Middle-earth is perhaps the most detailed world in all of fiction. It is a testament to JRR Tolkien’s prowess as a linguist and writer that he was able to create so many distinctive regions and cultures with such exquisite authenticity. Despite their gargantuan length, the the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies barely scratch the surface of tourism, as this fantastic backdrop is home to countless other exotic locations built over thousands of years.
Fortunately, video games have more time to flesh out a world. Players have seen a plethora of Middle-earth titles over the years. Many of them are not direct adaptations of popular stories, but rather tell their own stories in Tolkien’s realm. Along with the narrative freedom, it gives fans a way to visit breathtaking locations previously only accessible through the page.
It was one of the main strongholds of Arnor, the kingdom of the Men of the North. Like many of their structures, Fornost was impressive in its scale, grandeur and efficiency. This was not to last, as Angmar’s forces eventually conquered him along with the rest of the kingdom.
From that point on, Fornost was a ruin, abandoned by everyone except the evil creatures within. The group make their way through this ruin in The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. If that’s not enough, players can actually set up the seat in the Rise of the Sorcerer King extension for Battle for Middle-earth II. Be careful though: its impregnability is not exaggerated.
A sinister fortress in Angmar, Gundabad served as a base for the Witch-King. Mountain tunnels and fire-lit chasms spawned countless dark legions, and it easily rivaled Sauron’s abode in Mordor.
Technically, fans saw this place in the Hobbit trilogy, but only from a distance. War in the North Party inside the Hellish Halls, where they meet some surviving dwarf slaves. It certainly follows the villains of Middle-earth who corrupt others into joining their ranks, whether through word or force.
This is another place the audience has seen in the movies; they just didn’t know. Minas Ithil was once a fortress in Gondor bordering Mordor. Unfortunately, this made the attack much easier for the enemy. It is transformed into a sanctuary for the Witch-King and the other Wraiths of the Ring, renamed “Minas Morgul” in derision of its previous hosts.
It should sound familiar to those who have played Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Towards the start, the game shows the place in its former glory before Sauron’s hordes catch up with it. The unsuspecting castle then becomes the enlightened monstrosity that fans know and hate.
Tom Bombadil’s house
Fans have never forgiven the filmmakers for losing this leg of the journey. On the way to Bree, Frodo and his company get lost in the old forest and meet Tom Bombadil. This musical mysterious man gives no answer as to who he is or where he is from, but he and his wife Goldberry gladly offer hobbits warm shelter, making them feel truly safe in these dark times.
Since that strange aside, readers have been dying to visit Tom’s humble home. Not only does it appear to be one of the most comfortable and welcoming places in Middle-earth, but Bombadil’s bizarre conundrum has aroused curiosity far beyond most people around the world. These few people who played the Fellowship of the Ring game – based on the book instead of the movie – spent time with Tom at the start of the journey. Those who signed up Lord of the Rings Online can also search for this fancy hut. They just need to know where to look.
The Shire’s journey to Bree was fraught with more than mere threats from Mordor. After leaving Tom’s house, Frodo and his friends come to the Barrow-downs. The men of the first and second ages built these burial mounds to shelter their dead. Unfortunately, this drew in ghostly enemies known as “Barrow-wights”, who attacked the heroes.
Despite that, the Barrow-downs were another chopping block chapter in the movies. Fortunately, morbid curious fans can visit these haunted hills in Lord of the Rings Online and the Fellowship of the Ring game, two titles based on the novels. On top of that, Rise of the Sorcerer King sees Angmar’s armies coming to the Barrow-downs to put the warriors into service. It’s just a shame they’re as slow as cows.
The Landes d’Etten
The two the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit the trilogies are full of trolls. Whether they are servants of Sauron or just idiots trying to find their next meal, these towering creatures are causing trouble all over Middle-earth.
It’s ironic that they never bring audiences to where they live. Etten’s moors aren’t called “Troll-fells” for nothing. This mountainous region was teeming with these gluttonous beasts, with many fairytale trolls coming from here. This makes it a level of choice for video games like War in the North and Lord of the Rings Online, because there is no shortage of enemies to fight.
The only settlements in Gondor that the films showed were Minas Tirith and Osgiliath. While these were awe-inspiring, they were not the expanse of the kingdom. The Southerners also had a port city called Dol Amroth. It was this fortification that frequently faced the corsairs of Umbar, the pirates briefly sighted in The king’s return.
Fortunately, the inhabitants resisted these attacks thanks to their elite fighters. The men of Dol Amroth were renowned for their artistic culture and physical abilities, which were in part attributed to their Elven and Númenorean ancestors. Players can see it for themselves when they visit the coastal town of Lord of the Rings Online.
The most fans saw of Mordor in the movies was a volcanic wasteland. Although this is a large part, further east, is vegetation and water. This is Núrn, a meadow surrounding the vast lake known as the Sea of Núrnen.
You wouldn’t think that a relatively healthy landscape would be under Sauron’s domain, but its beauty won’t last. The Orcs mainly exploit the resources of this area to fuel their forces. Players are witnessing this corruption in the Middle Earth Games: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of war. Before long, this place will look as desolate as the rest of the region.
The Iron Hills
The audience briefly saw the Dwarves of Iron Hills when their lord, Dáin Ironfoot, led an army to strengthen his cousin, Thorin, in The Hobbit. However, this region is further east than even the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves had exploited its resources for hundreds of years and continued to dwell there long after Dáin became king of the Lonely Mountain.
The Battle for Middle-earth II shows their long-standing presence here. Players can use the Iron Hills as a map for skirmishes, and the Dwarf Footprint is important. Their stone structures and tunnels are firmly dug into the ground. Any other faction seems totally out of place here.
Not all men were as righteous as those in Rohan, Gondor, or Dale. In addition to the barbarians of Dunland, there were the Haradrim. These wicked souls immediately sided with Sauron, putting their exotic weapons and elephant-style Mûmakil against anyone who resisted, especially in The king’s return.
Not content with having them simply as infantrymen of Mordor, the Battle for Middle-earth the series expands their aesthetic to include their homeland. According to the rare descriptions in the book, Harad is basically a desert. Players may be frustrated with the lack of natural resources in this harsh climate, but this is one for which the Haradrim, with their light armor and generally African-inspired culture, are particularly suited to. This makes this region and its people radically different from places influenced by Europe in the rest of Middle-earth.
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