I've said before that I'm not really a big fan of games that try to portray realistic avatars instead of sticking with a more stylized look. In general I think there's less imagination in trying to make fantasy look as "real" as possible. Plus all of this hyper realism tends to knock up the minimum requirements for a game. This won't stop me trying from trying Age of Conan and I've played other games with similar art styles. In Lord of the Rings I never really played attention to my avatar and kind of just thought he looked like an average looking guy. Instead what I really remember about the game were some of the fantastic landscapes especially the hobbit homes in the Shire.
It seems like a lot of the new MMOs have stuck with copying the UI and features of World of Warcraft but really ignored the style of artwork as a reason for its success. I'm not saying everything should try and look like Warhammer/World of Warcraft. But there are a lot of examples of imaginative and simple artwork like that used in Samurai Jack which could easily be translated into 3D models. Here's a picture of a city entrance in one episode of the show I found online.
Notice how everything is laid out simple but with enough detail to make it look interesting. It kind of reminds of the entrance to Stormwind.
Anyways I just hope this current generation of MMOs realize that not everything has to look realistic. I know we're in a PvP trend and games want to show a war like atmosphere but that doesn't mean everything has to be dull green and brown. I thought Lord of the Rings was a little too in love with earthen tones and it's seemed to spread to the other games this year. In World of Warcraft they had some bombastic use of color like purple in Ashenvale or red in Azshara but it gave the zones some personality. I guess I'm hoping that at least one of the games will stand out with its art so that it’s easily identified by just a screenshot.