If Shadiversity can do a whole series analysing the defendability of various locations from Game of Thrones … boy, let’s do one for HTTYD3 as well.
Fair warning: I’ve already written this post on reddit, but never really cared to port it over to my blog as well.
The warning about excessive musical references still applies here.
Just surrender here tonight: Safety of Berk
By back-of-the-envelope calculations, the settlement of New Berk lies about 3 kilometers above the sea level — and we aren’t talking about 3 kilometers of a gentle Sunday walk slope. We’re talking straight up, vertical wall. The writers stated that Minecraft Chunk Error is accessible only with the help of dragons, and everything — from the visuals to the height estimates — confirm that.
Back in the medieval ages, height advantage was everything. If a hostile army came to the doorstep of your castle and your castle wasn’t high enough, you’d be in danger of getting flattened by a 90 kilogram rock fired from over 300 meters away when busy with your evening number two1Note: this is not how Erasmus of Lueg actually died, but it does make for a more entertaining story.. New Berk, however, is far too high for trebuchets to reach — or even cannon balls — to reach it, let alone do significant damage.
Conquering Berk only becomes technically possible with the advent of aircraft in the late 18th century as even early hot air balloons were reportedly capable of floating at around or even over two kilometers above ground — even though their relatively slow speed and susceptibility to adverse weather doesn’t make them too feasible. In practice, conquering the New Berk only becomes realistic prospect in the 20th century with the invention of an airplane, and subsequent improvements thereof.
Alternatively, you could just conquer New Berk with dragons and wyverns that you’ve captured ahead of time. The trappers still have them. Just saying.
A man has need, but those needs aren’t just booze. It’s food as well.
Impenetrable geography means very little if the hostile force can just starve you out to death. On the first glance, this seems likely: encounter with Grimmel’s armada certainly put New Berk on the map. With likely rumors that Berk is hiding dragons for themselves, they could easily send another armada that would surround the island, capture every inbound or outbound ship and keep an eye on the island. With no dragons to help them out and carry them over blockade, the vikings can only wait on the island and hope that their food supplies last longer than invaders’ patience.
But it turns out that Berk may have lucked out in this aspect as well. The island is pretty big — and although there doesn’t seem to be much farmland there as most of the island is either a lake or steep slopes, the situation is not completely hopeless. After all, if Inca could figure it out, then Berk should be able to as well.
That is, of course, assumes Berk doesn’t mostly or majorly rely on fish for their food as in that case, their chances of siege survival would dwindle to single digits. This isn’t as unlikely as one would think: while the lifts are very slow the way the movie presents them, using a counterweight and water power from the nearby waterfalls would be a quick way to improve the lifting speeds massively — to the point a ship could be lifted in a reasonable amount of time that wouldn’t render fishing ineffective.
Have no such misconceptions..
I won’t cover why separation is bad from safety perspective because this was covered elsewhere in great detail already. Just giving a shout-out.
Now that the safety of Berk is dealt with, let’s move to take a closer look at The Hidden World.
Here at The End Of The World: Safety of The Hidden World
Alternative title: Through dungeons deep, and caverns old but I outright refuse to give that hot trash the honor of having a title feature not once, but twice.
Let’s be honest for a moment: the water around The Hidden World entrance is very shallow, likely on the order of magnitude of a meter or two. The screencaps seem to confirm that:
In all those close-up shots, you can see that the rocks poking above the water are more numerous than the rocks a disgruntled DM keeps behind their screen (and they’re bigger, too):
This would allow the dragon trappers to just make a big ship and run it aground — be it on the rocks that poke out of the water or on the seafloor. Ensure additional anchoring if necessary. Congrats, you have a platform.
And when you took a look at how mighty the waterfall is at it’s bottom, saying that waterfalls are deep on the top becomes a very tough sell. We’re at the bottom of this hole where the waterfall is at its narrowest — yet there’s barely any water?
Assuming actually competent villains, I don’t think anyone is in any danger of getting swept off here.
The trappers won’t be making peace to build our future, though. That would be hiccup, and he just threw that chance away. Alternative title: Are you coming in so we can carry this on?
Once you get yourself a platform or a dozen on the edge of The Hidden World, you can start working on descending into the hole. This turns out to be fairly easy: we know that world tech level is sophisticated enough to build lifts if there’s a need. Not only has New Berk managed to achieve that feat — and to top it off, they seem to be using some special elven rope that’s both light and unbreakable. Powering said lifts would also be fairly easy, thanks to the near infinite water supply all around you.
Sure: The Hidden World entrance resembles an inverted wedding cake, but that’s not a problem: you can build multiple lifts: one to reach the first stage, another to reach the bottom. This will be mildly annoying thanks to all the water, but that’s nothing that can’t be worked around.
Judging by the movie stills, the hole is pretty shallow as well. During the shot where Astrid and Hiccup enter The Hidden World, you can see that the water behind them is lit directly by sunlight, which means that the hole probably can’t be deeper than a kilometer if we are really, really generous:
But if you find the second stretch of the way down too challenging, you can do something you can’t do on New Berk (without getting noticed):
The part about fighting mobs is up to discussion. Alternative title: I dig my hole, you build a wall
Brothers of the mine, rejoice!2I’d link the original version by Yogscast, but once you hear the Wind Rose cover the original one kinda sounds kinda meh. No offence, I know it’s hard to compete with people who sing for a living. Raise your pick and raise your voice! Since The Hidden World is completely surrounded by rock, you can dig a a dinky dinky hole3Jesus fucking Christ, is that a third Minecraft reference in a span of a paragraph? Tam, you need to put a damper on this shit. parallel to the tunnel. It’s gonna take a while, but it has some advantages:
- It’s safer. Dragons can’t get you there.
- You get free rock
You can use that free rock to build a dragon-proof fort (stone and water don’t burn, usually) or build a massive dike around the entrance so you don’t have this pesky water to deal with anymore. And when the water’s no longer a problem … well you could just build a couple more lifts, really.
You think dragons will just wreck anyone who comes near The Hidden World with such fury that doritos would start flying everywhere? Not gonna happen.
The armada has a massive numbers advantage. For every ship dragons would potentially destroy, three would take its place. They could easily surround The Hidden World to the point — if not because they’d run aground, they’d manage because they’d get stuck trying to fall in all at the same time. They will also have a height advantage by the virtue of entrance to The Hidden World being below the sea level. Once the trappers have made their base, they can use ballistas that shoot spears, bolas and nets in order to down anything that comes their way.
But it gets worse for dragons and wyverns: not only are they at a massive disadvantage both due to height and number of the attackers — they’re also being massively bottlenecked by the size of the entrance acting as a three-lane toll on a dozen lane highway.
All in all, this fight looks like a reasonably safe win for humans, but with one caveat: you need army leaders whose IQ wasn’t reduced to single digits for plot reasons.
Moral of the story: If you want an impenetrable location with maximum safety, you should be looking at New Berk (or distribute the dragons around the original archipelago)
Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.
But we’re not done yet. Bonus round.
High to the skies, across the seas: Safety of the Old Berk
I’ve already did write about this once on reddit, but it’s somewhat relevant here as well so we’ll address it.
It’s been established that Hiccup isn’t particularly wise in the second movie already, that he makes emotional decisions in a heat of the moment rather than listen to reason. Had Hiccup started expanding dragons and Berk’s influence around the archipelago, Berk could become a force to be reckoned with — and while the dispersed islands seem vulnerable to attacks at first, it turns out that they really aren’t. It’s possible to work that to your advantage.
Dragons and wyverns are generally faster than ships (unless they’re given invisible engines made of handwavium and the same stuff plot armor is usually made of) — especially adult dragons that don’t have to carry an entire Berk with them. You could use them to patrol seas around the archipelago, spotting hostile ships way before they become a problem.
When the ships are spotted, main settlements can be alerted, coming to aid in very little time. And when other settlements come to aid … well, that gets the attackers stuck between the rock and a hard place.
Expanding all over archipelago makes plenty sense as a solution to the overpopulation problem — way more so than cramming everyone into a single space.