Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - Abilities & Synthesis - Prima Games

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – Abilities & Synthesis

by Prima Games Staff

In Lightning Returns, the core of your battle strategy lies in your selection and execution of customizable abilities. Given that you only have twelve ability slots in total, with some of these occupied by locked garb abilities, it is vital to understand what every ability does to achieve the right balance and maximize your combat potential. All other parts of a Schema should serve to complement and enhance the abilities you choose to bring into battle.

There are four types of abilities, each corresponding broadly to a specific range of tasks you can assign to one of your Schemata. If you have played Final Fantasy XIII and/or Final Fantasy XIII-2, you will remember these distinct “roles” from the Paradigm system. Note that you can find an exhaustive list of all abilities, with all parameters and assorted details, in the Inventory chapter of the Complete Official Guide.

Abilities: Overview

Icon Type Description Corresponding Role

Physical Attacks

Attacks that inflict damage based on the Strength attribute. The greater the Schema’s Strength, the more damage is inflicted. Certain advanced abilities have special properties, such as interrupting enemy attacks.

Physical Schema: a role specialized in dealing physical damage (especially to staggered foes) and building up or maintaining the Stagger Wave.

Magic Attacks

Spells that inflict damage based on the Magic attribute. The greater the Schema’s Magic, the more damage is inflicted. Many spells have elemental attributes, making them ideal to exploit enemy weaknesses.

Magic Schema: a role specialized in staggering foes and dealing magic damage.

Defensive Abilities

Defensive abilities enable you to reduce (or evade, or counter) the damage dealt by enemy attacks: the greater the Schema’s Guard Defense attribute, the less damage you take while guarding. Certain advanced abilities have specific purposes, such as healing or restoring ATB.

Defensive Schema: a role specialized in tanking enemy damage.

Ailment Spells

These inflict status ailments to your enemies, which is a great way to hinder them and lower the danger they pose significantly.

Ailment Schema: a role specialized inflicting status ailments to your opponents.

Ability Basics

  • Obtaining Abilities: There are two ways to acquire abilities. First, almost every piece of garb comes with native abilities. Simply equip the garb, and you have access to the abilities inherent to it. However, you should note that native abilities cannot be removed, as indicated by their padlock icon. You can acquire new abilities by defeating enemies (and occasionally from treasure spheres). Whenever you obtain one that you’re interested in, quickly open the main menu to equip it to the relevant Schema.
  • Using Abilities: To have access to abilities in battle, you simply need to assign them to a Schema (see previous section). Once you have allocated the ability of your choice, you can use it in combat by pressing the corresponding face button of your controller while employing the Schema in question. Many attacking abilities are designed to be performed on multiple consecutive instances to create a combo, with the final strike in the sequence (called “finale”) offering increased damage. To use an ability multiple times, you can either press the necessary button manually in accordance with Lightning’s movements, or simply hold the button down. Holding the ability button makes a lot of sense for guard abilities, as this ensures that there are no potential interruptions in your defense. The only downside to holding the button is that it prevents you from achieving potential Perfect Timing bonuses.
  • Button Mapping: As you become more and more familiar with the combat system, you will soon realize that it makes sense to think carefully about how you allocate abilities to the face buttons of your controller. For example, if you have attacks infused with the same element in two different Schemata (for example Aero with one, and Aerora or Galestrike with another), try to assign these abilities to the same button. This way, when you face an enemy variety that is susceptible to the Wind element, you could potentially switch between the Schemata concerned without releasing the button. You can push this even further by deciding in advance that you will always assign certain types of moves to a given button. This will give you an edge in battles, helping you to know instinctively what buttons to press in accordance with your current circumstances.
  • Synthesis & Ability Levels: All abilities have a level, which appears in their name. Initially, you will mostly have Lv. 1 abilities, but as you progress in the game, you will receive abilities of higher levels. What’s more, you will soon unlock the Synthesis feature, available in Sorcery Shops, which enables you to fuse abilities of the same level to upgrade them, and ultimately to level them up once they reach their limit via the Level Boost feature unlocked on Day 6.
  • Rare Abilities: Certain abilities appear in yellow in the game, and have a small star on their icons. These rare abilities are invaluable in that they are imbued with an auto-ability that provides additional benefits.


Auto-abilities are perks, passive traits that permanently boost the Schema they apply to (and, in the case of arm accessories, to any active Schema). They come in all forms, from those which enhance basic attributes such as HP, ATB, stagger capability, Strength and Magic, to those that affect elemental attacks and resistances. A few only apply in very specific circumstances, such as one auto-ability that offers a bonus whenever Lightning attacks an opponent from behind.

Auto-abilities can sometimes be extremely valuable, and even entirely justify settling for the otherwise poor stats of whichever piece of equipment or ability they belong to. In a highly specialized Schemata configuration, auto-abilities often have critical significance whenever you choose abilities or equipment you for a given Schema. For example, a +15% increase of your Magic attribute can prove invaluable for a magic-oriented Schema that uses elemental spells (leading to a +15% boost to the damage you cause). Any bonus to damage (or ailment) resistance is a blessing for a defensive Schema designed primarily to tank enemy assaults.

To see details about the effects of auto-abilities, simply consult the comprehensive list on page 250 of the Complete Official Guide.


Once they are unlocked during the storyline, you can visit Sorcery Shops to strengthen your abilities by synthesizing them with abilities of the same type and rank – for example Attack Lv.1 with Attack Lv.1. The first ability you select is kept and upgraded during the process. The second ability you select is consumed and lost.

You will find a brief overview of the system here. You can find an in-depth presentation in the Strategy & Analysis chapter of the Complete Official Guide.

1. Synthesizing physical abilities and magic abilities increases their Attack parameter by one increment (for example, from x1.00 to x1.05), making it more powerful (in this case, by 5%).

2. Once an ability reaches its limit (its final increment), it is marked by a distinctive icon. At this point, synthesizing it further has no effect on its Attack value.

3. The synthesis process usually keeps the best parameters of the two abilities that are fused. For instance, if you synthesize an ability with a low ATB cost, and another with a high Attack value, the resulting ability will have both of these features.

4. If the two abilities that are being synthesized each have an auto-ability, the source ability has priority over the consumed ability – in other words, the auto-ability of the first ability that you select will prevail.

5. In addition to a boost to the source ability’s Attack parameter, the synthesis process may occasionally lead to extra bonuses, such as the appearance of an auto-ability.

6. Synthesizing defensive abilities and ailment abilities is not necessary, as they are always maxed by default – their parameters cannot be raised any further.

7. A maxed ability can be leveled up via the Level Boost feature that is unlocked at all Sorcery Shops from Day 6 (or when you defeat your first Last One). Leveling up abilities always results in boosts to their main parameters, and sometimes in additional bonuses, such as a reduction of their base ATB cost. As a consequence, abilities that you level up at Sorcery Shops (especially those that you have nurtured from Level 1) cost less in terms of ATB than those of equivalent levels that you obtain from defeated enemies.

8. After leveling up an ability, you can repeat the whole process again (synthesizing it incrementally, and leveling it up) to reach even higher levels. This feature is partially restricted during a debut Easy or Normal playthrough, but fully unlocked during a subsequent Hard playthrough after you complete the main storyline for the first time.

“Ultimate” Abilities

Sorcery Shops enable you to create a “perfect” version of each ability. These combine the low ATB costs of abilities synthesized and Level Boosted from the ground up, with the best auto-abilities available only on high-level abilities (on Hard Mode).

Sorcery Steps

Step Description Details

Fully synthesizing and Level Boosting an ability from Lv.1 to reduce its ATB cost

This requires you to:

  • Farm multiple copies of the ability at each level.
  • Synthesize these copies until you reach the level’s cap.
  • Level up the maxed ability via Level Boost.
  • Repeat this until you reach the final increment of Level 5.

Obtaining a high-level auto-ability

There are three possible methods:

  • Lv.4 & Lv.5 auto-abilities are easy to obtain on Hard Mode as drops or via Synthesis, but they are not the most powerful ones.
  • Rare Auto-Abilities can appear during any Synthesis of Lv.4, Lv.5 or Lv.abilities that carry the same auto-ability; they are extremely useful.
  • Chaos-Infused Auto-Abilities can only be obtained on Lv.5 abilities dropped by enemies in Chaos Infusions, which makes them rare – but well worth the effort.

Synthesizing the product of the above steps

Simply synthesize the ability featuring the high-level auto-ability (from step #2) with your retained minimal-cost copy of the ability (step #1).

The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide reveals all details of the many abilities you can use. These details include from which monster and at what point in the timeline you can obtain each ability at any level of your choice, as well as many hidden stats such as Auto-Ability Unlock Chance (even for “Rare” and “Chaos-Infused” auto-abilities). To help you keep track of all abilities you wish to develop to their fullest potential, the guide provides a comprehensive overview of all possible ability drops: all you have to do is look up the ability of your choice, and you can instantly identify the timeline interval when you can farm the enemies who will relinquish it at the level you require.

Get your copy of the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide and be sure to order the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Game as well.

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