Until November 2008, Eriador was the only place in Middle-earth that we could explore, and although some criticized Lord of the Rings Online for not shipping with, well, every locale in J.R.R. Tolkien's imaginarium open for business, it was a smart decision. The devs could take this section of the world and focus on building depth and detail instead of spreading it thin, like butter scraped over too much bread. As a result, Eriador remains a wonderful starting point -- not to mention the bulk of any current player's journey -- and many of us have grown attached to these familiar sights and sounds as a result.
Today I'd like to take a brief overview of all of Eriador's zones (we'll leave Rhovanion for another day) and rate them from best to worst in terms of zone design, questing, and that slippery cool-factor that's hard to define. Where would I suggest a summer vacation home and where would be an ideal spot for a penal colony? Hit the jump and let's run it down.