Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Starter Guide: Spoiler-free tips beginners should know

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is out now, and it's a massive game. As we pointed out in our review, a first playthrough can run for dozens of hours, and a thorough one can easily dip into the triple digits. With that in mind, it's a good idea to make the most of your opening hours with the game, the better to make the hours that follow that much more pleasant. Keep reading for a handful of tips beginners should know when starting out in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

Enjoy the Journey at Your Own Pace

The first and most important piece of advice we have for you should seem obvious, but bears repeating: Play the game at your own pace. Trying to binge Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, with as much as there is to do and see, is a recipe for quick burnout.

Similarly, don’t feel as if you have to thoroughly “clean out” every icon you see on the map as soon as you see it. The Main Scenario campaign is paced such that there are some clear points where you’ll be given relative freedom to tackle side quests, map activities, and other pastimes between major story movements. Even if you do get “carried away” by the narrative momentum, you’ll eventually be set free to fast travel and return to areas as you will before long.

Similarly, certain minigames, particularly those with ranking bonuses and rewards, will often open up new tiers of challenge as the story progresses. If you find yourself beating your head against a particular challenge, consider disengaging and continuing with the story for a bit before trying again.

The Virgin Region and the CHAD Module

Early into the Main Scenario you’ll meet one of your most steadfast allies in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Chadley. He’ll teach you the basics of the game’s open world map activities, and exhort you to use his customized CHAD Module scanning tool to gather up “World Intel” to deepen his (and your) understanding of the world outside Midgar.

Most of the map activities add a bit of flavor to your journey. For example, Lifespring scans deposit local historical trivia into your database, while Fiend Hunts and Summon Shrine analyses drop info on particularly strong exotic foes and each region’s summonable deity.

Meanwhile, the Intel Points you gather from completing activities can be spent on buying powerful Materia from Chadley. Each region has a unique Materia selection, and Chadley’s stash includes exotic and powerful orbs like the combination elemental spell materia, ATB Boost, Item Economizer, and more.

Enter the Combat Zone

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is chock-full of minigames and bespoke activities but its bread and butter remains its combat system. Mastering it is still your clearest avenue to mastering the game itself, and a good place to get your time in with that is Chadley’s Combat Simulator.

The Combat Simulator includes a wealth of bespoke combat challenges to take on for rewards and practice, with more challenges unlocking as you fight each region’s resident fiends. Some challenges are also unlocked by clearing certain side quests. Every challenge includes a reward you can preview.

Combat challenges are also the only way to unlock new abilities for the Enemy Skill Materia.

Can Beat ‘Em? Learn From ‘Em!

The Enemy Skill Materia is one of the more useful exotic materia in the game. It’s earned early on by completing the “Biological Intel” combat challenges in the simulator.

Unlike Blue Magic or similar “learn an enemy’s unique attack” abilities seen throughout the Final Fantasy series, the Enemy Skill Materia doesn’t require that you get hit by or bait out an enemy’s attack to earn it. Instead, all you have to do is progressively complete the Biological Intel combat challenges that pop up as you progress through the game and clear Classified Fiend Hunts in each region.

Enemy Skill unlocks a series of exotic abilities that can seriously augment your power. Several abilities, like Sonic Boom, Plasma Discharge, and Soothing Breeze, have surprising utility when equipped by melee-focused characters like Cloud, Tifa, and Red XIII. Better still, these skills don’t use valuable MP and can be employed like any weapon ability.

The Folio’s Got The Mojo

If you’re just coming off of Final Fantasy VII Remake, note that character progression has changed significantly from that game’s take on things. Many of the perk selections that were once part of the Weapon Upgrade system have been folded into “Folios,” the new Sphere Grid-like upgrade selection system.

As you level up the party and obtain manuscripts for each character, you’ll earn points that can be spent to unlock nodes. Each node is either an attribute bonus, a perk, or an ability. Folios hold the non-spell elemental attack abilities, as well as all of the game’s Synergy Skills and Synergy Abilities. More nodes on the Folio chart can be unlocked by leveling up a character’s weapon level and party level.

Folios can be configured at any Bookstore, or the Folio vending machines scattered throughout the world. You can also freely refund any nodes you’ve already unlocked, so feel free to experiment to find your favorite build.

In the early game, I recommend prioritizing unlocking elemental abilities, Synergy Skills, and Synergy abilities, as these open up new options for combat. When you’re more confident about specializing your characters further, consider refunding some ability nodes to focus on perks to make your characters better within their niche.

Knowledge is Pressure (and Stagger)

The Assess Materia (and later, the Assess Materia Earrings) might be the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal on your first playthrough of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. As in Remake, using the Assess Ability on an enemy target will reveal its weakness to you. While this was a relatively optional activity in Remake, in Rebirth it’s more essential, as more enemies have fairly specific conditions under which they can be pressured and staggered.

Some enemies only become pressured if you block one of their big attacks, or if you hit them at a specific point in their attack chain. Others become vastly more powerful if you exploit their elemental weaknesses, making them more dangerous before you get a chance to stagger them. In other words, it’s not simply a matter of attacking whatever element they’re weak to anymore.

Always make sure to have at least one party member equipped with the Assess Materia or the equivalent earrings, and whip out a use of Assess on any enemy that’s new to you. The subsequent info will also be added to your Bestiary for later reference.

Don’t Go Empty When it Comes to MP

MP is more important in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth than before. Spells in general are more expensive and it’s unlikely that your first run will end with any character reaching the triple digits on maximum MP. Meanwhile, the highly useful Magnify Materia is far more scarce, making multiple casts necessary in most cases to heal allies and to harm enemies both.

What’s more, secondary spell Materia like Fortification, Enervation, Subversion, and spells like Poison play a greater role, as some enemies have tough defenses that need stripping in order to ensure a quick battle, or have pressure conditions like responding to status effects.

As such, characters who do use their MP will do so more often. Thankfully, restorative items like Ether are easier to come by thanks to the Item Transmutation system.

Additionally, elemental “tickler” abilities unlocked from Folios can give your characters MP-free alternatives to addressing certain elemental weaknesses.

The Winning Energy’s in Synergy

Synergy Skills and Abilities are the new key mechanics in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth combat.

Since Synergy Skills can be called on at will, you’ll want to incorporate them into your combat rotation. Some of them can be quite potent if used with good timing, such as the Synergy Skills that activate a counterattack when deployed as an enemy strikes.

Meanwhile, Synergy Abilities can be even more powerful than a limit break when it comes to general combat utility. Some, like United Refocus are even required to activate certain late-game abilities, since those abilities require 3 ATB charges.

Unlock new Synergy Skills and Abilities as you come across them, and use them often.

Make Use of Your Item Stash With Transmute and Item Economizer

Item Transmutation is a powerful new system that can enable some of the best tactics in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. It’s essentially a crafting system that uses resources gathered up from the open world. You can transmute everything from healing items like potions to armor and accessories for your characters.

Transmutation is also necessary to accomplish certain Side Quests, as these quests can call for key items that need transmuting. Finally, Transmuting is the only way to upgrade armor and accessories, making certain gear pieces more effective than their store-bought or world-dropped originals. Excavation Intel map activities will unlock new recipes. Others can be unlocked by leveling up one’s Transmutation level through use.

Healing and restorative items acquired from Transmutation are also more powerful than before thanks to the Item Economizer Materia. Acquired in the Junon Region from Chadley, Item Economizer gives the equipping character the ability to use items without spending ATB charges after performing a few actions. This can be a game-changer because you won’t have to choose between using an item and using a combat ability or spell, giving you valuable opportunities to heal the party with a Mist Potion or revive a downed member.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is available for PS5.