Ring of Pain Review – Creepy, Yet, Satisfying

    Title: Ring of Pain
    Developer: Simon Boxer, Twice Different
    Release Date: October 15, 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Humble Games
    Genre: Adventure, Strategy, Role-Playing

Hearing about a game that touts being a roguelike card-based deckbuilding dungeon crawler may seem a bit off-putting at first. This random group of genres describes developer Simon Boxer and Twice Different’s newest game, Ring of Pain. While I began playing with a layer of doubt of how this team would pull this mashup of genres off, I ended up hooked following the tutorial.

Ring of Pain is a deck-building dungeon crawler, with the deck-building aspect being a prominent system within the game. The cards you collect are equipped to your item slots throughout the adventure, where you have 14 slots for different cards. These can range from a weapon that deals extra poison damage, a scroll that makes any card an exit, or a pair of pants that give you an extra health point when you drink a potion.

Building the right loadout is key to progression and surviving the, you guessed it, ring of pain. Each time you enter a new dungeon, the cards are randomly picked, and you must adjust your strategy to the cards you have access to. It makes the adventure less repetitive, but the roguelike elements show up as some runs are just luckier than others. It’s not the most punishing RNG, but it has its moments.

Ring of Pain isn’t all RNG though, as it has a series of predetermined rooms that vary in monsters, items, and gimmicks. For example, some rooms can only give you poisonous monsters or contain monsters that explode, or a room with usable items. At least it’s possible to know which of these rooms you’re about to enter by a little symbol on top of the door. Familiarize yourself with these symbols and you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

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My favorite part of Ring of Pain is the art style, which caught my attention from the very beginning. The designs and illustrations are all unique and sometimes quite unsettling, but I can’t deny that they are good. Some of the characters that stood out to me were the creature who helps you out, named “Owl” and the two very creepy looking shopkeepers that make some weird noises as you browse their inventory. This level of eerie detailed work is also seen in the card designs, which I loved.

Ring of Pain uses an item known as Souls as currency. Souls reset each run and don’t carry over, so if you die, you’ll have to earn any lost souls back. Using souls, you can open chests of different rarities or buy items through the shop, so you want to make sure you use them wisely because, at some point, you might be a few souls short from an item you really need to complete the build you have going. The way to acquire souls is by killing enemies, or sometimes you can enter a room named the “Sacrifice,” where you can kill innocent dogs and frogs in exchange for souls, but I always felt bad doing this.

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As you make your way through the ring, you’ll discover new items for your journey. Surprisingly, even after a couple of hours, I discovered plenty of new items, which had me continually adjusting my deck and figuring out new ways to use the cards that I had access to. I ended up really liking this system, and it pushed my creative skills to make the most out of even the worst situations.

Ring of Pain isn’t for the casual roguelike player as it doesn’t shy away from being challenging. There’s a deep level of strategy needed to get through the dungeon, and clicking random cards just doesn’t cut it. While I appreciated this level of depth and difficulty in the system, it may cause others to become frustrated with shorter than average game sessions.

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Ring of Pain takes a mashup of genres and brings them together for a dark and challenging adventure. The most important takeaway is that it works and provides some great gameplay moments for hours with many new ways to approach encounters. Sure, there are a few high moments of difficulty, and a few systems aren’t completely newcomer friendly, but there’s definitely enough here to keep you entertained for hours of dungeon-crawling and deck-building.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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John Rangel

Anime enthusiast and gacha addict.