Ring of Pain Review: A New Take on Dungeons

If you’re one of those people who spent hours of their lives watching Five Nights at Freddy’s game theory videos or love Donnie Darko, you might just love Ring of Pain’s cryptic mysterious storytelling.

This is an extension of my short YouTube review.

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Ring of Pain is a dungeon strategy “card crawler” roguelite. It’s developed by Simon Boxer and Twice Different and was released October 15, 2020, though it still receives updates. Enter a ring full of monsters, loot, and difficult choices to navigate the dungeon and learn the secrets of the Ring. Ring of Pain features a spooky vibe with strategic gameplay in a unique turn-based combat system with a rotating circle.

A gameplay screenshot where the player is attacking an enemy.


It’s impossible to start anywhere besides the owl. The owl is the mascot of the game, and honestly the reason I booted the game in the first place. I don’t even know anything about the owl, but I love it, and I think it represents the game’s direction. I’d actually like to include a quote from the game’s press kit: “The art direction for Ring of Pain draws largely on trying to depict a memory being recalled. It’s not quite all there. It’s raw and graphic with colour accents lining the edges.” And they nailed this direction.

The creepy art style and omniscient music are the exact reason why I want to play the game. Gothic horror fans will love this; it’s not “scary” in the sense of modern horror media, but the monsters and environments are both spooky and mysterious, conveying an uncomfortable vibe. Playing at night will certainly enhance the experience.

A gameplay screenshot featuring the Owl and his nest. The Owl is saying "Welcome friend, this is my nest. Do you like it? You're my guest."


The title tells no lies: “Ring of Pain”. You will die, a lot. The game is difficult, and you’ll have to figure out a lot of things yourself. The tutorial is a little shallow, it’s mostly about the options you have available rather than your goal. It fits with both the roguelite and gothic theme, but it doesn’t really make for a great new player experience in my opinion.

Another part of their press kit discusses the game’s insistence on death being your teacher: “You will get crushed, but each failure brings knowledge. As you learn about the world you’ll understand how to use it against itself.” This design philosophy is roguelike-esque, and it does fit with the aesthetic. But I do think many players will find that frustrating, myself included. The runs can last up to 30 minutes, and when starting out, a 30-minute run that’s likely to be a failure does not sound enticing. For a game to require that type of learning process, the fundamentals have to be very strong, and I don’t find them to be enough.

There are a lot of things I like about the gameplay of Ring of Pain. There is no mechanical skill required, and there’s no time limit to making moves, letting you think as long as you want. The game points out the exact amount of damage you’ll take from an action, or the amount you’ll deal, so there’s no guesswork. The ring system gives lots of choices on how you want to play.

A gameplay screenshot showing the item pickups.

Yet, there’s just something about the gameplay that turns me off from playing. There seems to be a big difficulty bump right around level 10 where if you don’t come correct, you’ll find yourself quickly dealt with. And while you have as much time as you want to think, the overall pace of the game is slow. That wouldn’t be too terrible if I didn’t feel like a run could end at any moment. Sometimes it just feels like there was nothing I could do to save a run. Or maybe I’m just bad.

At the end of the day, I just found the game a little boring. The turn-based combat is fairly one-dimensional; even though it seems like you have lots of options, it’s mostly the same. Ultimately, I just want anyone reading to understand that I found Ring of Pain too boring, but largely because of my personal taste.

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Game theorists and people with large brains rejoice because the lore of Ring of Pain makes no sense. There are two characters whom the player interacts with: the aforementioned Owl, and the Shadow. And what’s even better is they both speak in cryptic rhymes, 2 lines per interaction. And by the time you see them again, you’ve already forgotten the last. I’d love to try to piece together the story because I love the spooky stuff, but I don’t have the brain nor the patience. But if you’re the type who loves that type of thing, I definitely recommend giving this one a try.


I just don’t know what to say about Ring of Pain. I struggled a lot to write this review. Everything about the game — the art, music, concept, it’s all wonderful, I just don’t find myself compelled to click new game.

Ring of Pain

+ Wonderfully spooky
+ Unique take on dungeons
= Cryptic story
= Difficult
– Mediocre combat

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