Taking a whirl around Middle Earth, I remade my hobbit hunter from beta and am almost back to where I was, looking forward to seeing new things. There have already been several new things, what with the updates since beta, but I don’t think I cleared level 20, so there is a lot of game ahead.
Hobbits start in The Shire, which is a wonderfully executed zone. It comes across as a part of the world, rather than a convenient place to stock bandits and goblins. There are bandits and goblins, but those are not the center of The Shire. The focus is on farms, rolling hills, and peaceful people. It is not high adventure, but it is setting-appropriate.
This is the place that feels like Middle Earth online, rather than Yet Another Fantasy MMORPG. Two major concerns are improving the postal service and delivering pies. Your early fights are against wolves that are eating chickens. You fight bears because of concerns about honey, and you get a title for slaying giant flies that would otherwise eat the crops. If there were somewhere in The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ where you would go and just be, it would probably be The Shire.
And then it is The Lord of the Rings. Dwarf and human bandits are in the opposing zone corners, connected to those lands’ foes. Goblins and spiders infest the north. A black rider is looking for a certain Baggins. Mordor casts a long shadow.