Reading information about a game you’re anticipating is always a bittersweet experience. Sure, it helps you get through the agonizing wait, but each new tidbit you learn is something you can’t discover on your own, and spoilers wait around every corner to mar the experience. Over the past couple of days I’ve been playing quite a bit of the Japanese version of FFXIII, and although I’ve had quite a few revelations spoiled for me, I thought I’d put together a list of things that are actually helpful to know going into the game, while avoiding spoilers at all costs. If you can’t make it until March 9th, consider this a (mostly) guilt-free appetizer.

Pro tip: Try not to die:
I realize that seems pretty obvious, but more than any previous Final Fantasy game, FFXIII punishes you for falling in combat. As you probably already know, you only control the actions of your party’s leader – the other characters will be controlled by AI. The biggest change to the formula comes from the fact that if your leader dies during battle, it’s instantly game over: You can’t resurrect yourself with a Phoenix down, or be revived in any other way by your teammates. That means that even if an enemy’s attack only floors you but leaves your partners with full HP bars, the battle still ends. The internet is already awash with criticism of this new gameplay mechanic, but if you’re aware of it going into battles, it’s usually not a big deal – especially if you heed the next bit of advice…

Roles make all the difference:
Lots of games use designated roles to control AI partners, but never has it been more necessary than in FFXIII. The Optima roles are more than just a management option: Your characters’ move sets are dependent on what role they’re currently in, meaning you will want to switch roles frequently during battle. You’ll definitely want to take the time to set up custom role combinations in the options screen before heading into battle – there’s a big difference between say, Blaster, Enhancer, Healer, versus Attacker, Defender, Healer. Each character is also better at certain roles than others, so experiment a lot to find the roles that work best for you. Don’t be fooled by early reports that FFXIII’s combat is simple – there’s a lot of depth waiting underneath the surface!

Setting your characters to "Attacker" isn't always the best solution

Libra is your friend:
Libra is a special command that acts differently from all of your other abilities. Whereas most moves make use of your ATB bar, Libra uses your Tactical bar (the same bar Summons use). Libra allows you to analyze your enemies to identify weaknesses. It is essentially the Scan ability from previous games, but it comes with a major perk: Because you no longer control your other teammates, performing Libra will inform the other members of these weaknesses as well,  resulting in instant damage increases as your partners automatically change tactics. Each enemy can be scanned several times, so it’s definitely worth taking the time in battle to scope them out.