A fusion of real-time reaction speed and tactical decision-making, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s combat system is both speedy and strategic. If it’s been a while since you’ve played 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, or if you’re jumping into Rebirth as your first modern FF7 experience, this guide will help you gain control of the game’s sometimes hectic combat system and its many layers.
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This guide covers the combat as it appears in the publicly available demo for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and will be updated to reflect any additional information when the full game launches on February 29, 2024.
The general flow of Rebirth’s combat
Your goal in Rebirth’s combat is to push your enemy ever further toward a Staggered state, thereby rendering them helpless to your attacks while you deal increased damage, leading to their defeat. You’re also moving your characters toward better and better attacks.
You’ll freely attack with square or triangle, which in turn charges up your ATB gauge which grants you access to powerful individual attacks. Use of your ATB gauge may fill up your Synergy gauge depending on the attack, which will grant you access to powerful combined attacks between party members. As you take damage and Stagger your foes, you’ll fill up your Limit Break gauge, which lets you use an even more powerful individual attack.
Rebirth’s combat is about building momentum, making your enemies weaker by Staggering them while making your party members stronger by way of more powerful attacks. It can be a little bewildering and confusing at first, and will demand your full attention, but it’s a rewarding system to gain mastery over.
ATB (Active Time Battle) explained
Combat takes place in real time in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. You can move around freely and attack with square. Triangle activates a unique ability which varies from character to character. For example, Cloud changes up his combat stance once you hit triangle. R1 blocks attacks.
As you land attacks, you’ll fill up an ATB gauge one charge at a time. You can spend a charge to activate an ATB Ability (often a special attack), cast a spell, or use an item. Some very powerful abilities can use two ATB charges.
Synergy Skills and Abilities explained
While Rebirth’s combat very closely resembles the fighting system in 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, Synergy Skills and Abilities are a whole new layer to the flow of battle.
Whenever you have more than one person in your party, you can activate Synergy Skills by holding R1 and pressing a corresponding button. The left-hand menu will show the name of the Skill and which characters use the Skill together. Synergy Skills don’t require an ATB charge to use.
Synergy Abilities have their own separate gauge that sits under the ATB gauge and looks like five columns. As you use certain ATB Abilities (you’ll note that the lower left-hand corner will show a pair of charges) you’ll fill up your Synergy gauge. Once two characters have enough of their Synergy gauges filled and have a corresponding Synergy Ability, you can activate it in the menu without spending any ATB charges.
Pressured and Staggered explained
Attacking an enemy’s vulnerability (which you can find by using the Assess command once you acquire the requisite materia in the Nibelheim chapter) will put them in a Pressured state. This fills up their Stagger meter. Once filled, an enemy will “Stagger,” which will render it unable to attack and will see an extra damage multiplier in effect. You’ll also fill your Limit Break gauge by Staggering an enemy (and taking damage yourself).
Tip: read up on your fighting abilities in the combat settings menu
In the main menu, navigate to Party, highlight which character you want to read up on and hit triangle. This will give you a full list of all abilities, be they ATB Abilities, Spells, or Synergy Skills, with definitions for each.
Tip: lock on to an enemy as soon as you combat starts
Though Final Fantasy VII Rebirth places a target reticle on enemies you’re fighting, locking on is the sure way to focus your camera on your foe and it will allow you to switch between targets by flicking the right analog stick left to right. But you won’t lock onto an enemy when combat begins. You’ll have to do it manually.
Press R3 as soon as combat begins to lock on. You can also hit square when you see the red threat reticle upon approaching an enemy to get a First Strike on them.
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Tip: switch characters as soon as you activate an ATB ability
You’ll get the most out of FF7R’s combat by rapidly switching characters, especially once you’ve activated an ATB ability.
While it is cool to watch a character’s move animation after executing it, you really should be switching to the next character as soon as you deploy an ATB ability. This will allow you to manually control another character to fill their ATB gauge faster.
For example, if you have 1 ATB charge filled on Cloud and activate “Braver,” switch to Sephiroth immediately after and start slashing with square for Sephiroth to start building his gauge. When his gauge is filled, select your ATB ability and swap back to Cloud to begin the process all over again. Cycling like this is a great way to keep the heat on an enemy while also ensuring you’re using the most powerful attacks possible at a given moment.
If you have two ATB charges filled and want to activate two abilities, you can activate the first, switch to another character, then hit L2/R2 to issue a command to the character you just switched from to use up that other ATB charge.
Also, I recommend using up and down on the d-pad to switch characters as opposed to left and right—it more closely mirrors the vertical character list on the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
Tip: assess every enemy
Shortly into the Nibleheim scenario, Cloud will gain access to “Assess” materia. This allows you to get a bit of lore from an enemy, as well as the info needed to Pressure them, what rewards you can expect for defeating them, as well as what weaknesses, resistances, and other essential stats of theirs.
Each Assess screen is a mini-guide to defeating an enemy. Once you’ve assessed an enemy, you can reread this screen at any time by hitting the touchpad.
Tip: use L1 shortcuts for less menu diving
While menu diving (initiated by hitting X) is a part of the flow of combat, and is often unavoidable in more demanding fights, you can speedily access go-to Spells and ATB Abilities by holding L1 and pressing one of the face buttons. You can set which shortcuts trigger what attacks in the main menu by going to Combat Settings.
Tip: activate Cloud’s ranged attack by dodging and immediately attacking
Flying enemies got you down? Yeah, they’re pretty annoying. Good thing Cloud has a ranged attack that you may not have been aware of. Hit circle and Cloud will dodge, then follow this move with square immediately after and he’ll start swinging beams of energy from his sword that fly through the air toward whichever enemy you’re locked onto.
Cloud’s Triple Slash ability will also launch him toward his targeted enemy, which is another great way to close the distance and start landing attacks on distant foes.
Like Remake before it, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s combat is fast and tactical. These tips, however, should help you sort out the chaos and come out on top as you take on the Materia Guardian in the Nibelheim mountains.