I've been testing the Open Beta for the past day or so ( a very long night yesterday, heh), and have the following first impressions of this one.
Polish -- The code seems pretty polished to me. I haven't come across any obvious bugs yet, and I've played in many areas of the game. The graphics are smooth, even at highish settings, the animations are fine and I haven't seen any oddities yet. Seems like a polished product.
Graphics -- Quite well done. The setting is familiar, which makes it hard to render well, but the artwork in the game is quite spectacular in evoking familiar areas of Middle Earth. Character models are fine, if a bit uninspired.
Gameplay -- Mostly quest-based. Storyline quests are instanced. I like the storyline quests, they are very well done and also link the game together into arcs more effectively than I've seen in most games. The actual combat will seem familiar to someone who is used to a MMORPG.
Overall -- Quite impressed so far. The most impressive thing is the game's smoothness. I think that, in light of the popularity of the license, will lead to a bright future for the game, at least in the short to medium term. It doesn't seem like a game designed to appeal to hardcore MMO players, but rather to casual players and above all LOTR fans.
Compared to WoW -- There have been a lot of threads about this, and to be honest I'm pretty baffled by them. It doesn't really seem all that similar to WoW to me. The classes seem balanced more along the lines that DAoC did it rather than WoW, and the pace is not the same relentless, almost breathless, pace that WoW features (and which is probably its trademark). I mean, okay, it has the same RPG-style combat, and is very quest based, but beyond those superficial similarities, it doesn't feel like WoW to play really, at least not to me.