Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Schemata Setups & Character Specialization - Prima Games

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Schemata Setups & Character Specialization

by Prima Games Staff

A Schema is a set of various pieces of equipment and up to four abilities, which you can allocate via the Customize Schemata entry at the main menu. You can have up to three Main Schemata available in combat.

During battle, you can switch between each Main Schema at any time to make the most of their strengths, and of their respective ATB gauges.

Schemata: Overview

Icon Part Key Attributes Availability Notes


Garb can be purchased at Outfitters, or received as a reward. This is the most important part of a Schema. Not only does each garb come with unique auto-abilities offering various features and attribute boosts, but they also provide native abilities that cannot be changed. In addition, your garb determines your maximum ATB, and your default ATB (how full a Schema’s ATB gauge is at the beginning of each battle). Choosing the right garb for any given situation and ensuring that your active Schemata complement each other is truly essential to your success.
Weapon  Strength
Weapons can be purchased at Forges, dropped by defeated enemies, or received as rewards. The weapon you assign to each Schema increases your character’s Strength and Magic attributes, which in turn define the damage you can deal. Many weapons also come with auto-abilities that can have decisive applications or confer useful boons in combat.
 Shield HP
ATB Speed
Guard Defense
Shields can be purchased at Forges, or received as rewards. Shields have a bearing on the Schema’s HP (and sometimes other attributes too), but from a defensive perspective, their most important parameter is Guard Defense, which governs the Schema’s ability to resist damage while you are guarding.
Head Accessory


Accessories can be found in treasure spheres or received as rewards. Head accessories are primarily used to increase your offensive or defensive stats. They only affect the Schema they are equipped to.
Arm Accessory


Most arm accessories grant you status enhancements or increase your resistance to status ailments or elemental damage, though some have more unique properties. Arm accessories affect all three Main Schemata.


Abilities are dropped by defeated enemies, or found in certain treasure spheres. Abilities determine which actions you can perform during battles, and constitute the backbone of the gameplay.

Note that you can customize the appearance of each Schema with adornments, which are sold by Outfitters and can be obtained as quest rewards.

During battle, you can switch instantly between your Schemata, at no cost and without penalty. Each Schema has its own ATB Gauge, which recovers at a rate determined by the ATB Speed attribute of that Schema. The higher this value, the faster the ATB Gauge will replenish, making the corresponding Schema all the more useful.

Once you have prepared your Main Schemata, you need to choose your default Schema. This determines not only your debut Schema at the start of every battle, but also Lightning’s appearance while roaming the world and during cutscenes.

In addition to the Main Schemata, you can prepare up to six Sub Schemata. These are not available during battle, but you can easily swap them with your Main Schemata from the main menu. When you start facing enemy types that potentially require very specific tactical approaches, this feature enables you to rapidly redefine your Schemata without having to spend too long tweaking individual configurations.

Setting up your Schemata is pivotal to being prepared for the many battles that await you. To optimize your ability and efficiency, you will generally need to assign clear roles to each Schema to address and exploit the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. This is called character specialization.

Character specialization is an all-important aspect of the game. If your Schemata are versatile and broadly similar – for example, one physical attack, one elemental spell, one area-of-effect technique, and one guard move in each Schema – you will do fine during the first few hours in the game. This is a natural approach for beginners, as you do not have access to ailment spells initially. It also makes sense to be able to block or attack with any Schema. However, if you stick to this strategy, your overall efficiency in battle will be extremely limited in the long run – especially from the moment you start fighting stronger enemies. Indeed, the various roles you can assign to your Schemata rely upon completely different attributes, and having average attributes leads to mediocre battle performances.

Specialization: Overview

Key Abilities Role Description Key Attributes
Physical damage-dealer A specialist in physical damage, especially the damage dealt during a stagger sequence. Can also contribute very efficiently to staggering enemies. Strength
ATB Speed
Magic damage-dealer A specialist in magic and elemental damage, which can greatly contribute to staggering enemies by exploiting their weaknesses. Magic
ATB Speed
Tank/Damage sponge A defense specialist, capable of tanking (or evading, or countering) even the most powerful enemy attacks without losing much health. Guard Defense
Ailment Schema A specialist in status ailments, who can make a world of difference in battles by reducing key enemy attributes. Certain auto-abilities

Given that there are four principal roles, and you only have three Main Schemata that you can use in battle, at least one of your Schemata will have to fuse two specializations.

Here is a description of a typical Schemata configuration that can prove very successful against more powerful enemies. Naturally, this is only one possibility among many, and you should feel free to adapt this to your style and needs, and to experiment with the system yourself. Consider the following configuration as a very efficient setup that will remain reliable throughout the entire adventure. You can find more suggestions and a complete presentation of the system in the Strategy & Analysis chapter of the Complete Official Guide.

    • Schema 1: Ailment Schema. This essential role focuses on debuffing and debilitating your enemies. Though you may initially think that launching standard attacks would be more useful, think again: status ailments severely hamper your foes, and can have various effects, such as greatly increasing the damage you deal to them, or significantly reducing the damage they deal to you. There are many ailment abilities that work wonders, though you will have to choose a maximum of four for this Schema. Deprotect, Deshell, Imperil and Slow tend to be effective choices in most instances. If you decide to opt for only three of them, you can use the fourth ability slot for a guard ability (making this Schema your tank).
    • Schema 2: Magic damage-dealer. This profile requires a very high Magic stat (with Strength and HP being irrelevant), and will usually need to have access to elemental spells of all four elements – which means that all four ability slots will be used up. Choose an elemental garb that suits your needs, and complement its native ability with your best spells of the other three elements.
    • Schema 3: Physical damage-dealer. This profile requires a very high Strength stat (with Magic being irrelevant), and at least two standard physical attacks, one that can deal massive damage to a single target, and one with an area of effect to hit multiple opponents simultaneously. An additional elemental (but physical) attack can be a boon against enemies vulnerable to the element in question. This leaves you with at least one free ability slot, which you can keep for a guard ability (giving this schema a second role: tank), or for an attack likely to interrupt enemy actions.

If you follow this general configuration, your defensive Schema will be either the physical damage-dealer or the ailment Schema. This choice really depends on your personal preferences, but you must ensure that your Schema with a secondary “damage sponge” role has a large amount of HP, a strong Guard Defense stat (from a shield), a powerful guard ability, and perhaps even a related auto-ability (such as an increase to damage resistance).

The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide features several chapters that will help you understand all of the mechanics (including many hidden ones) at stake when preparing Schemata setups, as well as commanding analysis of all the systems and how you can make the most of them with advanced configurations.

Primer Chapter – An overview of all key game features – the ideal entry point to the game and guide for most players.

  • Strategy & Analysis Chapter – An utterly comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the game’s fundamental mechanics, which will enable you to greatly optimize your performance.
  • Bestiary Chapter – A catalog of all enemies in the game, with a clear data sheet and authoritative combat strategies for each assailant, as well as recommended Schemata setups for the most challenging ones.
  • Inventory Chapter – Lists of all items and abilities, with details on their availability conditions, parameters and effects. This will enable you to make the right decisions when selecting the best pieces of equipment for your Schemata.

Be sure to pre-order your copy of the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII game.

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