From Dust

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It seems like a good "god game" hasn't come out since Biblical times, but the genre has returned in full force with "From Dust," which we review in this week's Video Games Plus. We'll also give you the heads up on "Borderlands 2," a new bonus content program for EA Sports games, and the release date for the much-anticipated Lord of the Rings game.

“From Dust” is Nearly Divine

At first glance, you might guess that “From Dust” is “The Sims: Tribal Island Edition” but in this little downloadable gem for Xbox Live, you don’t control any of the villagers but instead a deity who tries to guide a primitive civilization to success. You do so by controlling “the Breath,” an ability to manipulate the earth and water, lava and vegetation. You’ll need every supernatural trick you can muster because your enemy is Mother Nature, who cruelly launches giant tsunamis, erupting volcanoes and other natural disasters against your tribe.

“From Dust” is obviously inspired by the original “god game” classic “Populous,” but it plays often more like a real-time strategy game combined with a puzzler. Many of the disasters are timed events and you’ll need to change the surroundings and lead the villagers to safety in time before they are washed/blown/burned away. The controls are a little wonky and make you wish that you could play it with a mouse instead of a Xbox controller, but “From Dust” is an entertaining romp worth the 1200 Microsoft Points.

Borderlands Gets A Sequel

Get ready for another hike out into the Borderlands. Earlier this week, 2K Games and Gearbox Software announced that they are hard at work on the sequel to the frantic multiplayer lootfest often classified as a “Role-Playing Shooter.”

Few details have been provided so far, but 2K says “Borderlands 2” will feature “all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons and equipment, which come together in an ambitiously crafted story.” We honestly can’t remember much about the story from the original (something about a secret treasure?) so we’re curious about this new “ambitious” story. We just hope the big-ass crazy Berzerker and his maniacal laugh will be back.

The world will be able to get their first look at the game at the Gamescom 2011 conference in Cologne, Germany from August 17–21, and at PAX Prime in Seattle from August 26–28. The release date for “Borderlands 2” is vague right now--all we’ve been told is that it will land sometime between April 2012 and April 2013.

New “LOTR” Game Coming Nov. 1

We may only have a sketchy clue about when we’ll play “Borderlands 2” but we now know exactly when we’ll be returning to Middle Earth to hang out with some tricksy hobbits. Warner Bros. Games and Snowblind Studios says “Lord of the Rings: War in the North,” will officially launch on Nov. 1 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC with an additional Collector’s Edition featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the game development, an art book and digital download content.

The new action-roleplaying game will feature a story that intertwines the characters and storyline of the J.R.R. Tolkien novels but takes place in unknown lands unexplored in the films. It’s set in the harshly contested Northern lands of Middle Earth while Frodo and crew are busy taking a road trip to Mount Doom.

War in the North also will have three-player co-operative play that lets human, elf and dwarf team up to take on all sorts of fantasy baddies. Considering the relatively tame nature of the books and movies, we’re a little surprised War of the North got a Mature rating (Please no Gollum sex scene!), but we’re looking forward to getting our grubby hands on this one.

EA Introduces Season Ticket Program

You probably already pay for monthly subscriptions for your smartphone, cable, Netflix, Xbox Live or PSN, but EA is hoping you’ll pony up for one more. Hot on the heels of Activision’s “Elite” program for Call of Duty, EA Sports has unveiled its own bonus subscription plan for its line of sports video games.

Called “Season Ticket,” the program promises “premium benefits” for subscribers such as access to play all participating EA Sports games via a full-game digital download three days before you can buy them in stores; a 20-percent discount on downloadable game content like Ultimate Team packs, accelerator packs and gear upgrades, free premium web content like extra creation tools for FIFA Soccer, and membership recognition in the form of badges on your profile.

Gamers can subscribe now to Season Ticket through Xbox Live or PSN with an annual fee of $24.99 or 2000 Microsoft Points and the benefits will begin with the launch of “Madden Football ‘12” later this month. Currently, the franchises that will be participating in the program are: Madden, NHL Hockey, FIFA Soccer, Tiger Woods Golf and NCAA Football.

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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