Dunland and Isengard
All aboard the fantasy bus… again! I dug out the trusty Tolkien maps and had a look where the Isenguard expansion might well fit and work. Size wise its quite likely to be physically to be 1 1/2 to 2 Enedwaiths of open world mapping. The distribution and relationship scale of Turbines middle earth is pretty accurate in comparison with the maps set forth in the published literature. The only difference is the ‘actual’ miles to game miles, for sensible gaming reasons; few would want to walk for days to reach weathertop and see almost nothing but swamp whilst doing it.
One striking thing is that, with Rohan not being included, it will be a pretty simple region to isolate from future additions i.e Rohan istelf. With a combination of geography the northern foothills of the white mountains, and the southern tips or the Misties and Isengard itself, and of course the river Isen which can be used in the same way the Anduin was with Loth Lorien /Mirkwood, these new areas can be neatly delineated.
As for the zones themselves; Isengard I think will also be pretty straight forward, and probably feel a lot like a level 70 version of Dol Dinen meets Dol Guldur, I suspect a lot of the instance and quests will be set in the guard houses, forges, pits, factories and machine works in the ring and of course in the pits and caves delved beneath. Naturally with Orthanc itself set in the centre, possibly as the final raid, but who knows?
In addition, Dunland I think will be pretty straight forward, who knows how wide it will be or exactly where they will draw the southern border, but I suspect they will carry the current width of Eregion and Enedwaith down for practical reasons.
The area I am most uncertain about is the Gap or Rohan, or the Fords fo Isen as I have called it here. For a start it could be the new PvMP area, it is an area of constant conflict and turmoil, and it could feasibly be ignored by players who wish to go to Isengard and Dunland and beyond, but have no desire for PvP. It could also just be a standard zone, albeit in a warlike flux state. If it is PvP I’d expect to see the river in the centre, dividing the west march of Rohan from Dunland, if it isn’t then I could be either; that is what the dashed red line denotes on the above map.
And in the future: speculation overdrive.
The thing that strikes me is that if 2011 is going to be ‘Isenguard year’ then it is highly likely that they are pacing themselves for an: ‘Invasion of the North’ expansion including Dale, the Lonely Mountain, Thranduil’s halls, Lake Town, in late 2012 or 2013. It is probable that they will add Rohan in 2012 first, though again how much and how long this takes is unknown, but the events around the Hornburg happened in the books around March the 3-4th T.A, the next major events in the south are the battle of Pelenor fields on March 15th T.A. I would be highly surprised if they do not head north in between this time for two major reasons.
Firstly; the film releases in 2012-2013, Turbines are in no way going to want to miss out on cashing in on the huge interest there will be around the hobbit films being released in 2012 and 2013. Be assured they will try to get something out to coincide with these.
Secondly; the game/book timing ratio. So far the chronology has worked fairly well in the game with reference to the books. After the events in Rohan and the final Hornburg assault on the 3-4th of March which we will likely help in some manner (Hornberg skirmish trilogy FTW!), the 11th of March saw an attack on Lorien from Dol Guldur, and a second assault, an assault on Thranduil in Northern Mirkwood, and an assault on Dale and the Lonely Mountain all took place on March the 15th, at the same time as Pelenor fields, which brings about a conflict. It’s unlikely we will get Isenguard, Rohan, and Gondor all before the end of 2012, and I can’t see them not wanting to add the Northern regions in.
In the films Legolas remarks to Gimli at the Hornburg that their kinsmen may have no need to ride to war, for he fears war is already marching upon their own lands, and I think this is where Turbine will go. I think they will resolve this by sending us North early probably March 5-11th timeframe, as there is increased activity in the North, and we will be asked to lend our aid there, possibly even by Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn. We’ll head north, help with preparations and increased attacks from the orcs, probably a few session plays from the hobbit. Then 2013-4 or beyond Gondor will come after… and the infamous March 15th, of course how they handle all three areas at once being attacked who knows… perhaps they’ll add Gondor the map in March 12-13th state, and then at a later date we’ll get a content update: ‘Update ?: March 15th’ with three new sets of instances and or skirmishes all in one update to address the sudden attacks of Sauron. Of course, the battle in the north went on for three days, and Aragorn soon after the Pelenor marched on the Black Gates, but I already got too far ahead of myself!
Either way, I always enjoy looking at these maps and seeing how they are fitting the game world content into the maps as we understand them, and I enjoy thinking about how and why they will acheive some of these great events and areas to come, but I’m content to take my time and enjoy what we have, after three years play I still enjoy rolling a new toon and playing in low level groups with my friends… and I’ve still only done half of Enedwaith!