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I think it still boils down to personal preference. Sure, a carefully crafted story can be real, as long as it stays true to its rules and a good character development can take you a log way. But, we've seen this already.
Let me ask you this: What sticks with you in the long run? A character trait, or an achievement/story?
This is one of the reasons why I love Tolkien's work. I long forgot the personalities/developments of the characters (apart from the obvious Frodo goes mad thing), but I can still tell you the story and what it meant to me.