Stagger (ブレイク, Bureiku?, lit. Break) (Bonus in the Final Fantasy XIII demo) is a gameplay feature in Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. For the first two games, as the party consistently attacks an enemy, its chain bonus will increase. When the chain bonus reaches the enemy's stagger point, it will instantly increase by a large amount, and the target will be more vulnerable to attacks. While staggered, the chain gauge will steadily decrease, although the chain bonus may still build as usual. Once the stagger period ends, the chain bonus is reset.
In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, a modified version of stagger is used, featuring a stagger wave instead of a chain bonus. Despite this, it functions similarly, where repeatedly attacking an enemy can place it into a more vulnerable state.
The enemy's chain bonus is a direct multiplier for all damage dealt to it; if an attack's base damage is 1000, a chain bonus of 250% results in 2500 damage being done. This occurs whether the enemy is staggered or not, so it is always to the player's advantage to raise the number. The very first attack towards an enemy adds chain duration, while additional attacks increase the chain bonus beyond 100% and lengthen the duration. When calculating damage dealt by an attack, the game first calculates the increased chain bonus; for example, if an attack would increase an enemy's chain bonus from 100% to 110%, the damage is calculated with the 110% amount. The chain percentage affects not only damage, but the chance of inflicting status ailments, and even things like Odin's Zantetsuken inflicting Instant Death.
Ravagers increase an enemy's chain bonus the fastest, but do not increase the chain gauge timer by much with each attack. On the other hand, Commandos, Saboteurs, and Sentinels have abilities that do not increase the chain bonus much, but are effective at slowing down the rate the enemy's stagger gauge depletes. Full ATB skills, like Lightning's Army of One and Sazh's Cold Blood, increase the chain bonus by a large amount, but are more effective the higher the percentage already is.
The player may notice when using restorative and enhancing abilities that allies also have a chain gauge. A player character's chain gauge does not increase when attacked, but when healed or enhanced by a Medic or Synergist respectively, and the chain gauge directly improves further healing and enhancement duration. Healing spells deplete the gauge faster than Synergist enhancements; in a way, the Synergists may be seen as Commandos, and the Medics as Ravagers; the Synergist stabilizes the gauge, while the Medics raise it. Using this method, it is possible to raise an ally's gauge to 999.9%.
Enemies ignore their chain gauges entirely when damaging or healing each other, but when staggered, the red and green damage numbers will still be larger to reflect it.
When a target's chain gauge is about 90%-92% full, it will flash red, indicating the enemy has reached the "near stagger" status. Enemies will strobe golden-orange, and continue slowly pulsing the same color when staggered. Performing a preemptive strike causes all enemies to enter near stagger status for 10 seconds, regardless of their respective stagger points.
Once an enemy is staggered, its chain bonus instantly increases by 100%, and continues increasing with attacks to a maximum of 999.9%. The chain percentage will turn yellow, and the word "stagger" will replace the stagger threshold percentage. Some enemies cannot be staggered, with their stagger percentage displayed as ---.-%, though their chain gauges can still be raised to 999.9%.
Staggered enemies are more susceptible to having their attacks interrupted. Some may also become more susceptible to certain elements or status ailments, or change their attack patterns. Players can launch most regular enemies into the air when staggered with the Commando's Launch auto-ability. The -ra and -ga level spells can also lift enemies up in the air, but not as high as the Commando's Launch. Launching an enemy allows for even greater damage, as the foe is held aloft by attacks and prevented from action until it falls and stands again. Aerial enemies cannot be launched, and most bosses are immune as well, though there are some exceptions, such as the Proudclad while ground-borne.
Stagger lasts a minimum of 8 seconds and a maximum of 45 seconds. The duration is equal to double the remaining gauge time when the enemy was staggered; thus, enemies that take longer to stagger generally also stay staggered longer. Fang's and Snow's Full ATB skills (Highwind and Sovereign Fist) will clear the chain gauge, even when staggered, as will an Eidolon after Gestalt Mode ends.
Chain bonus increase is equal to the following:
Skill base is the chain value of the action used. Every action has its own chain value. For instance, Attack is 0.5, while Fire is 10.0. The base modifiers are passive abilities that boost the party's ability to amass chain bonuses. The Commando's Jeopardize adds +1.0 against a staggered target. The Ravager's Overwhelm adds +1.0 for each ally targeting the same enemy, and the Ravager's Vigor adds +1.0 when the Ravager's HP is above 70%. Sazh's Antares Deluxes class of weapons have the Chain Bonus Boost abilities, which add +1.0 for the regular version of the ability, and +2.0 for the upgraded Chain Bonus Boost II. The Ravager's role bonus also adds anywhere from 0.1~3.6, depending on role levels.
Each enemy has a chain resistance ranging from 0 to 100, which decreases the base chain bonus impact of abilities targeting the enemy. For enemies with 100 chain resistance, actions won't increase the chain bonus with their base values. Upon staggering an enemy, their chain resistance drops to zero, allowing the chain bonus to build rapidly, regardless of the enemy.
The chain resist modifier is equal to:
Therefore, if an enemy's chain resistance is 90, the chain resist modifier will be 0.10.
There are many different cumulative conditional modifiers. For example, Commandos add slightly more to the chain percentage when they attack a launched opponent, Ravagers add more to it the more status enhancements they have and the more status ailments the target has, and all roles add more when they alternate their abilities. Even if an enemy has 100 chain resistance, conditional modifiers will still allow the player to raise the chain gauge.
Finally, the target's elemental resistances play a role in building the chain bonus. The resistance modifier itself is 1 by default, 0.5 when the affinity is Halved or Resistant, and 0.25 when Immune or Absorbed. Because of conditional modifiers, attacking an enemy with an element they're weak to increases the enemy's chain bonus more effectively.
In Easy Mode, available in the Japanese and PC versions, the chain gauges of unstaggered enemies fill at twice the rate.
Abilities that affect stagger
Stagger Lock is a weapon auto-ability, which prevents the wielder from staggering an enemy. The character can still raise the chain bonus up to the stagger limit, but can't bring the opponent past the stagger threshold, meaning the other allies in the party will have to do it. If the enemy is already staggered, the character with Stagger Lock can continue to raise the chain as normal. Every character has a Stagger Lock weapon, and they have higher stats than most other weapons to counter the handicap.
Quick Stagger is a weapon auto-ability, which instantly staggers an opponent in "near stagger" status. Lightning's Lionheart (Final Fantasy XIII) and the Chaos's Revenge (Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII) have this ability.
Sazh's Procyons and its upgrades have this auto-ability and increase the stagger time limit by 10% (Stagger Maintenance) or 30% (Stagger Maintenance II) if Sazh was the one who staggered the target, but will not increase the stagger duration past the maximum limit of 45 seconds.
Random: Instant Chain
Random: Instant Chain is a synthesized ability, gained by equipping enough equipment pieces at once that have it as a trait. Random: Instant Chain gives the character a 0.5% chance of instantly raising the chain up to the Stagger Point with each hit. It does not stagger the target, but the next attack will. Random: Instant Chain does not work on enemies over level 49, which means it won't work on bosses and some of the more difficult mission marks.
The random chance of instantly raising the gauge to the Stagger Point is based on the number of times the chain bonus value is calculated. Since Sazh's Attack command calculates the chain bonus only once, he has one chance to activate Random: Instant Chain during his attack, despite him actually attacking twice per each Attack command. Sazh's Full ATB skill, on the other hand, calculates the chain bonus 17 times, giving 17 chances for Random: Instant Chain to activate. Raising the chain is not a requirement for Random: Instant Chain; the command used only needs to have a chain bonus calculation step.
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Chain bonus returns as a game mechanic, and is fundamentally similar to Final Fantasy XIII, albeit with a slightly different set of hidden chaining factors. The chain gauge is wider, and the word "chain" is added underneath. When an enemy is staggered, the "stagger" text replaces it, though the text is smaller, matching the size of "chain". The gauge will also glow a brighter yellow when the chain duration is above minimum.
The formula for chain bonus is as follows:
The formula for stagger duration is as follows:
When launching a preemptive strike on enemies, their chain gauges will be filled up to 120.0% instead of the near stagger threshold. Enemies can still be launched into the air and incapacitated by the Commando's Launch ability, and several Paradigm Pack members can do so as well with their own animations, such as the Behemoth-types' Heave ability.
Several passive abilities that affect stagger return. Such abilities are found in weapons and learned by monsters in the Crystarium system. These include Chain Bonus Boost, Chain Bonus Lv. X, Improved Stagger, and Quick Stagger.
The boss Paradox Alpha can be staggered by correctly performing a Cinematic Action. Caius Ballad can perform "Chain Break" to reset his chain gauge; this effect is random and has no set conditions, as such it cannot be anticipated and makes his boss fight all the more intimidating. When fighting Gilgamesh, his chain gauge is locked at 100% after recovering from stagger until his weapons regenerate.
Several allied party members have unique chain gauges. In the Sunleth Waterscape, Snow's chain gauge caps out at 200% and he starts each fight with it set to ???%. PuPu, Nabaat, Ultros, Typhon, and Gilgamesh's chain gauges are displayed as ".0%" and never fill beyond that, while Amodar's maxes out at 300%.
Staggering enemies 50 times earns the player the "Staggering" achievement/trophy.
Stagger, known as Knock Out (ノックアウト, Nokkuauto?) in the Japanese version, appears in a modified form with different mechanics from previous games in the series.
Attacks that stagger enemies deal three times the usual damage, and defeating a staggered enemy raises its chances of dropping abilities or other spoils after battle. Staggering fifty enemies earns the Seeing Stars achievement.
The "Stagger Wave" appears with an enemy's HP gauge. It has three colors: initially blue, it will turn yellow when Lightning attacks to indicate the attack's Stagger Power. The wave turns red at 70%, when the enemy is nearly staggered. Each monster has its own stagger point and conditions for raising the Stagger Wave. These conditions are listed in each monster's bestiary entry.
The Stagger Power of every ability used by the player against an opponent is added to the target's Stagger Wave. When enough Stagger Power is accumulated and the enemy reaches its Stagger Point, it will be staggered. Each ability is ranked from A to E, with E rank being the weakest.
Stagger Power by rank:
- E= 1–3
- D= 4–14
- C= 15–20
- B= 21–49
- A= 50 and above
The Stagger Wave deteriorates when no abilities connect with the enemy, and the accumulated Stagger Power eventually expires to 0. This is known as Stagger Decay. "Commando"-type abilities, such as Attack, Ruin and Blitz, help maintain the Stagger Wave to prevent Stagger Power from decaying. The rate of decay is a modifier unique to every monster.
Lightning can temporarily stop the Stagger Wave from decaying through Stagger Preservation. All monsters have a cap on this value. Generally, this value does not exceed 600, but Ereshkigal has a maximum Stagger Preservation value of 1000. Each ability has its own Stagger Preservation value and is ranked in-game from A to E, with E rank being the weakest.
Stagger Preservation by rank:
- E= 1–40
- D= 41–99
- C= 100–199
- B= 200–299
- A= 300 and above.
Preservation Decay is a value unique to each monster, which is used to calculate the amount of time where the Stagger Wave does not decay even though Lightning is not using abilities on the monster.
Where A = Stagger Preservation, B = Preservation Decay, and C = the amount of time where Stagger Decay does not take effect.
For example, if Lightning casts Blitz twice on a Chocobo Eater, the Stagger Preservation value will be 600. The Preservation Decay of a Chocobo Eater is 100. Thus,
The Stagger Wave will not decay for 6 seconds after Lightning casts her second Blitz, even if she does not connect with any abilities.
Some abilities lack grades for Stagger Power and/or Preservation, thus having no effect.
Some enemies may have more than one level of stagger. For some, the Stagger Wave is reset after the initial stagger, allowing the player to build up the Stagger Wave again. The second level of stagger is required for the player to launch the target into the air.
Only Aeronite has more than two levels of stagger, and must be staggered four times in succession for it to become vulnerable to Lightning's abilities.
When the player staggers an enemy, certain per-determined effects may be applied to the target. Any combination may be applied, or none at all. These effects can stack with status ailments.
The following stagger effects can be applied to enemies:
- Unprotected – The target takes 50% more damage from physical attacks.
- Unshelled – The target takes 50% more damage from magic attacks.
- Parched – The target takes 75% more fire damage.
- Exposed – The target takes 75% more ice damage.
- Conductive – The target takes 75% more lightning damage.
- Brittle – The target takes 75% more wind damage.
- Broken – The target is 50% easier to stagger.
- Infected – The target is 50% more vulnerable to status ailments.
- Hindered – The target moves 30% slower.
- Confused – The target attacks other enemies or heals Lightning.
- Cursed – The target has -25 Keep, making them more likely to recoil and have their attacks interrupted.
- Dazed – The target is unable to take action and will take twice as much damage from the next attack.
- Pained – The target is unable to use physical attacks.
- Foggy – The target is unable to use magic attacks.
The best abilities for staggering are second-tier spells for their fast casting speed and Stagger Power of 40 per cast (80 for finales). Thundara and Aerora in particular are effective due to hitting targets multiple times. First-tier spells have a Stagger Power of 20 per cast (80 for finales). Third-tier spells deal more damage and have higher Stagger Power (50), but have long animations and consume a lot of ATB. The strongest spells, such as Flare, are very ATB-expensive and have extremely long animations.
For faster staggering, the player can use two or more abilities, even on different schemata, and avoid executing the final hit. For instance, Fira and Thundara can be cast thrice in a row for a three-hit "combo", but the final hit is always slow. To compensate, second-tier finales have a Stagger Power of 80 instead of 40. To avoid the finale, the player can use Fira twice, then Thundara twice, then Fira twice again, etc. While not as ATB-efficient, this method has the advantage of increasing the Stagger Wave faster, as well as being able to cancel the spell into a defensive ability.
Spears generally build the Stagger Wave faster, depending on how upgraded they are. Chaos's Revenge has the Quick Stagger auto-ability, which means the enemies stagger at 75% rather than 100%. Lightning can switch to a schema with this weapon when the Stagger Wave turns red to unleash an attack, instantly triggering a stagger.
Certain garbs are imbued with auto-abilities that are beneficial towards staggering. Dragoon has Soul of the Dragoon, increasing stagger capability by 5%. Shadow Trooper has Stagger Booster, increasing the damage of the staggering blow. Vengeance has Stagger Drain, which restores HP when attacking staggered enemies. L'automne has Stagger Siphon, restoring ATB when attacking staggered enemies. SOLDIER 1st Class transforms Heavy Slash into Slayer when used against staggered enemies, with a 2.0x damage multiplier.
- ximaus (n.d.) . Final Fantasy XIII – Game Mechanics Guide. GameFAQs. Archived from the original on 7 July, 2021.
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