Exit: The Lord of the Rings - Shadows over Middle-Earth (Spoiler-Free Review) | Casual Game Revolution

Exit: The Lord of the Rings - Shadows over Middle-Earth (Spoiler-Free Review)

Exit - The Lord of the Rings: Shadows over Middle-earth

Dive into the world of Middle Earth as hobbits behind the scenes who solve riddles throughout the Shire, Rivendell, and beyond to ensure the Fellowship’s quest is successful.

Published by KOSMOS, players must work together to solve a series of riddles and puzzles throughout the game to help reach Mordor and destroy the one ring.


Gameplay for The Lord of the Rings: Shadows over Middle-earth follows the standard EXIT game format. You start the game with a booklet and the decoder. There is a stack of riddle cards. You only draw a riddle card when the game directly tells you that you may. Riddle cards and the riddle booklet will provide you with the riddles you are trying to solve throughout the game. Additionally, there is a stack of answer cards and help cards. During the game, you may look at a help card to get hints if you're ever stuck on a riddle.

The decoder is used to input your answers to riddles. All riddles have a unique icon associated with them. When trying to solve one, you choose the corresponding riddle icon on the decoder and input the three-digit code that you believe is the answer to the riddle. If the window in the center of the ring displays a number, you draw the answer card with that number. It may outright tell you that you are incorrect, or it may direct you to a second answer card which will then tell you if the answer is right or wrong. Typically, you need to solve puzzles to move on with the story and draw more riddle cards or read another page in the booklet. Sometimes you will be given some of the items included in the game to help you solve a riddle.

At the end of the game, you calculate your score based on how many hint cards you used and the amount of time it took you.

Exit - The Lord of the Rings: Shadows over Middle-earth Components


The Lord of the Rings: Shadows over Middle-Earth is the first officially licensed EXIT game, and the theme is a good fit for the game line that often has a fantasy bent to its stories. Shadows over Middle-Earth does a good job of giving enough story that you could at least have a sense of what you were doing if you weren’t familiar with the source material and are just interested in the puzzles. But the source material itself is likely to bring new fans to the EXIT games.

EXIT always does such a fun job with their puzzles and this time is no exception. The designers continue to come up with new and clever puzzles, and there continue to be some really fun ones here that we enjoyed. Several of them played off of the source material in imaginative ways, although you in no way need to know Lord of the Rings in order to solve them.

The game has a difficulty rating of two (out of five), but we did find some of the puzzles slightly more difficult than others in the series of that same rating. We wondered how a few puzzles would fit with newcomers to the series, especially one of the early ones that felt very quintessential to EXIT games, but which those unfamiliar with the format are likely to be stuck at for some time. But the hint system continues to be solid, and the game does encourage players to use it. We also found the style of the hint cards to be written in a very enjoyable way.

Puzzles are linear and it’s always clear exactly what you’re trying to solve, which cuts down on frustration or wasted time. It is best to play with a smaller group of players, as you’re often going to be pouring over the same card or playing with small bits.

Shadows over Middle-earth is beautifully thematic and it’s without a doubt a delight to solve your way through the Lord of the Rings saga. We’ll be interested to see if EXIT does some more licensed games, as there would be plenty of other universes we’d enjoy exploring in this format.

Pros: Great blend of theme and mechanics, EXIT continues to deliver on creative puzzles

Cons: Slightly more challenging puzzles than expected for an entry-level EXIT game