‘Watch the video below for a complete combat tips rundown!
1. Don’t mindlessly mash attack. This is the most basic of basics here, but it’s worth emphasizing. The main reason to use basic attacks with any character is to fill ATB so you can utilize your skills and spells. Don’t fight with a full meter and still mash square! Unless of course, there’s a reason you’re holding on to that meter, like you’re waiting for an imminent stagger, or the enemy isn’t vulnerable yet. There are sometimes reasons to bide your time by just attacking and holding on to your ATB meter, but the point is, don’t do it without thought.
2. Swap Characters Strategically and Often. The AI fills ATB super slowly and they won’t use it at all if you don’t tell them to, so always make sure to swap to a character with low ATB and land a few basic attacks to get them at least a bar of meter for when you need to use it. As for when to switch, as cool as each of the abilities and spells are to look at, you’re wasting time if you’re lingering on a character you can’t control, so as soon as you start that spell or ability, swap over to a new character.
3. Understand Your Characters‘ Strengths. A good way to approach combat is to think of your characters in terms of the role that they play. Cloud for instance is a great all around character who can do great melee damage while also still being suitable to hang back and cast spells, depending on what weapon he has equipped. Tifa is burst damage personified and is the first person you’re going to want to switch to when you have an enemy staggered, as not only can she dish out huge damage, but she can also increase the stagger percentage so everyone deals more damage. Barret is your ranged powerhouse and also has a very easy time building ATB thanks to his unique Overcharge attack, making him a good emergency option for heals if your primary healer doesn’t have any meter. And finally Aerith is of course your main magic dealer and should be relied on for the big damage magic spells, since she’ll likely have the largest mana pool and highest magic attack. Even though characters can and should sometimes perform outside of their roles, you have to think about whether you’re taking away from a character’s extraordinary strengths in favor of being a more ordinary jack-of-all trades kind of character.
4. Remember the Charge Times on Your Spells. One extremely important thing to remember about FF7 Remake’s combat is that spells are not instantaneous. They have a casting time, and the stronger the spell, the longer that cast time is. If you try to cast a spell and you get hit out of it, not only do you lose the ATB cost of the spell, you also lose the MP cost of it, which is potentially devastating. So before you cast a spell, use the time given to you by the slow down to examine your surroundings and make sure that you won’t be hit out of the charging animation. Also don’t be afraid to use a lesser power version of a spell in order to cast it quicker. Sometimes these spells can interrupt an opponent and stop them from using one of their own big attacks.
5. Use Assess To Find Out Weaknesses and How to Stagger. Assess is one of the most important materias in the game, as it enables you to learn of the strengths, weaknesses, and general battle strategies of the many enemy types. Whenever you’re exploring a new area, you should always have it equipped on someone at least until you feel like you have a handle on all the baddies that are showing up. When you’re facing off against a boss that already beat you once, you’re good to unequip it for something more useful, since after you assess an enemy once, you can press the touchpad to be reminded of their info in battle.
6. Make Magnify Your Best Friend. Back in the original FF7, the All Materia was one of the best materia in the game because it could take any magic materia and apply its effects to all enemies. In the remake, that’s now the Magnify materia, which is found in chapter 9 during the robotic arm puzzle. In my experience, I only found one of these in the whole game, so you’ll need to make the careful consideration of whether to attach it to an offensive materia, or something like a healing materia so you can heal your whole party at once. Note that the strength of the spell is reduced if you magnify it, but you can turn off the magnify with a simple press of L1.
7. Remember to block! Even though every character has an evade, the best way to mitigate incoming damage 95% of the time is to just block. Not only is the damage reduction significant, but oftentimes you also won’t get knocked off your feet, and you’ll even gain a bit of ATB. That said, there are times when you should try to evade against slow moving projectiles, usually when they’re unblockable, or will cause some sort of status ailment whether you block or not.
8. Know your status symbol icons. Do yourself a favor and check out the manual in the menu. Learn what each status ailment does, because they’re not explained anywhere else. Notably, you absolutely need to learn the reflect icon, because when an opponent has this buff, not only are they completely immune to your magic attacks, but they’ll also reflect them right back at you, which can be devastating. Ghostly enemies tend to use this the most, so whenever you know you’re going up against them, it’s a good idea to equip a subversion materia so you can use Breach to remove that buff from them.
9. Unlock your weapon abilities and learn what they do. Every weapon comes with its own unique weapon ability that initially can only be used when you have that weapon equipped, but eventually you’ll be able to unlock the ability to use it with any weapon. Make it a priority to unlock these weapon abilities and then also make sure to learn their individual utility. Braver is a great single target attack to use against an enemy that has been staggered, Triple Slash is fantastic to open a fight against multiple enemies, focused thrust is great at increasing the stagger meter, and Arcane Ward can drop a power circle on the ground that lets you use spells twice for huge damage. Mastering each of these weapon abilities will go a long way when it comes to surviving the tougher fights.
10. Set Shortcuts. This is the most optional of all the tips here, but setting shortcuts will dramatically improve the amount of fun that you have playing FF7’s combat because you won’t be pausing the game every five seconds. Put skills that you use all the time on your shortcut menu and fights will go so much faster. I try to keep the skills I use most on L1+square, like Tifa’s Unbridled Strength and Cloud’s Triple Slash; skills that I use while enemies are staggered on L1+X; situational skills like Cloud’s counter on L1 + triangle, and so on.