.) I usually alternate between two save areas, and use a third if I'm not sure that I am about to make the right choice.
If you are planning on trying for the Treasure Hunter achievement, make sure you get the Gyroscope from the Midlight Reaper. That is the only way that I know of to obtain that item. (If you find another way, let me know.)
Remember that the game limits you to how much you can power up your characters, but there are still times when grinding makes sense. Here are some useful power-up places and why you might want to:
The Officially Strategy Guide and many of the FAQs I've seen suggest that you put off upgrading until later in the game. That is certainly true for weapons, but upgrading accessories makes lots of sense, especially early in the game, where a few percentage points can make a big difference.
There are a number of accessories that have only two levels. This means that it is very simple and easy to upgrade an accessory. For example, and Iron Bangle is HP+50, while a Silver Bangle is HP+100. However, if you add 780 EXP to an Iron Bangle, it will provide HP+120. A Spark Plug has 90 EXP, while a Passive Dector has 200 EXP, so 9 Spark Plugs or 4 Passive Detectors can make an Iron Bangle better than a Silver Bangle. You can get those items for free when you can first upgrade, which means you can essentially upgrade your bangles for free. For small amounts of EXP, there is no need to worry about getting the Bonus Value to 3X; just apply enough items that have the EXP needed to max out the accessory. Look at what items you are getting a lot of from your fights and see how many of them you need to max out my accessories
Always make sure you apply enough items to max them out with one upgrade operation. This is because the Bonus Value changes each time you perform an upgrade. The items that apply large amounts of EXP typically have small or negative Multiplier Values, which means that if you try to max out an item with more than one upgrade operation, each time you will need to apply more and more items to raise the item by the same EXP.
Caclulating how much EXP is needed to max out an item can be confusing. There are a lot of charts with how many EXP are needed to max out items, but I have found a lot of errors. If you want to be sure, you should make your own calculations. To help you with this, you download my Upgrading FAQ and/or my Upgrading Spreadsheet Tool from my web site at http://billpringle.com/games/.
In many ways, I prefer the Gambit system from Final Fantasy XII, mostly because I like writing functional programs, but the Paradigm system works well for most cases. (In FF XII you can manually override the gambits for any character, so you get more flexibility.) Since the AI takes advantage of the enemy stats, in many situations the actions of your party will be better than the Gambit system. For example, you could set up a gambit so that if an enemy was weak against fire, to use fire, but with the paradigm system, it will use whatever element the enemy is weakest against. On the other hand, you are limited to six paradigms, so you have to carefully decide what paradigms you want to include in your deck.
The performance within battles is much better than what you can probably get from FF XII, but some people feel that they have less control with paradigms. If, instead of thinking about what commands to use, you instead think about what strategies to use, you can see that you are still controlling the fight, just at a higher level. You tell someone to buff the party, but you don't have to tell them what spells to use because in most cases they already know - maybe better than you.
I wish Square had included a pronouncing guide when they introduced new terms. It is disconcerting when the voice actors pronounce a term differently than you have been pronouncing it for many years.
This is my least favorite Final Fantasy game. (I'm talking about the "real" FF games, not all the marketing spin-offs.) What I enjoy about Final Fantasy is that I am able to immerse myself into a universe. I can visit the country sides, talk to people in towns, etc. This game is basically one long string of fights with a few movies in between. It is still fun to play, but at times frustrating.
For example, when you get to Nautilus "City of Dreams" there is absolutely nothing to do. If you stand near people you hear their comments, but you aren't talking to them, just eavesdropping. You can't play any games (unless you count chasing a baby Chocobo). The game is basically cut scenes and fights with some moving along a fixed path in between. What is interesting about Final Fantasy is that everyone has their own reasons for liking the game. Trying to get a group of fans to agree on the "best" (or "worst") Final Fantasy is a fruitless endeavor.
I think that it is significant that my wife and I bought Final Fantasy (the original) for our iPod Touch, and I found myself playing that instead of this game, and enjoying it more.
Thanks to the following for help with this guide