It's hard to avoid Destiny. No, not your fated path in life, but Destiny, a long-anticipated first person shooter that's shaping up to be one of 2014's biggest games. Whether you're a gamer or not, chances are you've caught wind of this epic sci-fi title, which publisher Activision spent a whopping $500 million to develop and promote.
Destiny is developer Bungie's first new title since creating the iconic Halo series, and it has all types of gamers and critics buzzing. The game just hit store shelves, so here's what you need to know before you enter the battle.
What Is Destiny?
Destiny is a sci-fi first-person shooter that borrows elements from a variety of other genres, such as adventure games and massively multiplayer online RPGs. You can create a custom character, explore planets, unravel a story, team up with friends and compete against the world.
MORE: Destiny Review
What's the game's story?
Destiny's story revolves around a futuristic "Golden Age" in which a mysterious moon-sized sphere called The Traveler helps turn distant planets like Venus and Mars into livable worlds. Humanity quickly colonizes these areas, until an ancient enemy of the Traveler traces the enigmatic structure back to Earth and all but destroys it.
Destiny casts you as one of the Guardians, a group of soldiers who defend Earth's last standing city and wipe out the planet's enemies across the solar system.
What are the character classes?
Destiny offers three character types: Titan, Hunter and Warlock. The Titan is your all-around soldier, focusing on sheer power and thick defense. Hunters are agile fighters that sneak around with a blade, while Warlocks use mystic, magical powers that bring the Jedi Knights of Star Wars to mind.
Who are you up against?
Destiny has four main enemy races. The Fallen are four-armed footsoldiers, while the Hive is a group of zombie-like Moon dwellers. The Vex are robotic warriors, and the Cabal class consists of hard-to-kill heavy troopers.
What modes are there?
There are tons of ways to play Destiny. Story missions let you and your friends unravel the game's narrative, while Strike missions are contained co-op challenges that task you with bringing down an enemy base. Explore mode lets you revisit previously completed areas, where you'll gather resources and tackle side missions.
If you want to take on the world, the Crucible offers a variety of competitive, team-based multiplayer modes. Ready for a break from all of that shooting and slaying? You can hang out in the Tower, which is a third-person social area where you can buy weapons and upgrades, take in the scenery or dance with your buddies (yep, you can really do that).
Once you've maxed out your character past level 20, you can participate in periodic, MMO-inspired "raids." Raids in Destiny are sprawling (we're talking a few hours) co-op missions that task you with teaming up with five friends to bring down difficult foes and earn rare rewards in the process. There's no random matchmaking system for the raid portion of the game, as Bungie wants players to team up with Guardians they know they can trust.
Can you play alone or offline?
While you won't always be playing with other people, Destiny requires an internet connection to play. Bungie designed destiny to be a living, breathing open world, which means you'll often bump into strangers when you're tacking story missions or exploring a new planet. While this adds to Destiny's dynamic, it's certainly not for the type of FPS fan who wants to play a contained, offline solo campaign.
Is Destiny anything like Halo?
Destiny and Halo are both first-person shooters set in fictional sci-fi universes. They both offer a mix of story-based and competitive gameplay. They even both give you a robotic companion to aid you on your journey; Halo has the iconic A.I. assistant Cortana, while Destiny features the Peter Dinklage-voiced mini-robot known simply as the Ghost.
While Bungie's knack for crafting rich sci-fi action experiences is apparent in both franchises, Destiny and Halo are vastly different when it comes to the overall package. Halo games typically have a structured campaign mode with a separate multiplayer mode, whereas Destiny is an always-online experience that seamlessly blends the two while adding in MMO-inspired features like the Tower. Most Halo games cast you as series protagonist Master Chief, while Destiny is all about crafting your own Guardian.
When does Destiny go on sale?
Destiny is available now for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4. You can buy the game here.
Can I upgrade my PS3 or Xbox 360 copy to a PS4 or Xbox One copy?
Yup! Through Jan. 15, 2015, you can upgrade your digital Xbox 360 or PS3 copy of destiny to a new-gen version for Xbox One or PS4 at no charge. After you've bought a digital copy for one of the older systems, you simply log in to the same PlayStation Network or Xbox Live account on your PS4 or Xbox One and download the new-gen version of the game. This transition also works for any Destiny add-on content, including the Expansion Pass. For more information on the Destiny Digital Upgrade, check out Bungie's breakdown.
What are the differences between the versions of the game?
Based on users' experiences with the Destiny beta, the only difference between the current-gen (PS4, Xbox One) and last-gen (PS3, Xbox 360) versions of the game is visual quality.
While Destiny doesn't support cross-platform play, you can carry over the same character across generations. So, if you start the game on Xbox 360 and eventually upgrade to an Xbox One, you won't lose any of your stats, weapons or upgrades.
Destiny is largely the same game whether you play on Playstation or Xbox, but those who own a Sony console get the jump on some downloadable content. At launch, Playstation gamers will have exclusive access to the Dust Palace Strike mission, the Exodus Blue Crucible map, the Monte Carlo assault rifle, Hawkmoon hand cannon, three extra spaceships and an extra set of armor for each of the three classes. This content is slated to come to Xbox platforms by the end of 2015.
While only the PS4 version of the Destiny beta is running in 1080p, Bungie confirmed in an interview with GamesBeat that the final game will run at 1080p and 30 frames per second on both Xbox One and PS4.
Will there be a PC version?
Bungie has yet to announce a PC version of Destiny. When speaking to Polygon, Activision Publishing CEO Erik Hirshberg called the game a "natural fit" for PC, but noted that the company's current focus is ensuring the console version is as polished as possible.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.