Destiny is on track for its big release on September 9th, and while we don’t yet know if the quality of Bungie’s latest game is going to match the legendary hype, it’s certain to be one of the biggest releases of 2014. We’ve gathered together some suggestions of what to do as you prepare to dive into Destiny’s open world, including links back to older stories, guidance on classes, and even the easiest way to get your skills up to snuff for competitive play.

Take a look at our recommendations, and let us know what you’re excited to see from Destiny in the comments below. 

Choose Your Guardian

The first choice facing you when entering Destiny is what kind of character you want to play. Three races are available, but know from the outset that your species is a cosmetic choice, and not a gameplay one. Being a human offers a standard spread of customization, while the exo race adds a mechanical/android-esque flavor, and the awoken have an ethereal, otherworldly quality. Similarly, you also get to choose gender and facial features, but these also won’t affect gameplay. 

The bigger choice is class. The hunter, titan, and warlock will each have their own available skills and subclasses, but you won’t notice a huge difference between them at the outset. That makes it all the more valuable to know what you’re getting into. You can read our hands-on experience with the three classes from a few months back, but here’s the short version: 

Warlocks are effectively space wizards, and their powers focus on combining magical effects provided by the Traveler with traditional shooting mechanics; the warlock's currently revealed subclasses focus on distance damage or buffing/healing. Titans are hulking armored units  that focus on either powerful strikes or defense, and they’re a great fit if you’re looking for a style that reminds you of Master Chief. The hunter is your closest thing to a space pirate, and focuses on high damage output from either range or melee, depending on your choice of subclass. 

Play Some Halo

Want to get your reflexes back up to fighting order? While there are lots of differences between the older Halo games and Destiny, the team making the game includes many of the same individuals. If you plan on investing a lot of time in competitive multiplayer, getting a feel for the combat in one of the Bungie Halo games, like Halo: Reach, is a good place to start. The feel of several of the most common weapon types in Destiny emulates similar weapons in Halo, and the overall level setup shares much with Bungie’s earlier work, including the integration of vehicles, turrets, and tight bottlenecks where fights often go down. 

So what’s different? Frankly, a lot of things won’t be like they were in Halo, including the wide variety of grenade types, the vertical nature of the level design (to allow for each character’s distinct movement mode), and the game-shaking potential of super abilities. Even so, players familiar with Bungie’s overall approach to multiplayer design will undoubtedly have a leg up on those who never played Halo.

[Next Page: The importance of the fireteam]