I've been in love with Fenrir's games of late. I think he's one of the few
OHR guys whose gameplay matches the tone of his stories and is able to scale it up or down. Vikings of Midgard is pretty rough, as an RPG is meant to be. No More Villains is easier, so you can enjoy the jokes. Everyone who reads these reviews knows that I'm a big baby who likes easy games over hard ones, and when Fenrir started teasing about The War On Christmas with funny pictures, I knew I was going to be in for a treat.
If you aren't American, maybe this needs a little explaining: Every Christmas, a bunch of super-radical Christians come out and claim to be oppressed by companies using the all-inclusive "Happy Holidays!" in their advertisements vs. the potentially exclusionary "Merry Christmas!". They get their panties all in a twist and believe that it's some kind of a pinko plot to kick those good upstanding Christian citizens out of their own holiday. This is called the War On Christmas and there's much gnashing of teeth and pronouncing of Christmas with a T and hub-bub about it every year, without fail. It isn't very much fun.
Fenrir-Lunaris' War on Christmas *IS* a lot of fun. One of those ChrisTmas types must've wished too hard, because now every day is Christmas and it's starting to get old. Santa rounds up those "Happy Holiday" type scum to be the Dark Knights that the world needs. Hipsters, Furries, Commies, Queeros, Heathens and Dorks, united to put an end to the Yuletide season and bring about a return to the ho-hum 11 other months.
Christmas all the time doesn't sound like a terrible curse, but the game explores some practical and fantastic downsides of it. It's snowing all the time so agriculture is out, unless you like eating Gumdrop bushes and Candy Cane trees. Constant gift giving puts a crimp on the economy. Plus, Santa has to do 365 times his normal amount of work! As RPG plots go, it's just serious enough to make you want to stop it but still light-hearted to allow an easy flow of laughs.
You get to assemble your own party of up to 4 warriors, and while the game does a good job of explaining each class and what their role is, it still feels like there could be maybe a little more documentation? You're stuck with who you choose for the whole game and if you don't like your choices (I think?) you had to sit through the intro to choose again. It's a good intro, but it'd get frustrating if you weren't happy with your initial team choice and had to see it two or three times in a row.
My party was a Socialist, an Atheist, a Hipster and a Nerd. The socialist is a thief, the Atheist a dedicated healer, the Hipster manages debuffs and the Nerd was my primary damage dealer. Holy shit, can he deal some primary damage! And it took me forever to realize he could multi-target, and to figure out if he was dealing magic or physical damage. There's an in-game library that explains each class and how their abilities work, and I'd suggest seeking it out before buying equipment. My first battle took damn near 5 minutes because I didn't know how anything worked and I was doing no damage. Once I had the right equipment, those same battles were over almost in a single hit. Makes a huge huge difference.
I never had trouble buying anything with my party, the thief's stealing was useful the whole game through (especially against the final boss! More on that later) and provided lots and lots of goodies. A really cool feature is randomized loot. Usually I'm against it in a game like this because it affects balance, but The War On Christmas does an excellent job of not letting it get too crazy. There's presents scattered across each map, color-coded to a particular party member. Most of the time the present is nothing but funny text or some money, but periodically you get a piece of equipment and rarer still, a special gift exclusively for a certain character. The stuff gets better the higher levels you are, with the game suggesting that the best stuff can probably only be attained around Level 20. It gives you that same bread crumb trail feeling I talked about from Macabre, a little sense of "Okay, I been here. Haven't been there 'cause there's a present." and adds to the flavor.
Battles were perfectly balanced, in my opinion. The early areas were a pushover once I knew what I was doing and each area made me feel just a little less in control without getting so hard that I needed to grind or change tactics too too hard. Like some of his other recent games, there's no MP: Each character has 3 options and items, and you can use them however many times and in whatever combination you wish. You don't get the excitement of learning a new attack, but you do get the excitement of finding enemies who react to your attacks differently so it's still pretty novel. The final battle felt so perfectly tailored to my particular party that I can't imagine fighting him any other way. More on that later!
It's a Fenrir Lunaris game, so I don't have to tell you about the graphics. They're great, especially the attacks and backgrounds in the final dungeon. Music is sort of a mixed bag. Most of the tracks are really good, but some of them have a certain 8-bit noisy quality to them that can get a bit grating. And hearing the intro OVER AND OVER AND OVER again for each battle also got a little irritating. There's even some jokes poked at it in the game itself, so I know Fenrir was aware. It mainly bothered me because my first few battles took so long, but if you're easily annoyed you might want to create your own list of 8-bit X-Mas jamz. (My favorite was a mash-up of the Theme to Blaster Master and I think The Little Drummer Boy. Great stuff!)
I do think the maps are a little big (as always) and the hero a bit slow for that size. It's especially annoying in the first dungeon, because everything looks the same. It's all white snow floors with red and white candy cane walls! It's like the world's worst Where's Waldo book and I used the F1 minimap function to navigate this section. The later maps have a bit more action and variety but I could've liked more speed.
So, what's the deal with the final boss? Every so many seconds he kicks your ass with this one spell. IT generally killed my nerd, and left almost everyone else near death or dead too. But the trick, I found, was that I could use a Gingerbread cookie (Think a megalixir + 4 phoenix downs) to get everyone back and that my thief could steal Gingerbread from the final boss indefinitely. It made for a white knuckle "Can I steal another? Should I just use it and try to steal later?" race to see who would drop first. I was victorious (easily so once I remembered that my hipster could slow people down) but it felt genuinely tense and satisfying. Without healing and poison spam, I don't know how I could've beaten him.
Long story short, The War On Christmas is a good looking game, with a great sense of humor... though I guess it might be a bit meme-y for some. There's lots of party combinations to mess around with and I think it might even be possible to try to solo the game. I'd reccomend it to anyone who likes OHR games and doesn't mind some vaguely offensive or political themes. There is a naked furry lady, so we're still in "Not with your mom in the room" territory but it's Fenrir, so that goes without saying.
Hehe, I'm putting all the bad stuff in spoilers. I didn't mean to do that.
I can find very little to complain about, except that Santa disappeared after the first dungeon and I didn't know if I was supposed to go to the second dungeon when I did or not. After the third dungeon I was temporarily unsure where to go too. It was a nice set-up, like... "Where else would you go?" and you have to walk right by it, but I was a moron for a few minutes and felt totally lost.
I also was sad that everyone in my party had a little scene in the ending, except for my atheist. Did I miss it? Did I fail to do something? Is Fenrir a sexist? I've got no idea but it bugged me.
What're you waiting for? Christmas? Go play this game!