In-game time is represented by a clock display in the top-right corner of the field screen. Time flows continuously, and rather rapidly: one in-game minute corresponds to two and a half real-life seconds. In the game, the passage of time is only interrupted in the following situations:
- During cutscenes and conversations with NPCs
- During battles
- While any menu is open (including shop interfaces and decision prompts)
- While the Chronostasis EP ability is active
- While you are on the Ark
Outside of these specific instances, time advances inexorably. With only thirteen days to complete all main quests, and ideally a good number of secondary quests, you might get the feeling that you can’t afford to waste many minutes. However, there’s actually no need to feel unduly pressured by this countdown. As it happens, thirteen in-game days is more than enough to complete all main quests and the majority of (if not all) secondary quests, even if you aren’t always efficient, thanks to the power of the Chronostasis feature. Once you obtain this EP ability at an early stage in the storyline, you can activate it to temporarily freeze time, which can be essential to complete objectives before a gate closes or you are warped back to the Ark. By efficiently farming EP from enemies, it becomes possible to freeze time for extended periods. An in-game minute can, once you get to grips with combat and efficient EP farming, be extended to entire real-life hours with Chronostasis.
The following tips will help you make the most of your time in Nova Chrysalia:
- Dashing: Dashing depletes the blue gauge at the bottom of your screen, limiting the amount of time you can spend at this sprinting pace. Release the button at any time and the gauge will quickly refill. As a rule, you should get used to dashing almost constantly, but with regular short pauses to allow the gauge to replenish whenever it is almost empty. The refill time is extended and the sprint ability temporarily locked if you fail to take this step, which also has the side effect of preventing Lightning from using her weapon.
- Optimizing journeys: Another key factor to save time is to minimize the amount of travelling you perform. There are simple rules you can follow to optimize your trips in any given region. Rather than running straight to a distant place to retrieve an item for a quest you just accepted, take the time to talk to all NPCs in your vicinity and agree to complete any assignment they give you during a journey. There is no limit to the number of quests you can have active at any one time, so it always makes sense to accept them immediately. You should also check the Canvas of Prayers whenever you pass it, and factor in exploration and shopping trips where possible. As a general rule, you should always aim to multitask at all times, “clearing” an area of current objectives (where feasible) before you move on to another.
- Stay busy: Whatever the circumstances, you should always remain active and avoid any downtime. If you are done with all optional activities in a location and have a few hours to spare before you can complete the next objective (for example, because an access gate is currently closed, or an NPC has yet to emerge), simply travel to another region and start fulfilling assignments there. Every minute of your time should be used to achieve something.
- Influence of the time of day: The entire game world is governed by the clock. The time of day can determine the availability of quest items, the presence of key NPCs, access to particular areas, and even the distribution of monsters. Knowing when you’re supposed to visit an area (for example, by reading the quest descriptions carefully to take in such details) is hugely valuable information – enabling you to plan your travels accordingly. Naturally, our coverage of quests within this guide includes detailed information on all such considerations.
- Feature unlocks: Many features in the game are unlocked on a very specific day in the storyline. You will also obtain items and abilities on each visit to the Ark. This guide reveals the precise unlock progression for day-related unlocks, so you need never worry about missing anything.
- Chronostasis: This EP ability freezes the game clock for 75 seconds of real-time, corresponding to 30 in-game minutes. Therefore, if you can regain 2 EP every in-game hour, you will theoretically be able to chain Chronostasis infinitely.
The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide offers a thorough presentation of the game’s structure and how best to handle the time factor. It also features two walkthrough chapters that will help you translate these explanations into actual playthroughs.
The Walkthrough chapter is designed to allay any sense of anxiety, frustration or confusion on a first playthrough. It will show you how you can be more efficient and make the most of your time by grouping tasks. It also suggests a very gradual and accessible progression plan in the Nova Chrysalia world, highlighting opportune moments to acquire new equipment or abilities, and presents quests in an order that will help you to avoid potential difficulty spikes.
The Ultima Walkthrough chapter offers a compact, highly refined path through Lightning Returns that employs efficient multitasking and far-sighted strategic preparations to avoid all unnecessary grinding, farming, or backtracking.
Be sure to pre-order the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII game now.