The main story takes place hundreds of years after Final Fantasy XIII-2, set in a world called Novus Partus -- which is composed of four islands connected by monorail. The development team told IGN that three of the guiding pillars for the art direction in Lightning Returns are "gothic, mechanical and fantasy."
The most startling change to Lightning Returns comes in the form of the doomsday countdown. According to Square-Enix, the world will end after 13 days, and a massive clock will count down constantly in the corner of the screen to indicate this looming deadline. Any action players take, even taking the monorail from place to place, will spend time and hasten the end of days.
With Lightning as the only playable character, players will have unparalleled control over customizing her looks and combat style. The battle system itself, a greatly modified version of the previous two, will feature real-time elements including direct control of Lightning's movement and her attacks, as well as time-based moves that drain the doomsday counter. Lightning Returns will also include a real-time block system, designed to make battles much more active and time-based. Even dying mid-battle will activate a prompt to give players the choice to rewind their mistakes at the expense of the timer.