First there were the books, then the movies and finally the videogame. You may ask why review now since the game has been out since 2007, with currently two expansion packs and a third underway. The reason is simply, it has become free to play.
With most MMORPGs, you have to pay to play, think World of Warcraft where a monthly fee has to be paid. Or think Guild Wars where you are expected to pay for the game and expansions and that's it. So what's the difference here? It's free to play, but some things require a fee to be paid once. Those who are already subscribers and paid a monthly fee get benefits, same goes for those who are lifetime subscribers, which is only normal.
Is there any real difference? Not really. The one main thing is that you can unlock special items, races and even classes by paying for them. Suppose you want to play the enemy, then you'll have to pay. You want to play the Warden class, have to pay. You get to play for free, so that's a small price to pay in my opinion.
I talked about races. You can choose the main four ones: Man, Elf, Hobbit and Dwarf. When you have chosen a race, you can even choose where they hail from. I chose Female Human who hails from Rohan (other options were Bree, Gondor etc.). You then have to choose a class and this is what i quite liked about LOTRO. When you choose a class it also tells who was the inspiration which ties back to the books and movies. It also describes the main role in the game: tank, dps, healer, buffer etc and how easy the class is to play. So as a newbie you can go for an 'easy' class and along the way create a moderate or difficult class. I chose to play a Guardian (easy and tank).
I also quite liked that you saw familiar characters. I created an Elf and met Elrond, but as female Human I met Strider and family of the Sackville-Bagginses, which was quite nice. Another thing I noticed is that you earn titles. For example, i hail from Rohan so my title was Silwyn of Rohan. I didn't die the first 5 levels, and I earned a new title: Silwyn the Wary. You can pick and choose which title to show.
I talked about purchasing items with real money, actually those was not completely true. You will need Turbine Points, which you can both buy or earn ingame by completing deeds. Deeds are certain quests you have to do: kill x amount of enemies etc.
Normally in MMORPG you have to choose several professions, here you can choose a vocation which consists out of 3 professions. So for example, you go for the Explorer vocation, then you'll get the following professions: Forester, Prospector, Tailor. It all depends on how you want to play your character, which can be especially fun in one of the RP channels.
You really have to get used to the game, but if you're a LOTR fan then you'll love this. I was a bit wary about the game at first since i chose to play an Elf Minstrel (healer). I couldn't quite grasp it. Just a side-note here as well, as a Minstrel you can learn to play different musical instruments, so no casting magic or anything, you play music. I then rolled a Female Human Guardian and i quite liked this better. I've always been a big fan of Rohan, so I'm trying to recreate this and I liked this better.
The world is very immersive and you can do a whole lot with this. I barely scratched the surface so far. I give this game a definite 5/6.