By Matt Peckham
September 2, 2014

If Bungie’s Destiny demos and beta are representative of the final game, then Halo may have spawned a new sub-genre. Call it “Halo-like.”

And Destiny seems like a card-carrying subscriber. A few months ago at E3 when I asked Bungie COO Pete Parsons why Destiny felt so much like playing Halo, I expected him to challenge the premise. Instead, he surprised me by embracing it.

While Destiny is clearly its own game with divergent gameplay ideas, Parsons spoke of a Bungie DNA that flows through all of its games (back to the company’s Mac-exclusive Marathon days, in fact). If you played the Destiny beta and you’re familiar with Halo‘s conventions, those strands — coiling through the game’s control scheme and user interface — are pretty much unmissable.

So is the game itself, if you’re paying even casual attention to the mega-marketing campaign. Over the weekend, running FXX’s The Simpsons as background noise in a vacation hotel room, the lofty-sounding Destiny trailer seemed to crop up every other commercial break. Publisher Activision, doubtless hoping Destiny has even longer legs than Halo, is clearly sparing the game no expense.

Here’s a rundown of everything (salient) that we know about the game in the run-up to its worldwide launch next week.

What is Destiny?

For the uninitiated: a first-person shooter that’s neither a single-player adventure nor a massively multiplayer online game, though it combines elements of both.

Imagine, to use Bungie’s terminology, a science fiction universe that’s “alive,” and which you can access while playing alone or with drop-in multiplayer companions. By “alive,” Bungie intends the game to be open-ended enough that unplanned events may occur, though whether that means the final version apes Guild Wars 2‘s player-driven events model, or something we’ve not yet seen, is still unclear.

Plot-wise, the game takes place several hundred years from now in a post-utopian period, after an event that leads to the near-extinction of humanity. You play as one of an elite group of “Guardians,” a band of super-soldier warriors, defending humanity from various hostile alien races.

When will it be available?

September 9 for PlayStation 3 and 4 as well as the Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Is there a launch trailer?

Of course:

There’s also a competitive multiplayer trailer, an “E3 Gameplay Experience” trailer and a bunch of locale-specific trailers that highlight the game’s various planetary battlegrounds.

How many versions are there?

The standard version is $60, whether you’re grabbing the retail or digital version, though GameStop’s offering in-game exclusives like an upgrade for the Sparrow (think Return of the Jedi‘s speeder bikes) if you order through them. And if you preorder the standard retail edition (by 2:00 p.m. PT on September 5) through the Microsoft Store, Microsoft will send along a $10 Xbox gift card and ensure your copy arrives by September 9.

Let’s step through the special editions, from most expensive to least.

  • If you’re in the market for a PlayStation 4, Sony’s selling a white PS4 bundled with the game and various PlayStation-exclusive in-game bonuses for $450.
  • On the retail side, Microsoft’s selling a Destiny “Ghost Edition” with the usual trinkets and geegaws for $150.
  • The “Limited Edition” for both the PS4 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox 360 (but not the PS3) includes upgraded packaging, a guide, a star chart and a few in-game items for $100.
  • On the digital end, the “Guardian Edition” for both PS4 and Xbox One as well as PS3 (but not the Xbox 360) includes a slew of in-game starter content.

The special editions each include the “Destiny Expansion Pass,” which goes for $35 by itself and unlocks “new story missions, cooperative and competitive multiplayer arenas, and a wealth of all new weapons, armor, and gear to earn,” as well as the game’s first two expansion packs: “Destiny Expansion I: The Dark Below” and “Destiny Expansion II: House of Wolves.”

What’s this I’ve seen about mobile versions?

Bungie’s released free companion apps for iOS and Android that let you keep tabs on your Guardian, analyze your stats, compare your scores and access the game’s forums.

Will the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions both run at 1080p?

Yes. The beta Xbox One version ran at a slightly lower resolution, but the ship-time PS4 and Xbox One versions will share the same 1920-by-1080 resolution. (If you want to quibble over subtle differences in frame rates or screen tearing or rendering techniques, you’ll have to wait for the inexorable Digital Foundry breakdown.)

Are the PlayStation versions really getting exclusive content?

Yes: a cooperative mission, a multiplayer map, class-specific gear, two weapons and three ships. You’ll find all the details here.

Can I preload the game?

If you buy the digital version, yes. The game is available for preload on PlayStation and Xbox stores now. If you preload, you’ll be able to play as soon as the servers go live on September 9.

When specifically on September 9 do the servers go live?

This one’s a little confusing. Here’s Bungie’s official word on the matter via Twitter:

Assuming no launch snafus (and to be fair, that’s a bold assumption), the game’s servers should be accessible in the United States as early as 8 a.m. ET on September 8. That’s no typo: according to that tweet, Destiny, according to the temporal logistics of the International Date Line (which passes through the Pacific Ocean), should be playable in the U.S. by early Monday, September 8.

That’s assuming you have a playable copy of the game, of course. It sounds like you’ll need a retail copy for the privilege: Both Sony and Microsoft list their respective digital versions of Destiny as being playable “starting midnight PST,” or at 3:01 a.m. ET on September 9.

How do you secure a retail copy prior to your local retailer’s midnight launch party on September 9 (in whatever time zone you live)? You’ll have to make your own inquiries: As Bungie says, it’s “between you and your retailer.”

How much disk space will Destiny take up?

The digital versions for PS4 and Xbox One list the game’s footprint as 18.6GB and 18GB, respectively, but that’s just the preload size. After unpacking and the game pulling down any additional launch timeframe data, the game’s footprint will be much larger.

On Sony’s official storefront for the game, it writes “40 GB hard drive storage (or its equivalent) is required.” That’s apparently the case for the Xbox One version, too, assuming this photo of the game’s retail packaging is authentic.

Will the PlayStation and Xbox versions be cross-platform playable?

Nope, nor will PS3 players be able to play with PS4 ones, or Xbox One players with Xbox 360 ones. Each platform is a universe unto itself.

Do I have to pay a monthly fee?

Not to Bungie, no, but after you’ve purchased the game, it requires Xbox Live ($60 a year) to play either of the Xbox versions. And while you can play parts of the PlayStation versions without a $50 PlayStation Plus subscription, the latter is required for “some activities” (certain game modes, though it’s not clear at this point which ones).

Can I play it offline?

No. While Destiny includes the option to play solo, it requires an Internet connection.

What about local split-screen?

I get this question from a surprising number of people about all sorts of online games: but no, alas, local split-screen isn’t supported.

Will there be a PC version?

Bungie co-founder Jason Jones may or may not have said no way back in early 2013, but design lead Lars Bakken told Eurogamer earlier this year that designing a PC version would be “pretty complicated,” but that it “doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future, it just means it won’t happen right now.”

So not yet, but maybe.

Is there anything else I should know?

Bungie just announced something called “Destiny Planet View,” which uses Google technology to let you poke around the game-verse’s versions of Mars, Venus and the Moon right now.

Says Bungie:

And here’s the “Destiny Planet View” trailer:

Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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