we can tell you that the Lord of the Rings Online: The Shadows of Angmar, with its focus on story, setting, and very familiar gameplay, might still do justice to the biggest name in fantasy.
Each player's story begins the moment he or she arrives in Middle Earth. You choose one of the four playable races (human, elf, dwarf or hobbit) and one of seven classes. Character customization works well, allowing plenty of choices without an overwhelming number of options.
But you don't begin in a traditional newbie area. Instead, you dive right into your own story. An elf will find herself fending off an invasion of dwarves and orcs hundreds of years in the past, and a hobbit will come face-to-face with a black rider seeking information about the just-departed Baggins. Then, a series of "storyline" quests carry you through the world and on to greater dangers.
The game still allows you freedom to do things in the order you want, or to turn aside to explore the world. You can take side quests away from the main story, although these are usually of the "kill four rats" type. But the storyline provides a strong "center" for the game, keeping you immersed in the world and pulling you forward through it.
And it's a fantastic world. Elvish bridges feature elegant, sweeping arches, and Dwarvish monuments are hard, geometric stone. Ancient ruins and standing stones dot the landscape, alongside rustic Hobbit and human settlements. Not surprisingly, the designs draw heavily on the visuals from the Lord of the Rings movies -- although not closely enough for a lawsuit. The music caps off the design, reinforcing both the game situation and the environment.
Despite the beautiful vistas, including forests against starlit skies and distant, sweeping landscapes, the game performs well. Even on a moderately-powered system, we saw decent framerates.
The game takes place in Eriador, the area of Middle Earth that contains the Shire, Rivendell, and Bree. But you'll also travel through sections of Eriador which are only mentioned in the books: the Trollshaws, the Ettinmoors, the Blue Mountains, and of course, Angmar, the ancient fortress of the Witch King. Presumably expansions will open up new parts of the world, following Frodo's quest.