With the second part of the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, launching in just a few weeks, the film-makers have launched this great interactive map of Middle Earth, that lets you explore iconic locations via clips, information and even mouse and keyboard controlled games in some of the most exciting places in the world.
Make sure you visit in the Chrome Browser however. As far as I know, that's the only one that works.
Accompanied by quite beautiful and lore-applicable music, the map is detailed wonderfully, with rivers and mountain ranges named, as well as regions – for those that want to brush up on their Middle-Earth geography. It's shame you can't zoom in on everything like Google Earth, but a handful of locations from the first movie can be opened up and viewed in more detail.
Click on sorcerous fortress, Dol Guldur for example and you'll be able to look at clips of Gandalf and his brown wizard friend, Radagast, watch as ghosts appear from the battlements and read about the history of the location. Going a bit deeper, will then put you on the ground in the fortress itself. It's relatively low detail, but it does give you an idea of the labyrinth like layout – there's also something evil there that will quickly find you and drag you off to places unknown.
Visit the Elven stronghold of Rivendell however and your experience is very different. Instead of exploring the location, there's an on rails shooter which has you hovering over plant life to activate it and fight back the darkness that's threatening to overcome.
There's a few other locations that are set to open up soon (they feature a locked symbol at the moment), presumably after the new movie has launched, as no doubt with the movie clip backgrounds, they would contain more than their fair share of spoilers.
KitGuru Says: For a fan of the movies and the universe that Tolkein created, I adore this. It's a great way to spend a few minutes learning a bit more about the place the films and books are set.
As a side note, anyone ever played the War of the Ring board game? It's really quite good. If you're a Risk fan and have at least a passing interest in Lord of The Rings, I guarantee you'd enjoy it.