Video Games Plus Reckoning

Video Games Plus is a bi-weekly update on all things gaming, dropping every other Thursday.

With Halloween right around the corner, there are no tricks and all treats in this week's Video Games Plus. We've got an exclusive preview of "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," a review of "NBA 2K12" and news on a Transformers game with a prehistoric twist.

Hands-On Preview of "Reckoning"

It’d be somewhat easy to dismiss “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” by the dorky title, which sounds like as if it was named by some Random Fantasy Game Name Generator. But after getting an extensive, special hands-on preview with EA’s upcoming action roleplaying game, we’re here to tell you that there’s more than meets the eye.

"Reckoning" is the dream project of Curt Schilling, a former professional baseball player and videogame fanatic who has put together an all-star team of talent. The roster includes comic book artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, best-selling fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and Ken Ralston, the lead designer of “Morrowind” and “Oblivion.”

The lore that Salvatore has created for "Reckoning" may seem like generic Tolkien fare at first, but there has been obvious effort to create brand-new races, creatures and people. The light elves, for example, are called the Ljosalfar while the dark elves are named the Dokkalfar.

The story involves fate and resurrection, as you have been murdered by a stranger and brought back to live by a gnome scientist who has been tinkering with something called the Well of Souls. We only played the first couple hours of the game so we don’t know the whole backstory of our newly-resurrected hero, but we do know that it leads to a lot of swords-and-sorcery combat.

Surprisingly, we also saw touches of the twitch gameplay of “God of War” as well.

The gameplay of "Reckoning" so far feels a bit like a hybrid of a few games you’re familiar with. There’s some obvious elements borrowed from “Elder Scrolls” games, like the epic nature of the world, the complex inventory system and more. The easy-to-use, difficult-to-master combat system that emphasizes the choice between swords, archery and magic resembles Microsoft’s “Fable.”

Surprisingly, we also saw touches of the twitch gameplay of “God of War” as well. During a few battles, you kill enemies in spectacular slo-mo fashion using GoW’s system of timed button presses.

Some of the most fun is to be had using the character creation tool. After choosing from the four available races and deciding on a God for them to worship, you have a lot of freedom in remaking your avatar to your liking.

One thing for certain, this won’t be a short or easy game. We felt like we barely scratched the surface of "Reckoning" with all of its sidequests, faction quests, crafting systems and character customization. We’re anxious to see more of it before it’s released February 7 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

New Transformers Game Sounds Dino-Mite

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When you’re a 12-year-old boy, there are few things cooler than dinosaurs and robots. So, suffice to say, our inner child shrieked in delight when we saw who is appearing in the new Transformers game: Grimlock. That’s right. Activision just announced that High Moon Studios is working on “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” and Game Informer’s feature (link: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/10/06/november-cover-revealed-transformers-fall-of-cybertron.aspx) on the game revealed pictures of Grimlock -- the powerful Dinobot who can change into a fearsome T-Rex. 

Little else is known about the third in Activision’s Transformers series except a blip that says the game will take fans through the darkest hours of the civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons as they fight for control of their dying homeworld, ultimately leading to their exodus from home.

This summer’s movie-inspired “Dark of the Moon” was a bit of a disappointment, so it looks like Activision is ready to revisit the critically-acclaimed first game in the series, which also took place on the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron.

“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” is expected to be released on console and PC in the fall of 2012.

"NBA 2K12" Review

At first, the prospect of playing “NBA 2K12” made us a little upset. With the NBA still mired in lockout mode, seeing LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant and other NBA superstars on a virtual court might be the only thing basketball fans will get this fall.

But "NBA 2K12" is so great, the pain of the loss of a real-life pro basketball season may not be quite as bad as expected.

This year’s edition of 2K Sports’ annual pro basketball sim doesn’t reinvent the series, but it adds enough new features and little things that add up to one of the best sports games of all time.

What immediately jumps out from the start is the slick presentation. The team at Visual Concepts have done an amazing job creating an experience that makes you feel like you’re playing a television broadcast of the NBA -- especially in the striking, realistic way the players look, move, and behave -- from the smooth animation of Kobe Bryant’s gliding fadeaway jumper to LeBron James’ chalk-tossing pregame ritual.

We’re most excited about “NBA’s Greatest Mode,” which features 15 of the greatest players in the league’s history.

To add to the realism, players can be seen fighting through screens and diving across the floor for loose balls, and will occasionally come flying out of nowhere to dunk a rebound. There are also a lot of little touches, like the shimmery reflections of the arena lights on the court and the colorful mascots that hop around on the sidelines.

There are plenty of robust modes to choose from: Association Mode, online multiplayer, a beefed-up My Player and others, but we’re most excited about “NBA’s Greatest Mode,” which features 15 of the greatest players in the league’s history.

If you were a kid growing up in the ‘80s when Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and others were ruling the hard courts, most of the best basketball games weren’t even based on real players or were spectacularly crappy. To be able to lace up as some of the game’s legendary players and teams in "NBA 2K12" is a great addition.

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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