Easily the most uncomfortably evocative title on the PAX Aus showroom floor this year was Ring of Pain. Described as a roguelike dungeon crawler, Ring of Pain has you set out on a cryptic journey where the world is distorted by your own twisted mind.
The game presents itself as a card game where the cards you encounter begin unravelling the story of your journey: the foes you meet, the creatures who communicate with you, the items you pick up. Making smart decisions will help you survive and advance deeper, but what are you advancing towards?
I got a chance to play Ring of Pain and talk with developer Simon Boxer both on the showroom floor and in an on air interview. As a veteran artist but new game developer, Ring of Pain is very clearly Simon’s baby. It’s a game shrouded by mystery and creepy stylistic choices that only serves to make the player more curious.
The art in Ring of Pain is creepy, evocative, and downright nightmarish. Simon relates the art to his own mind’s eye. It’s the kind of imagery you’d bring to mind in a distant memory or dream. Not all of the details are present, yet some elements are bold and standout. It’s very visually striking, but there’s an undeniable horror twist. Simon’s art reminds me of the visual representation of mental health issues. In this way it becomes powerfully affecting.
Ring of Pain feels like a game designed to make the player morbidly curious. It’s full or riddles, rhymes and the unknown. The music and art keep the player on edge and the recurring owl character will haunt my dreams forever. Beyond the aesthetic elements though the game presents what so far seems to be a solid, card game roguelike.
The game isn’t testing the player through reflexes or mechanic skill. It simply presents the player with a string of choices and your success will be determined on your ability to read the game and intelligently respond to the options at hand.
Ring of Pain is expected to release into Early Access for PC and MAC in Q2 2020 and I for one can’t help but remain horrified yet excited.