Since everything is instanced I believe that they have a certain number of random land masses that get created for your mane base so you can just keep on re rolling until you get the type of land that you want.
As for the taking over other player's cities thing. I do like the idea of it and that's what I liked about Tribal Wars and Evony. The only problem with it is that it gives a far greater advantage to "hardcore" players then to casuals and no company has come up with a viable solution around that. I like your ideas Griegor Mcvennor, but I believe instead of allowing a 4-6 hour window, allow only 1-2 hours and let each player choose from 4-5 different time periods (like 2-4 pm or 8-10 pm). Or you do a 4-6 hour window, but it only happens once or twice a week. I just think 4-6 hours everyday is a little much for casual players.
Also, they need to keep the rule that you can only attack players that are online, because I really don't want an AI to lose my castle, when I could easily beat the enemy otherwise
. It will definitely be a later expansion before they ever decide to release a pvp type realm, but this is the only way that I can see it being fair for casual players as well as giving the hardcore players a take over the castle type environment.