The beta for Destiny launches on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 at 6pm today, should all go to plan, and it's a generous slice of Bungie's long-awaited first game since departing the Halo universe. So what exactly is in it? We spent an afternoon exploring the Cosmodrome, and have compiled a rundown of everything included, as well as a few handy primers to make sure you get the most out of it.
How do I get into the beta?
The simplest way is by pre-ordering Destiny, which will grant you a beta code which can be redeemed at Bungie's own site. You should receive the actual download code soon after, and you'll also receive multiple codes to give to your friends. Which brings us to the second, slightly less straightforward way to get in - simply hassle someone you know who's already got a fistful of codes.
What's in the beta?
After choosing whether to play as either the Titan, Warlock or Hunter class, you're going to be treated to Bungie's introduction to Destiny's world, including the opening cutscene and your first steps outside the City. There's a light tutorial where you meet the Peter Dinklage voiced AI Ghost (who has, sadly, had his infamous line from the earlier alpha clipped) and run through Destiny's systems, its levelling structure and its class-specific abilities as well as around the Cosmodrome that hosts the beta's player versus environment content. After all that, it's on to four story missions - all of which are playable with friends.
Restoration, Old Russia
A level 2 story mission, Restoration sees you return to the outskirts of the Cosmodrome, fighting off the enemy Fallen who come in a handful of flavours. There are Dregs, the equivalent to Halo's Grunts, as well as Vandals who put up a fight not too dissimilar to that of the old Jackals. You'll be dancing around them as you hunt for parts to restore your ship's ability for interplanetary travel.
The Dark Within, Old Russia
This level 3 story mission also featured in the alpha, and it's your introduction to the Hive. They're essentially Destiny's alternative to Halo's Flood, but don't fret - they're no way near as annoying, and great fun to tear through with a shotgun. You'll also meet that infamous Wizard, a floating, shielded Hive who puts up a hell of a fight, but you won't get to hear that infamous dialogue. For shame!
The Warmind, Old Russia
A level 4 story mission that serves as your introduction to the Sparrow, a nimble hover bike that allows you to scoot across the surface of the Cosmodrome. You'll come up against Dregs and Vandals, as well as Shanks - small floating mechs that can be plucked out of the sky with a couple of well-placed shots - and Captains. They're the Elites of Destiny, and have a nasty habit of teleporting around. What's best is they'll all swarm you at the mission's end as you defend Ghost while he's hacking into an ancient artefact.
The Last Array, Old Russia
The final mission, and another new introduction for the beta, weights in at level 5. It's a fittingly tough and spectacular send-off. The Hive and the Fallen will face-off across the Cosmodrome, and your journey through Destiny climaxes in a scrap beneath an unfolding array that's spitting Hive at you. The final encounter is against a Hallowed Knight, a tough-skinned Hive who'll take a fair few shots before going down. Alongside these missions, there's a bit more to keep you occupied in the beta.
In-between missions you'll be able to explore The Tower, Destiny's central hub that acts in much the same way as an MMO hub. There are merchants who will exchange materials you find out beyond the City for glimmer - Destiny's in-game currency - as well as places to pick up new armour, weapons or pick up new bounties to take on in the open world slice of the game that's also available in the beta.
The Devil's Lair returns for the beta, a mission you'll be familiar with this from the alpha - if you were lucky enough to partake in it. A 15-30 minute mission designed to be played alongside your friends, you'll come up against a Devil Walker - or spider tank, as it's also known - and the boss Naksis before facing up to Sepiks Prime. A word of advice - hold back during this scrap. The nearer you are to his energy beam, the more damage you'll soak up.
The Cosmodrome is available to roam in the Destiny beta, and it's here that you'll come across randomly spawning enemies as well as seeing other players exploring the territory. Some areas are impossible to traverse, with high-level enemies well beyond the level cap that's in place for the beta. We're told it peaks out at level eight, which still takes a good three to four hours to hit.
Unlocked at level five, The Crucible is where the player versus player portion of the Destiny beta resides. It's still limited to the one game mode, Control, although four maps will be playable over the course of the test. They take in four different locations as well - Blind Watch is set on Mars, Rusted Lands on Earth, Shores of Time is on Venus while First Light is set on the Moon. Where the Wizards come from.
There are no flying mounts in Destiny - yet. Instead, what you get is the Sparrow, a lithe hover bike, the Pike, the Fallen's equivalent that's rocking a couple of small guns, and the Interceptor. It's a slightly bigger vehicle with cannons that fire off explosive shells. They're all single-seat rides - hopefully the vehicles that allow you to have a couple of friends in tow will arrive in the final game.
Can I transfer my progress in the beta to the final game?
That's still undecided - Bungie seems to be torn between having everyone on a level playing field when the game comes out and rewarding those putting time into the beta. Hopefully we'll have a definitive answer sooner rather than later.
When is the Destiny beta out on Xbox One and Xbox 360?
The beta launches on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 on July 17 at 6pm BST, and will run through until it's taken down for maintenance on July 21 and 23. It's being switched back on July 23, with Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners also getting in on the action. It all comes to a close on July 27 - and after that, you'll have to wait until Destiny releases proper on September 9 to get involved again.