To make the most of your short time with Killer Instinct at PAX Prime, you must understand the basic elements of the game system. In this section, you’ll learn how the round structure works, as well as the basic flow of combos. KI is a very combo-heavy fighting game. If you do not know how to properly execute combos, you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.
First Life Bar:
Second Life Bar:
If you’ve played a Killer Instinct game before, you know that it does not use rounds in the traditional sense. Instead, each character’s life bar is divided into two sections. The first section is green. When that is depleted, the game takes a short break and a red life bar appears, then the game resumes. When one character’s red life bar is depleted, the game is over.
It’s important to note that both players can move around during the short break between life bars. This allows you to potentially escape a bad corner situation, or just back away from an opponent to get some breathing room.
Combos have a very specific flow in Killer Instinct. While the system is more open than it was in the previous games, it’s important to know how combos work in order to maximize damage, and make it more difficult for an opponent to use a Combo Breaker. The general flow of a combo is as follows:
Opener > Auto-Double / Manual > Linker / Shadow Linker > Auto-Double / Manual > Ender
You can mix and match to be a little more creative with your combos, or use an Ender earlier in a combo to cut it short, but this is the basic structure of a Killer Instinct combo. If you ignore this, you will have a difficult time performing combos in the game.
The easiest way to extend a combo is by using an Auto-Double. After an Opener or Linker, an Auto-Double performs two consecutive hits. You can follow an Auto-Double with another Linker or an Ender, depending on how you wish to continue your combo.
In the original Killer Instinct, the general rule on Auto-Doubles was to use the immediately weaker button following an Opener or Linker (Heavy to Medium, Medium to Light, or Light to Heavy). For example, if you use Jago’s MK Wind Kick, you would follow with LP or LK as an Auto-Double. The new system is far more lenient, but if you’re having trouble finding Auto-Doubles, for the purposes of playing at Evo, the old system should work.
While an Auto-Double is relatively easy to execute, it’s also fairly easy to break. An opponent has from the initial frame of the first hit in an Auto-Double, until the final frame of the second hit to perform a Combo Breaker. At the highest level of play, it should not be difficult to break Auto-Doubles on-reaction.
A Manual is used in the same situation as an Auto-Double. However, instead of two hits, you only get one. In addition, the timing is far stricter to execute a Manual compared to an Auto-Double. To execute a Manual, you must input the command at the end of the previous attack. The window to input the command is much smaller than that of an Auto-Double. In Street Fighter terms, think of an Auto-Double being as easy to execute as a Target Combo, while a Manual is similar to a 1-frame Link (although the timing is closer to a 3-4 frame link).
When you first start to play Killer Instinct at Evo, Auto-Doubles will probably be your main focus during combos. However, once you’ve grown accustomed to the combo system, you should focus more on Manuals. It is much harder to break a Manual compared to an Auto-Double, and Manuals are the best way to maximize damage without using meter.
Linkers are another way to extend combos in Killer Instinct. You can use a special move or Shadow move as a Linker. For the most part, a Medium special move used in a combo serves as a Linker. In basic combos, Linkers bridge the gap between Manuals or Auto-Doubles, but as the KI combo system is fairly open, you can get creative with your use of Linkers, Manuals and Auto-Doubles.
In the E3 build, using a Shadow special move as a Linker (a Shadow Linker) was unbreakable. This means it was not possible to use a Combo Breaker when an opponent performed a Shadow Linker. In addition, Shadow Linkers inflict considerably more damage than a normal Linker, at the expense of burning meter.
Enders are essentially Heavy special moves used at the end of a combo. However, certain Enders have specific properties. For instance, Sabrewulf’s HP Ragged Edge causes a wall bounce that leaves an opponent stunned for a short time (in the corner only). Other Enders may cause a juggle state or hard knockdown.
Note: It is EXTREMELY important to complete every possible combo with an Ender to achieve maximum damage.