Ring of Pain is a roguelike card game that is creepy and you can’t live in your head without rent all the time. You play as someone trapped in the dark and you don’t know who can help you and who will lead you to ruin. With constant uncertainty, you can always guess yourself second, but actions can keep you firmly in the moment you juggle to satisfy your risk and reward options. This balance of powerful and fragile sensations manages to rock potentially repetitive attempts to navigate the ring of cards to escape this eerie and volatile world in different ways, depending on your choice. I will.
Each run in the Ring of Pain begins in much the same way. Perhaps only you and the circle of cards want to kill you. The two cards in the circle are in the foreground and can be displayed and operated immediately. The card contains an interesting array of spooky creatures that you can fight and avoid, items to collect and equip, status boosts, potions, curses, or doors to pass to another new dungeon ring. There are various card menagerie you come across and you’re always on your toes and you’re not sure what to expect-but patterns to madness, such as dungeon themes that keep things purposeful rather than completely random. And there are still hints. The ring circulates according to your actions-you may find cards that shuffle the rings, or the cards may circulate the rings to chase you-and you navigate them Choosing how to do it will determine your playing style.
You don’t have to clear the ring to move to the next stage to get to the door. You have your own basic stats, which vary based on the items and boosts you find and equip. It’s best to think of yourself as a kind of customizable creature card with slots augmented by what you find. Most equipment has basic stat enhancements, while others offer interesting strategies such as gaining health from curses and knocking back creatures after an attack. Each small factor can make a big difference in how effective it is in satisfying the ways in which the available strategies are changed. Knockback abilities may not be a problem at all for slow and devastating enemies, as they no longer have the opportunity to attack, but without them, even sneaking up can be a dangerous business.
All statistics match real creatures and determine the amount of damage done while fighting. You can see that the strength of the character actually increases as you change the build. The more cards you see, the more items and other useful things you can mean to find and add to your strength, but they can be traps or deadly enemies. Hmm. You gain souls by defeating creatures. It unlocks chests and can sometimes be used to purchase item or status upgrades. This means that there is a real risk to your arrogance, but cleaning the ring can offer a great reward. When you’re weak, it feels great and desperate to sneak through a ring just to survive and find potions and useful items. When you’re strong, you just have to charge everything and beat it before you move on, and it feels really powerful and a little devilish.
However, it can rotate very fast. Some enemies can do a surprising amount of damage, attack from further behind the sequence of cards, explode, poison, or simply block your path. Usually they look annoying like a hell with a spherical body or strange spikes, or a scary one whose arms are too long to actively chase you. To make matters worse, they may be cute puppies or frogs that have that soul that you may have to decide to steal. They also make an unpleasant noise when attacking and use the squeaky screams and slashes that are already added to the sinister background music. In many cases, you are not as safe as you think, and your sense of risk and reward is immeasurable. Given the very creepy and somewhat helpless setting, it feels like a good balance of power and uncertainty.
What makes it fun is how much each run changes. Despite being a very iterative game by design, various items and status boosts can have a dramatic impact on the progress of things. It not only changes basic things like attack, defense, speed, but also determines how well it works when fighting cards, but gains souls faster, heals when hit by an explosion. You can also provide other interesting buffs, such as, or do damage when gaining health. Game knowledge grows over hours in a surprisingly stunning way with each playthrough. The first few playthroughs usually stumble in the dark and can kill many as intended. But there is a real sense of understanding that grows as you experience more playthroughs and taste what you can achieve.
The run itself is very fast and usually adds a new item to the role list, at least in case something goes wrong. These add more options to your weapon and some may be more powerful than others, but success is definitely how to use what you find and the item itself. It’s not power. I still often die within minutes, and those times I’ve accomplished it to the end tend to take 20-30 minutes. It’s great to pick up and play, but if you complete multiple in a row, you’ll probably do, but it’s very easy to forget to load out. All your items are clearly visible and look even a little unique. Still, it’s easy to forget that during a few runs, for example, this chest area doesn’t protect you from the explosions you wore in previous runs. This can often lead to premature, frustrating death. Being able to quickly return and jump quickly for a new run can help reduce frustration, but dying is not always fair. There were quite a few times I didn’t fully understand why I died, whether because of the chain of effects or because of unexpected damage-even on the useful end screen. Nonetheless, everything was too fast to see exactly what went down, which tells us what technically last hit.
However, I also get the impression that it is absolutely part of the point. The ring of pain does not hold your hand exactly. It does a good job of telling you in general what your actions do by showing the damage you take, but it doesn’t explain everything. You will often need to die of creatures to learn about it. For example, some transform after a few turns and suddenly block the exit, and it’s very frustrating to encounter them for the first time without your knowledge.
Eventually, you’ll learn what’s waiting for you as you pass through the various doors, but there’s no real explanation or guarantee. A shrine you happen to find in a safe place will often have to be used many times before you know what it means. There is a great sense of proficiency that comes from learning these things, but it is not without frustration. I have no idea what the ending means, what this world means, or in fact at all. However, while the Ring of Pain is dark, esoteric, and ambiguous, the gameplay loop is simple and satisfying, and you can enjoy it even after you’re intrigued.
The Ring of Pain is fun and fun in a way that can immerse you in a way that does almost the same thing for hours. Quick Run is really useful for just jumping in and going a few times, rather than supersaturating yourself in this world. From art and sound design to playing methods, it nails the eerie aesthetic. At any stage of the game, no matter how confident you are, you may feel a little uneasy. The Ring of Pain swings between frustration and satisfaction, but thankfully most of the time it leans heavily towards the latter. It’s a fun and disturbing mix of roguelike and card game genres that’s worth discovering in the dark.