The Great Old One has arisen! Well… sort of. Cthulhu Saves Christmas is a new yuletide RPG from developer Zeboyd Games. The indie studio has made its name crafting vintage-style turn-based RPGs that always have a signature drizzle of humor and new ideas. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’ve been a big fan of theirs for many years. My first experience with a Zeboyd game was 2010’s delightful Cthulhu Saves the World. Like that game, you get to play as everyone’s favorite Lovecraftian grump: Cthulhu himself!
9 years later, Santa has delivered us a prequel. The story of Cthulhu Saves
Christmas is simple enough: after a sinister holiday gift is delivered to Cthulhu, he loses all of his god-like powers. When he sets out to get vengeance, he is swept up in a quest to stop a festively hostile takeover by an organization called The League of Christmas Evil. They’ve kidnapped Santa and have threatened the world. So, Cthulhu must do the unthinkable: he must save the world (to save himself).
I want to say that it’s typical RPG fare, but that would be a lie. The minute to minute gameplay will feel familiar though. Cthulhu and a growing party will explore a variety of dungeons, fighting random turn-based battles and bosses. If you’ve ever played Dragon Quest or an early Final Fantasy game, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Zeboyd’s modern flourishes (after you battle a certain number of enemies, the random encounters blissfully turn off) make sure that things don’t get too bogged down. Each party member has swappable skills that you can use in battle. You can cause insanity, poison, and even stun the most powerful baddies. There are a handful of unique dungeons that serve as a fitting home for each member of
The League of Christmas Evil.
In between battles, you’ll spend time with the characters in a hub world called Christmastown. It’s here that you’ll be introduced to a new system called ‘R’lyehtionships’. Essentially, each visit to the hub is broken into a week. For each day, you choose one activity from a menu to go and do. The activities include going to the movies, hanging out one on one with a party member, or even getting a job. These diversions are never anything more than a quick bout of dialogue, but Zeboyd’s hilarious writing makes them feel worthwhile. While I think this system is interesting, it feels just a bit shallow. These mini-events give you a new piece of equipment each time, but I can’t help but feel that some potential is being lost here. Even adding the option to explore Christmastown would liven things up. Thankfully,
this isn’t a dealbreaker. This is an indie game after all.
If you love turn-based RPGs, but don’t have 60-100 hours to dive into one, this is your game. It’s a very short game (about 4-5 hours) with a lot of charm. The combat is fun, the enemies are unique, and the battle/world themes are suitably great. My favorite tune is the surprisingly funky ‘Christmastown Theme’. Spoiler alert: it rocks. Zeboyd’s signature humor is on display from the dialogue to the enemy design. Their jokes range from surreal to pun-laden. It’s small budget shows in certain areas, but is not a detriment. Overall, Cthulhu Saves Christmas is the Cthulhu Christmas RPG that we all need right now
Logan Noble is a horror and science fiction writer who lives in Ohio with his wife and his two dogs. His short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, including Pickman’s Gallery, Miskatonic Dreams, Déraciné Magazine, and Sanitarium Magazine. More of his work can be found at his website: logannobleauthor.com.