Combos in Anthem are probably the single most important thing to master, at least in terms of successful combat.
In basic terms, landing Combos is about combining two things: Primers and Detonators. Two types of attacks that set enemies up to be Comboed or set off the Combo itself, we'd say learning how to use them - and learning which attacks Prime and which Detonate - is going to be pretty essential.
On this page:
Anthem Combos explained - what are Combos, Primers and Detonators, and how to they work?
Regular combat in Anthem is all pretty familiar stuff - shooting guns, firing rockets, casting some flashy spells - but what mixes up the rhythm of it all, and what makes a crucial difference to your chances of success even at the most basic levels, is the inclusion of Mass Effect-style Combos.
As we mentioned above combos are about priming enemies with one attack, and detonating them - triggering the Combo - with another. You'll see a big yellow 'COMBO' pop up over them and there's an audio cue too to let you know you've nailed one successfully.
The main reason you'll want to use Combos is that they do a big chunk of damage, meaning you can clear out waves of low-tier enemies or chip away at the bigguns much faster - but there's also an added reason to use them.
Combos also get an additional effect, on top of the bonus damage they deal, which varies depending on your choice of Javelin class. This, really, is the primary way that classes dovetail with one another in Anthem, and at higher levels of play we'd expect it to heavily influence how you build out those Javelins of your own.
More on those Combo Bonus Effects and some tips on using them effectively in the section just below.
Primers and Detonators
There are three types of attacks in Anthem: Primer attacks, Detonator attacks, and standard attacks that do damage or inflict status effects, but don't interplay with the Combo system and neither prime nor detonate enemies.
Hit an enemy with a Primer to prime it, then with a Detonator to activate the Combo. Hit one with a standard attack you'll do neither. It all sounds super simple, but there are a couple of caveats to bear in mind.
First, it's worth clarifying that Primers and Detonators are not the same thing as the elemental status effects some damages inflict on opponents (Fire, Ice, Electric and Acid) - these are separate effects, which we explain in some more detail over in our Anthem Elemental Effects guide.
Second, it's important to note that only the Javelin that hits the primed enemy with their Detonator will cause the Combo to happen - and so it's that Javelin's bonus effect that be activated, not the one that primed it. Likewise, the priming effect is removed from the enemy once it's been detonated; as soon as a Combo is landed that enemy that got hit by the Combo is no longer primed, and needs to be primed again for another Combo to take place. (note that while the enemy is no longer primed, the status like being frozen by Ice, is not removed.)
In-game, for Primers look for the circle-within-a-circle symbol; for Detonators, look for the four-pronged star symbol. Here's Anthem Lead Producer Ben Irving with some clarification, since those symbols have changed over time (it's the bottom right two in the tweeted image):
Combo Bonus Effects and how to Combo effectively
First, a quick runthrough of the four different Combo Bonus Effects and what they do:
- Ranger Combo Bonus - Critical Target Damage: deals increased damage to the single target affected by your Combo.
- Colossus Combo Bonus - Area of Effect Explosion: deals damage to nearby enemies around the target affected by your Combo.
- Storm Combo Bonus - Area of Effect Spread: passes any elemental effects from the enemy hit by your Combo to nearby enemies.
- Interceptor Combo Bonus - Aura: grants you an Aura that passes the elemental effect on the Comboed enemy to any enemies close to you.
You can read more about these different effects and some advice for building around them in our Anthem classes and Colossus, Storm, Interceptor and Ranger builds guide.
How to Combo effectively
Effectively landing Combos then is down to not only building your Javelin around Primers and Detonators, but around its core Bonus Effect that only that class of Javelin can activate.
That means a Ranger, for instance, is a great choice of Javelin for focusing on single enemies like Stronghold bosses or larger tank units. It's single-target Seeking Missile, for instance, is an easy to use Detonator that can chunk away large amounts of enemy health - but outside of its Ultimate, the Ranger might struggle to clear large waves of enemies.
The Colossus, meanwhile, is great for waveclearing: it can self-Combo by combining the priming Flamethrower in one slot with the detonanting Lightning Coil in another, for instance, and combined with its Area of Effect explosion damage from its class-unique Combo Bonus, can take out swathes of enemies as they spawn if you're able to get close enough.
That's another point worth noting about building your Javelins around Combos, too: you should, ideally, have multiple builds. One build for solo-play, or situations where you might be without your squad, which has a 'self-Combo' capability like the Colossus' Flamethrower and Lightning Coil build; another for group player, where it might be wiser to think about synergyising with your squad.
You might want to have your Storm player kit themselves out with just Primers of two different elements, like Ice and Fire, (to cover the bases against different types of enemies that need dealing with in different ways), and then your Interceptor as the Detonator, thanks to its natural emphesis on melee attacks which all Detonate.
In the section below you can see a fantastic community-made infographic which details all of the available Primer and Detnator attacks for the four Javelins at launch - as you'll see, there's a surprisingly broad range of ways to build your Javelins and squad, whether you plan on playing solo and attaining Combos all on your lonesome, or with the help of friends.
Looking for more Anthem explainers like this? Our Anthem tips page is a great place to start, or our Anthem guide and walkthrough mission list hub, which has all our Anthem pages in one place, including in-depth looks at Anthem Javelin classes, how to unlock Javelins and some Colossus, Storm, Interceptor and Ranger builds, another in-depth look at Combos, Primers and Detonators and Elemental Effects and debuffs explained, or specific advice on how to Deactivate the Barrier for the Triple Threat puzzle solution. Here's where to find Anthem Collectibles, Anthem Ember Pieces and Anthem Treasure Chests, and how to get your Anthem Legion of Dawn armour and other pre-order bonuses, how the Anthem Alliance system works too. Finally, for levelling and grinding, here's an explainer of Anthem Pilot Level, XP and how to level fast, Anthem loot, gear, and the loot system explained and finally a deep-dive on Anthem Masterwork and Legendary gear explained, a Masterwork list and how to farm them.
Combo list of Primers and Detonators, and other things to know
Here's an excellent infographic from the community, made by reddit user FireDragon04, highlighting all of the different Primer and Detonator abilities available for all four Javelins:
Combo list of Primers and Detonators for every Javelin:
Image credit: FireDragon04 on reddit - see link above.
Other things to know about Combos, Primers and Detonators
- Note that there were some UI bugs in the VIP Demo which may be in the open Demo too - some names have changed, and some attacks aren't properly labelled in the Forge as Primers or Detonators, but they seem to be displayed properly on your in-combat HUD in the bottom right of the screen, at least.
- If you're struggling with a lack of gear early on, use your Melee attacks for setting up Combos - the Ranger's melee is a Primer, whilst the other three classes' melees are Detonators.
- Similarly, all four Javelin's Ultimate abilities are Detonators - whilst the Storm's actually both Primes and Detonates foes, conveniently.
- All Primer abilities always apply some kind of Elemental effect, but remember Elemental attacks aren't always Primers - some of them are Detonators or neither!
- Proccing a combo does not remove elemental effects from the comboed enemy - so say you've frozen a high-level enemy with a primer that also does Ice elemental damage, detonating that enemy (but not killing it) wouldn't defrost it. Elements are totally independent of Combos, Primers and Detonators.