This Kawahara Reki anime series is slightly less wota than the enjoyable Excel World, but the imagination of the show and its ability to make a VRMMO (the meaning is exactly like the acronym) an important endeavour cause it to shine despite its flaws.
I think of the Sword Art Online game as Dark Souls online, though due to various events, even more hardcore. Exp farming, griefing, in-game relationships, grinding, using a pretty girl avatar, being a beta player, and other real-life MMO issues turn up in the series, making it far more realistic than prior anime on the topic (eg the .hack series).
I was surprised by the mid-series change of direction, and felt that too much was omitted, especially with all the side-stories. The second half suffers less from this. Anyway, there are some great action sequences, and good animation. If you have an interest in the subject matter, or enjoy near future sci-fi, I recommend this series.