Combat in Anthem is not easy to understand at a glance. Noisy (but pretty) visual effects crowd the arena and enemies arrive by the dozen. Status effects line up on the left side of the screen with no explanation and it quickly becomes second nature to just keep shooting and spamming abilities because, hey, it does the trick.
But on the higher difficulties, you'll definitely need to master Anthem's combo system in order to succeed. By chaining together certain abilities you'll be able to do massive damage to a bundle of enemies while enacting a javelin-specific combo effect. Anthem doesn't do a great job teaching you how it all works, and the UI is too subtle in how it signposts combo abilities. No worries, it's a pretty simple system once you know what to look for. If BioWare won't teach you, we will. Here's everything you need to know to get started with Anthem's combo system.
What are primers?
Primers are abilities or status effects that begin combos. They're the set before the spike, and the first ability you or a teammate will need to use on an unlucky bunch of bad guys before anything else.
Primer abilities are marked by circle next to the corresponding ability icon in the forge or on your hotbar. As you get familiar with each javelin's early loadouts, just look for enemies enveloped in an elemental cloud: frozen, on fire, in a cloud of gas, or lit up by lightning. If you see any lingering effects on an enemy or group of enemies, chances are it's primed and ready for detonation.
What are detonators?
Detonators are abilities or status effects that finish combos. Denoted by a four-pointed star next to their corresponding ability icons, detonators aren't purely limited to abilities: melee attacks work as finishers, too.
Look for that lingering elemental effect or trust the word of friend, and use detonator abilities on primed enemies to finish the combo, resulting in extra damage and a bonus combo effect.
What are combo effects?
Combos aren't only good for doing extra damage: an extra combo effect is granted to any javelin that detonates a combo. Each combo effect is specific to each javelin type, so knowing exactly what kind of benefit you'll receive from pulling off a combo is pretty important in difficult fights depending on whether you need to prioritize damage on a single target, proc more elemental effects, or spread the damage around. Here's a basic rundown.
Interceptor - When you detonate a combo, you gain an elemental aura based on the ability used to detonate the combo. Any enemy near you will receive the corresponding elemental status.
Colossus - Bonus damage is dealt over a small area near the point of detonation.
Storm - Spreads elemental status of primer ability to more enemies near the point of detonation.
Ranger - Bonus damage is dealt to a single target upon detonation.
And those are the basics. Once we spend more time with the demo and the full game, we'll detail specific abilities, effective loadouts, and whatever else we learn along the way.