Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a very open adventure, with a structure so flexible that you may find yourself wondering how to approach it during its opening hours. All you know at first is that you control Lightning, and that your role as the Savior is to save the souls of the inhabitants of the Nova Chrysalia game world. This is achieved by completing quests, ranging from simple favors to extended storylines involving familiar faces from previous Final Fantasy XIII episodes.
The freedom that Lightning Returns offers in terms of how you complete its many disparate challenges is one of its principal charms, but also potentially a source of great confusion and heightened difficulty. Perhaps more so than the vast majority of RPGs, knowledge is your most powerful weapon in almost every situation. The completion of quests is your primary source of stat boosts, rather than the traditional approach of incremental growth through enemy encounters, and so advancing Lightning’s abilities is a matter of accepting and completing suitable quests in an efficient order. This is complicated by the fact that quests may only appear at a certain time of day, or once other requirements have been met.
There are three categories of quests in Lightning Returns:
- Main Quests: These are multi-stage storylines that feature important characters from prior episodes in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. Main quests consist of numbered chapters, and must be completed by the end of Day 12 for you to be able to reach the final section of the story and its accompanying challenges. If you fail to fulfill any of them before the Final Day, you will hit the Game Over screen and must restart from Day 1. Main quests are (with one exception) tied to specific regions of the game world, and are automatically available in their respective locations once you complete the early tutorial-based sections of the adventure.
- Side Quests: These assignments are shorter than main quests, and involve a varied cast of characters encountered throughout the world. Many are solved by finding items and returning them to a quest vendor, or resolving a situation via individual steps that can be achieved immediately, though you will encounter some quests where the necessary tasks will span multiple days. The difficulty of each quest is represented with stars, from one for the easiest to three for the most difficult.
- Canvas of Prayers: Right outside every Monorail Station, you will find a Canvas of Prayers – a notice board that you can consult by talking to the nearby Chocolina. Most of these tasks will simply require you to accumulate specific items, more often than not by defeating monsters or gathering collectible items. Make a habit of checking the Canvas of Prayers in each location at least once per in-game day, both to accept new missions and to turn in those that you have already completed. Some Canvas quests are interlinked: finishing one may unlock another.
Completing any quest grants you various rewards, including boosts to your attributes and items or pieces of equipment. In addition, you also obtain a hidden sum of Eradia for each main quest and side quest fulfilled. Eradia is the energy that Lightning obtains from the souls she saves. The Eradia you gather is transferred to the sacred tree Yggdrasil at the end of each day. By reaching certain Eradia milestones, you unlock additional days before the world ends.
Lightning begins with seven days to save the world. Completing each main quest will grant you an additional day. To reach the end of the game, you have to play until the end of Day 12 (which requires you to complete all five main quests). This gives you access to the Final Day. By completing a large amount of side quests, you can unlock a special “extra” day, which takes place after Day 12, and before the Final Day.
You are free to explore the world and complete objectives as you please. However, no matter where you are or what you are doing, every day ends at 06:00 prompt, at which point you are automatically transferred to the Ark, where time doesn’t flow. The Ark is where Lightning transfers her accumulated Eradia to the Yggdrasil tree. Each new bloom that appears in the brief cutscene represents an additional day added to the potential timeline before she begins the next day.
The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide features five all-encompassing quest-related chapters, where you can find the conditions, rewards and solutions to all missions and secondary objectives:
1. Walkthrough - An optimized path through the game for a first playthrough
2. Main Quests - Map-based, step-by-step solutions for all main quests
3. Side Quests - Concise map-based solutions for all side quests
4. Canvas of Prayers - Requirements and solutions for all Canvas quests
5. Ultima Walkthrough - An optimized path through the game for experienced players
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