Lost Dimension, if nothing else, certainly has an interesting background to it. It's developed by developer Lancarse, who some might know for their work on some of titles in the Etrian Odyssey series and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. But instead of the dungeon RPG mechanics featured in those games, they're trying their hand at a strategy RPG mixed with some of the conventions one would expect out of a Japanese-developed RPG. So how does their new gameplay attempt fair?
Lost Dimension starts out with the world on the brink of destruction from a terrorist, calling himself "The End", who appears out of nowhere from a giant pillar and threatens to launch nuclear warheads at every major city soon if his challenge isn't met: for someone to ascend the pillar and stop him. The world's armies try launching a military strike and attempt to fly near the pillar, but any and all attempts end up with in complete obliteration.
So the world gathers up a group of people with special psychic powers collectively called SEALED to do the job, with abilities such as telekinesis, super-human strength, pyrotechnics --- just to name a few. Of course, things would be too easy if it was a walk in the park to reach the top of the pillar. So The End decides to take away the memories of the SEALED members just prior to entering the tower, and tops things off by announcing that there's a traitor in their midst.
That twist ends up becoming one of the key factors throughout one's playthrough of Lost Dimension, as The End requires the group to vote following reaching the end of each floor as to who they think the traitor is. Help with deciding who's the traitor comes in the form of main character Sho's psychic gift, which allows him to see into the future. Following each battle, you'll see the trait a scene where Sho reads the inner thoughts of the team members you picked for that battle. If the text is colored white they're safe, but when you come across red-lettered text you'll know there's a suspect person in that group.
The game thankfully gives you the ability to mark character as suspect, so you can know who you should swap out in future battles to better determine who the real traitor is. The catch is that someone might be suspect but not actually the traitor for that floor, so the game gives the player the ability to perform a "Deep Vision" into a character to look into their future. After completing said task, the character will be marked as either "safe" or "suspect", but catch is that you only get three chances to dive in each floor. So it becomes a balance of using the missions to narrow down your suspects, then performing the deep visions to narrow down things further.
All of this work boils down into the Judgment portions of the game that await at each floor. This is why talking to the right people following battles becomes paramount, as their trust with you and for the others plays a pivotal role in who ends up meeting their end. During one of my playthroughs I actually ended up extremely close to running into a deadlock and nearly was forced to vote for someone I knew was innocent via my investigations. It's easily one of the standout features of the game because if you end up making that mistake you'll have to continue on knowing the traitor will turn on you at the end of the game, making things that much harder in taking down The End. It gives a real weight to your actions that in most other RPGs feels superficial at best.
The Judgment system and all it entails does cause an issue with the story and the characters themselves, however. Because there's so much of a focus on the characters and figuring out who the traitor is, the story tends to end up being somewhat simplistic and pushes most of the more interesting world building into collectible documents found in the pillar, similar to Final Fantasy XIII.
It also causes an issue with the characters, as due to the fact that any of your party members can potentially be the traitor in a given playthrough, you can't have any one person in particular be more pivotal to the narrative than another (excluding the first traitor in the first initial playthrough). You do learn about their backstories by earning trust with them in between battles, but it feels somewhat simplistic. That said, their motives do have some weight to them and makes maxing out everyone's trust in New Game+ worthwhile, as you can't max everyone out during the initial playthrough.
As stated earlier, Lost Dimension outside of the Judgment mechanic is also a strategy RPG. If you've played other strategy RPGs such as Valkyria Chronicles, you'll have a pretty good idea of the battle mechanics found in Lost Dimension. You'll control a six-person party in battle where your party members and the enemies get one action per turn each, alternating between each group.
One neat twist to this game is the ability to "defer" turns, where you can use party members like healers who don't need to act that turn to defer their turns to offensively-capable party members who can get in another turn at attacking the enemy. You need to be close enough to them to pull this off so you can't abuse this ability from halfway across the map, but it's a nice feature that takes away the slowness other strategy RPG games have.
Being able to abuse this mechanic would make things too broken, so Lost Dimension also employs a special "Sanity" meter alongside the HP and MP meters common to the genre. You can regain sanity by waiting and performing no action, but once it depletes fully, either from overuse of the defer mechanic and/or attacking, the party member will go complete berserk and become uncontrollable.
This becomes an issue, as being able to control the spacing between your party members and the enemies is a major key to successfully completing the maps with a high ranking. Some party members are close-range fighters, attacking with weapons such as swords or knives, while others are ranged fighters who attack with guns. Enemies also come in the two same varieties, so if you attack a close-range enemy with a gun-wielder, you won't get a counter-attack like you would with a close-range fighter. So it becomes a game of spacing out your units properly to deal the most damage possible with the least damage on your end.
One thing I did like is that even though some characters share the same general attack style, they can vary heavily from each other. For example, characters Agito and Mana both favor close-range physical attacks, but Agito has the ability to deal double-hits whereas Mana hits once but hits with much more power behind her attacks. Thus, none of the characters feel like clones of each other. This is also evident in their skill trees, which you can unlock new skills via points gained from levelling up, which does even more to specialize each character from another.
There's also an assist mechanic employed during battles in Lost Dimension, in which a nearby unit will join in your attack. These are activated by the relationship you have with each character, so how you move your party members in battle and which ones you pick becomes a factor due to this.
Graphically, Lost Dimension is generally impressive for a game from a smaller developer who's targeting both the PS3 and PlayStation Vita. The character designs are quite detailed, with each character getting their own unique animations. Features such as a character's hair, eyes, and other facial features all move in a life-like fashion, which removes the doll-like issue some games that utilize portraits for dialogue have. I also liked that they modeled the designs after older kinds of anime instead of the stereotypical "moe" style many games from smaller Japanese RPG developers tend to use as of late.
The environments do look a bit better on the PS3, but the PlayStation Vita version holds up quite well with only some minor downgrades. There's some minor longer loading times on the PlayStation Vita version, but they're rare and won't be noticeable for most players. Musically what's here is pretty catchy and again hearkens back to that older style with an 80's-style flair, which meshes well with the graphics. The minor issue some might have is that there tends to be some overuse at times alongside the overuse of certain enemy designs, but since this game is from a smaller developer it's an issue most will likely be able to overlook.
Lost Dimension is game that will likely surprise some people who go into it expecting a simplistic third-person dungeon-crawling strategy RPG. The traitor mechanic is inventive, but its implementation detracts from the overall narrative due to constraints from being from a smaller developer. But for most players, the mechanics that do work outweigh the bad. If any of this review interested you or you're a fan of the genre already, it's a solid effort that's worth your purchase.
|The Judgment system gives some real weight behind your actions.|
|The Defer mechanics in battle does a lot to make the battles speedier.|
|The character designs are a nice change of pace from most recent Japanese-developed RPGs.|
|Due to the Judgment mechanic, the characters and the storyline aren't as fully realized as they could be.|
|There's some musical reuse and some recycled enemies later in the game.|
|That feeling when your favorite character in the game ends up being the traitor.|