Speculation time! With Update 15.2 right around the corner, that means Update 16 can’t be far off (unless they go crazy and make a 15.3). We
are promised have a firm assurance of a new landmass focused around Osgiliath in far eastern Gondor, but what else might we see? The mountains of Ephel Dúath? Minas Morgul? And later on this year, we’ll get what I am prematurely calling Update 17 and Minas Tirith, a sight many have been waiting ages to experience.
Let’s start with what we know. January’s producer’s letter is a good jumping off place. We know that Turbine has planned two landmasses this year – Osgiliath and Minas Tirith – however, those locations are rather close to each other and we know they’re not coming at the same time. We’re following the epic story and Aragorn’s campaign toward Minas Tirith. We rarely stick closely to the book storyline for very long, so we’ll likely have a detour to make before entering Minas Tirith. My guess is we’ll probably get held up before crossing the walls of the Rammas Echor preventing a direct entrance to the grand white city and instead redirected to the weakly guarded ruins of Osgiliath to help out Faramir.
So how are we getting there? I can think of two possible ways. Either we cross the Mering Stream from the Eastfold of West Rohan into Anórien or we head east out the gates of Pelargir into Lossarnach. They could also make a portal like from West Gondor to the Dead Marshes, but I doubt that since there’s contiguous landscape in between. Though taking the corsair ships from Pelargir upstream isn’t too far out of the question.
So if we get Osgiliath first, will there be areas attached to it? Probably yes. Which ones? That gets a bit trickier. Lossarnach is an obvious candidate. It’s still under Gondorian control for the most part and is the gateway between Pelargir and Minas Tirith. Its geography will likely look very much like Central Gondor with plenty of corsairs, haradrim and half-trolls to keep any hero busy, and I’m sure Turbine has something equally grindy planned.
Ithilien, the land east of the Anduin, is another likely destination. But it’s huge, probably the size of Central Gondor, and it’s crawling with the so-called bad guys. The area could extend all the way from the river Poros in the south following the Ephel Dúath, reaching all the way north to the Dead Marshes. This will have to be at least two, maybe even three, areas divided by the Morgulduin river flowing out of Minas Morgul. Side note: if it were a real river, the Morgulduin would be a superfund site. As we travel closer to Minas Morgul and the Black Gate, I hope that the enemies will increase exponentially in strength and number to impress upon the minds of the Free Peoples that they stand no chance against the forces of Mordor.
Will we ever see the vast expanse of Anórien? Possibly. By the fourth age, the region is largely devoid of settlements but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t do some good old Lone-lands style questing. Bandit camps, ruins and plenty of space for roving threats. There are forests and warning beacons, too, and then there’s the fortified island of Cair Andros on the eastern edge. Theoretically, this area could connect both to Rohan, the Dead Marshes and Lossarnach at Osgiliath and Minas Tirith. But it might get left by the wayside like the coastal road from Dol Amroth to Dor-en-Ernil in Gondor. I’m sure the Turbine team has had many a meeting weighing the benefit of this less than lively landscape vs. manpower for other parts of the game.
Then again, Turbine could throw all of this out the window, add Osgiliath through swift boat travel, the PvMP map that was promised and expand further into Mirkwood. There’s really no way to know for sure; all I’m hoping for is a little Mûmakil action. Maybe if I ingrain the thought into Frelorn’s head, it might do some good. I’d gladly grind long hours for one of them. Oh, did I mention all of this is speculation? I’ve been known to be wrong on occasion. I’d like to hear where you’d like to go this year!