We're rerunning our full magazine cover story on Destiny from the January 2014 issue, without addition or change, so that fans who may have missed the story the first time around can have a chance to check it out. We'll share additional info on Destiny as soon as new details emerge from Bungie HQ. You can read the complete cover story below, but we're also happy to announce that we've now made our entire January issue free on iPad, which includes all of the assets and special interactive features that were part of our original Destiny cover story. 

To get your free copy of the Destiny digital issue, download the free Game Informer iOS app, open it, tap the Library tab at the bottom of the screen, and then tap the download button next to the Destiny issue.

For over a year, gamers have known about Destiny. The upcoming sci-fi epic is the next big thing from Bungie, a studio that helped to shape the last two console generations with its Halo series. But for all that time in the public consciousness, Destiny has remained a project defined more by questions than answers. Ask three different fans, and you’ll get three different answers about what the game is – a shooter, an MMO, an RPG. In truth, Destiny is one of the most audacious and risky projects ever attempted in gaming. We should know. We played it, and then dug deep with every branch of the development team to push past the generalizations and get to a concrete answer of what exactly this game is all about.

The shortest answer is that Destiny is an action-focused shooter. Throughout our days visiting Bungie’s sprawling 85,000 square foot studio, different members of the team tell us the same thing. Destiny’s core gameplay is rooted in the studio’s experience with Halo, and our time playing various sections of the game bears that description out. Destiny presents a tight loop of one action scene after another fighting against varied enemies, with lots of toys to make the experience distinct each time. In our experience, Destiny never loses sight of its fundamentals – fast, reactive, and intense first-person combat. But from this core it expands in bold new directions. “We’re trying to build a game that we have wanted to play that doesn’t exist,” says Bungie co-founder and design director Jason Jones. “I think that’s really the genesis of Destiny. When you look out at the shooter experiences on consoles, there are a lot of great action experiences, but they’re only starting to scratch the surface of cooperative play, aspirational goals, and player-to-player -interaction.”

What sets Destiny apart is its ambition. On top of its shooter essence, Bungie is layering those other features that have made the project so hard to define. Characters level up along branching upgrade trees, story plays a central role in everything you do, and personalization of character appearance, gear, and vehicles is vital, just like in role-playing games. Its persistent world and multitude of ways to play with other people call to mind the MMO genre. “MMO is a loaded term; it always puts some mental image in people’s heads about what the game is,” says technical art director Ryan Ellis. “Our game is different, and kind of hard to describe, which is why we don’t use that term. But I do think that people who like that sort of thing are going to find things to love in this game.” 

The scope of Destiny is suitably impressive to warrant its presumptive role as a flag-bearer for next-generation software. That scope is still a work in progress, with months of work ahead that will determine its success. However, Bungie certainly has the groundwork in place. Nearly 500 developers now call Bungie home, all working together over the last five years to make Destiny a reality. The art team alone is pushing 150 individuals. This level of investment of resources and manpower would have been unheard of in the gaming industry just a few short years ago, but it’s necessary to redefine expectations for an online-enabled shooter. 

Much of what we saw and played during our two-day visit to Bungie was brand new to us – from the competitive multiplayer to the detailed look at how character investment and progression functions. Other things we learned were like filling in missing colors in a painting, revealing new details on enemy sub-groups, weapons, and setting. The picture that developed is an amalgam of experiences that finally starts to present a comprehensive understanding of Bungie’s new adventure. 

Next Page: Creating A Hero