The new (and arguably somewhat crazed) Thane of Thornhope was saved from the destruction of his town by an Ent. Likewise from the site of Eomer’s slaughter of the orcs the trail leads to Fangorn. So it is we enter this vast forest, and from the moment we set foot inside we are confronted with a sense of age. The trees are large, and vegetation is everywhere. Without the minimap and compass it would be really easy to get lost in here – which is actually as a forest should be. It is an “open” forest – unlike The Old Forest of Breeland it does not have “walls” of trees restricting movement. The trees can be slightly annoying as a hunter (and I assume other ranged classes) as they keep blocking sight lines to what one may be targeting, but mostly this is only a problem at the start of a fight.
Aided at first by a rather sleepy Ent we start to follow the trail of two young hobbits and track them to a hill, where we meet Gandalf. He assures us of the their safety, and then sets us a task – rousing the Ents of this part of Fangorn forest. In practical terms this translates into the following: find an Ent, do a small series of quests in one part of the forest, move onto the next Ent. Each Ent (or in one case, Huorn) has a different story. There is the Ent was is curious about the fate of a wounded Rohirrim who passed by – a man we rescue and direct to a camp of hunters and fishers on the edge of the Forest. There is the Ent whose trees are being beset by orcs, but he is himself unable to rouse properly from his slumber. Another Ent directs us into an area of the Forest that has become blackened and corrupted, and elsewhere we free a Huron that has become entangled by spiders. This is not an exhaustive list. Usually though we fail in the larger task Gandalf sets us of actually waking the Ents up.
About half-way through it came to me that these series of quests in Fangorn that Turbine is giving us a glimpse of what Gandalf’s mission to Middle Earth must be like. Trying to help defend people from the Enemy, whilst the people themselves largely remain slow-acting. Of course we use rather more direct methods than Gandalf – after all in this case he is using us.
Finally though we do come across an Ent we are able to motivate against the threat of Saruman, and an angry Ent is a sight to behold. As the quest-text says, it is far better to be a friend of an angry Ent rather than a foe. Our work done, we return to the hunter’s encampment where we meet the Rohirrim we rescued earlier, and he directs us to his town of Garsfeld.
The Eaves of Fangorn overall has a very different feel from the rest of the Rohirrim content – there is a slower pace. Fangorn itself looks and feels ancient – and in darker places quite oppresive. When there is a bit of sunlight however it does rather transform itself. Nevertheless there is always something watching. I would say Turbine has nailed another realisation of a portion of Tolkien’s world.
The epic questline has not (yet) taken me to Fangorn – the next quest leads me into Sutcrofts, which is also where the “ordinary” questline takes me. Fangorn and Rohan may have a common foe – but they are different lands. Fangorn also, now some Ents at least are rousing, is better able to look after itself with the age and wisdom of the tree-herders than the Rohirrim.