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10 essential combat tips for Final Fantasy VII Remake

Want to survive Midgar? Follow these essential tips

Final Fantasy VII Remake is unlike any other game Square Enix has ever produced, and even though the early March demo gave players a taste of the totally revamped combat system, it becomes much more challenging the deeper you get into the game — especially when you have to juggle three characters in your team. Even without having Hard Mode as an option at the outset, you'll probably get defeated by during some of the major boss battles.

Instead of relying on Easy or Classic Mode, use some of our combat tips to become a SOLDIER First Class in your own right.

FF7 Remake incorporates plenty of elements from the original as part of its new combat system, but the overall "feel" of combat is like a less-mobile Kingdom Hearts and more chaotic Final Fantasy XV. If you walk into the more challenging encounters thinking you can approach things like you're Sora, Noctis, or the original Cloud, you'll be in for a rude awakening. The best way to thrive is to abandon everything you think you might know about playing Final Fantasy games, FF7 in particular, and start anew with the following tips.

How to prep for battle in Final Fantasy 7 Remake

10. Forget the combat system of Final Fantasy VII In the original FF7, you could get away with picking whichever two characters you liked the most and having them travel everywhere with Cloud. You could also ignore everyone's base stats and load each character up with whatever Materia you wanted. So long as you grinded enough to power-level your characters, most battles were a cakewalk if you slammed every enemy with Summons and had enough Cure Materia to keep everyone alive.

Summons can only be used in boss battles in FF7 Remake, and you have to be very deliberate in how you prepare your equipment and Materia for major battles. Abilities will often be a better use of your ATB Charges than magic, but this is much more situational. In varied environments, sometimes you have to attack an enemy at range, so you also need to pay attention to who is attacking which enemies, and with what weapons, abilities, or magic.

Tifa is a frontline fighter who can deal a ton of damage.

Square Enix

9. Embrace the character archetypes — FF7 Remake forces you to lean into the character archetypes to optimize your chances of survival, but it's not as simple as saying Aerith is a White Mage and Tifa is a Monk, even if those labels are close to the truth. You can't just leave your favorite Materia on the same people and hope for the best.

  • Cloud has high attack and defense and all-around good stats. All of his sword abilities have good range and damage output. Deadly Dodge is an early staple Materia that allows Cloud to do a wide-ranging slashing attack that deals damage to multiple enemies after a roll.
  • Tifa's attack stat can inch above Cloud's and her Speed beats out everyone else's, but her range is extremely short. Her abilities are all about dishing out devastating physical combos and buffing her stats temporarily. She also comes with the Monk-like Chakra Materia that allows her to use an ATB charge to self-heal and cure any status ailments. Consider First Strike and other ATB boosting Materia so she can get abilities like Unbridled Strength going ASAP in battle and keep them coming.
  • Barret is an interesting blend of a defensive tank with ranged attacks that leans towards magic. He has a weak physical attack stat that's still useful because it's ranged. A strong magic attack stat means he's useful when loaded with damage-dealing Materia that overemphasizes his range. Many of his abilities buff his already formidable defensive stats, so double that with Materia like HP Up and Barrier to help.
  • Aerith is a complex mage with few martial skills. Use her as a healer who can buff allies while dishing out plenty of magical damage and debuffs to enemies.

Consider these character archetypes and lean into them. Play into a character's strengths rather than covering for their weaknesses in terms of what Weapon Upgrades you unlock, what Materia you equip them with, and what Abilities you use the most in battle.

8. Always use your newest weapons until you learn each new Ability — Similar to Final Fantasy IX, everyone gradually unlocks new Ability actions that come with each new weapon. Once you acquire "Proficiency," you learn that ability permanently.

After you do that, take a closer look at the specific stats on each weapon and the number of Materia slots. Cloud's Buster Sword is viable for most of the game because of how high the raw attack stat is, but it might not have the right number of Materia slots for you — especially if you want him to use more magic than abilities.

7. Always have Lightning, Ice, and Fire Materia equipped — We're in Midgar, where Shinra has mechanized most of society and pretty much every boss is some kind of giant robot that Heidegger's cronies built. Most humanoids are weak to Fire, and the other weird creatures (like fish that swim in the air?) are weak to Ice or, in rare instances, Wind.

For most basic encounters, we recommend giving each of your three characters one of the elemental Materia mentioned above. This will give you enough balance to handle most enemies. The only exception is when you know a boss is weak to Lightning, in which case you can't go wrong with having that on everyone.

Barret charges up an Ability.

Square Enix

How to behave in battle in Final Fantasy 7 Remake

6. Don't rely on regular attacks, and use your ATB Charges ASAP — Once a character accrues an ATB Charge, you should almost always select X to issue a command right away based on the situation. This will slow down time and let them do something special, whether that's cast magic or use an Ability. In games like Final Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts, regular attacks are your primary source of damage output, and you really need to unlearn those habits ASAP.

Regular attacks are really only for filling up the ATB Charges in FF7 Remake unless you're using Cloud's Punisher Mode to deal extra damage (or to use its blocking counterattack on any enemies that fight in close-range.)

5. Switch characters as often as possible — Consider this vibe kind of like Final Fantasy X, where switching characters in and out of the battle was something you could do on the fly. If you've got an enemy that has climbed a wall or flown away, cast some magic or switch to Barret so he can shoot at them with his long-ranged primary attack or other Abilities.

Ideally, you should constantly be shuffling between characters so you can build up their ATB Charges at the same time. (The default AI for non-active party members is kind of bad at this — so this is essential to keep those ATB charges coming.) There's another important reason to do this, which brings us to:

4. Staggering every opponent needs to be your priority — If you deal enough damage of a particular type quickly enough, then an enemy will become staggered, which means they'll stop moving for a limited amount of time and take bonus damage from every attack. This essential feature of combat barely matters in most encounters where basic enemies will die before they're staggered, but against bosses and stronger enemies, staggering them should be your primary concern so you can unleash your most potent offensive maneuvers to maximize damage output.

There are no combo bonuses, but the fact remains that your DPS output increases dramatically when an enemy is staggered. If you have at least one ATB Charge on each character ready to go when a Stagger happens, you can unleash a tremendous amount of damage all at once. To do this requires a lot of finesse and a willingness to constantly be shuffling, but once you get the flow down, it feels so good. How do you know the best way to Stagger?

Sense didn't matter much in the original, but Assess is everything in 'Final Fantasy VII Remake.'

Square Enix

3. Use Assess Materia in every single battle, especially against new enemies — Chadley is a quirky Shinra intern who uses battle data to invent new Materia to undermine the major corporation and help you out. He gives you the Assess Materia very early in the game, which replaces the Sense Command Materia from the original to give you data about an enemy's weaknesses.

Always have this equipped on at least one character so you can do a quick check-in on whatever enemies are on the battlefield. The more enemies you Assess and the more Chadley challenges you do, the more he will reward you with better Materia. Assess also helps to just optimize your attack patterns, letting you know what magic and Abilities to use against each enemy.

Bonus: After you cast Assess once, you can press the touchpad to bring up enemy info again to reference.

2. Be liberal with Summons and Limit Breaks —You should always have Summon Materia equipped for each of your active characters (you get significant stat boosts relative to the Summon like in Final Fantasy VIII), and when the option pops up, do not hesitate to use it. Elemental damage types do matter, so make a careful choice based on your enemy.

Like Summons, Limit Breaks are a "use it or lose it" situation that you should never pocket. They'll be the most useful when used either to stagger or against staggered enemies, but feel free to let the Summons and Limit Breaks fly ASAP.

1. If you lose a fight, change your Materia loadout — In the event you do die in battle, it's because you perhaps didn't adhere to these many tips. But now that you know what or who you're dealing with based on your use of the Assess Materia, you can shuffle your Materia loadout to be optimized against the enemy.

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