The Bullroarer test server for LOTRO is currently online with a public preview of Update 9: Against the Shadow and the Preliminary Release Notes have been posted on the official forums. Out of all the various changes listed, the one that immediately caught my eye was the graphical update to Bree. This is one of the oldest areas of LOTRO and is an integral part of the game. It has also remained relatively unchanged for five years. Although I have a great deal of affection for Turbines initial design, I have always felt that the overall feel was a little overdeveloped. The inherently rustic and organic atmosphere of the town that was present in the book was lost. However, I appreciate that Turbine had to accommodate the requirements of a major quest, crafting and trading hub.
The new revisions to the town take steps to address these issues. The urban atmosphere brought about by the excess of cobblestones and housing is softened by extra hedgerows, greenery and subtle embellishments such as washing lines, people trading and day to day activity. There is a far more natural feel to Bree which makes it all the more credible. There are also practical changes that are more convenient. For example the vault has been moved nearer the West Gate and now has two entrances. The Prancing Pony has also been cleverly altered. The stabling area has been expanded and now seems a lot closer to the source text. Overall I think these are good changes and I look forward to them coming with final release of update 9.
Please note that all content on Bullroarer may be subject to change.