Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Steam
North American Release Date: Originally released July 28, 2015, ported to Steam on October 30th, 2017.
North American Publishers: Atlus USA (PlayStation 3, Vita), Ghostlight (Steam)
Genre: Tactical Role-Playing
While on a superficial level the cover art of Lost Dimension evokes the same image cultivated by many other role-playing games, the game itself is anything but typical fanfare. It ranks among the most creative games that the genre had to offer during the previous console generation. It is an amalgamation of several fundamentally unique ideas, most of which have gone unutilized in the genre, and it brings those concepts together in an incredibly well-constructed way.
Lost Dimension wastes no time establishing the narrative of the game’s plot. Just as the game begins, we learn most everything that will be developed throughout the breadth of its story-line. In the near future, the Earth is in crisis. A giant pillar has emerged on the Earth’s surface, and its inhabitant — a terrorist known only as The End — has wiped out more than 2 billion people in just a few coordinated nuclear strikes. As the story begins, The End, referring to himself as “an agent of the apocalypse”, gives the United Nations an ultimatum; if he isn’t stopped within thirteen days, he will slaughter what remains of the Earth’s population.
As their final preventive measure, the United Nations puts together a group called SEALED, made up entirely of many of Earth’s finest people... with psychic abilities. Each member is equipped with a gift unique to them, ranging from those you might expect like clairvoyance and telepathy, all the way to things like synchronization, super strength, and teleportation. The members of SEALED have a scant thirteen days to ascend to the pillar’s final floor and stop The End at all costs.
Unfortunately for our chances, only eleven of SEALED’s members actually make it into the tower. Adding to their plight, it appears that The End is capable of altering their minds, as each member has a form of amnesia, preventing each of them from knowing much more than their identity, the objective, and how to use their respective abilities.
Not happy with the burden on SEALED’s shoulders already, The End throws a spanner into the works: he reveals that the infiltration team has a traitor, and before the team can progress to the next floor, they must sacrifice one of their compatriots during a vote called Judgement. Whether or not they believe him, they are forced to sacrifice their acquaintances via a group vote, as it’s the only way to proceed to the next floor. The battle to save the world is on…
Inside The TowerOn the gameplay front, Lost Dimension has relatively simple squad-based combat, most comparable to something like Valkyria Chronicles. Battle plays out based on a turn system, with both sides trading turns on and off until a victor is crowned. While the fundamentals of combat aren't initially complicated, there are many gameplay mechanics weaved into it, making for a more fulfilling experience.
As the gunplay begins, the player is shown the playbook, metaphorically speaking. It tries to educate the player in battle scenarios so that they know best how to use the game's many additional mechanics. One such mechanic is, essentially, suppressive fire, referred to here as "Assists." If one ally is within range of a foe that a companion is attacking, they will aid them by firing upon that same foe with a conventional weapon. This is something which can be incredibly useful for racking up successive damage, as it's possible for all six of the squad members in a given battle to assist in a single concentrated attack. All is fair in love and war though, so don't be surprised to see your enemies utilizing the very same tactics as the SEALED members.
Your party is afforded one more advantage that the enemy isn’t, and it plays into the assist feature quite nicely. This mechanic is called Deferring. Essentially, your members are able to pawn their turn off on an ally. Characters are able to defer even if they’ve moved forward, with the only limitation being that you cannot pass inherited turns forward. This allows you to push many units further than you’d otherwise be able to, as well as enabling you to line up assist attacks.
One of the more compelling features tacked onto the base game comes from a meter called Sanity. Sanity is a percentage that goes down with each use of a character’s gift, as well as when they are hit by enemy attacks, and, when it reaches zero, the character goes Berserk. When in Berserk status, all of the characters meters are refilled, and they are given a massive boost to their attack power. While these things are beneficial, the player also loses the ability to control them, and in their crazed state, they attack both friend and foes. It adds a really interesting risk versus reward undercurrent to each battle. You can intentionally overspend your sanity points in order to get the benefits, as well as an extra turn for the now crazed character, but you cannot be sure of who they will target.
Persona?In a mechanic similar to Atlus’ flagship role-playing franchise, as the protagonist Sho progresses through the various sections of the tower, he is able to interact and become closer to his team, fostering certain advantages that can be utilized by the player. Each of his interactions rewards the player with a dialogue scene, up to three per character, allowing them to see more of their respective personalities and backstories. Given that the majority of the character progress that they receive comes from these interactions, there's only so much you can learn about each character, but what is there helps to create a solid set of unique teammates.
Lost Dimension is dissimilar to the Persona series in that, while the team is only given thirteen days to reach the top of the tower, there is not a time-limit imposed on the player. As such, you're able to grind to your heart's content, if you so desire. This is something which plays into upgrading skill-tree and equipment, as one would expect from the average role-playing game. Personally, I never found grinding necessary to progress in the game, but a difficult final battle may prove too challenging for other players, so the ability to do so if you find it necessary is very much appreciated.
Now, onto the really fun stuff. As I alluded to previously, because of The End’s trials, Sho and his allies are forced to progressively whittle away members of the group, regardless of their usefulness or any emotional connection you may have to them. Sho has the gift of clairvoyance, which helps him to weed out the would-be traitors. This is done through with a mix of your own reasoning and deduction skills, backed up by a limited use mini-game that will allow you to determine whether someone has evil intentions or not. Also helping you to determine who the traitors are is Sho's ability to hear 'suspicious voices'.
Trials and Tribulations
Suspicious voices occur after missions and let the player know whether or not there is someone with distressing thoughts in the group that you brought on the mission. This isn't foolproof as some characters will register on Sho's radar regardless of their actual intentions. As such, you're encouraged to experiment with different team combinations so that you can scope out the ne'er-do-well before the time comes to make a lasting decision.
You aren’t left out to dry when you lose a useful member though, as, after judgement, the deceased party member drops a cube of sorts called Materia, which is essentially the essence of the gift they possessed, which allows the user to utilize the abilities of that their deceased ally had earned up to that point without having to sacrifice their own. Judgement is a mechanic that encourages, and even forces, the player to experiment with members that they otherwise wouldn’t use as much. It's something that carries amazingly well and supports the narrative of the rag-tag team thrown together by fate in an incredibly effective way.
Substance Over StyleLost Dimension's graphical style does not make for a particularly alluring game. That isn’t to say it looks bad, although the animated portions do look a little dicey on occasion, the issue is that it goes for a standard clean-cut anime style and as a result is a little uninteresting artistically. The character designs are nice enough and stand out from one another in the context of the game, but are otherwise nothing special. Similarly, the enemies have generic science fiction designs, and beyond their respective body types the Footsoldiers, mechs, and drones look indistinguishable from one another and won't do much to draw the player's eye after the first encounter. Likewise, as a game developed for release on the Vita, textures and the like do not look as though they belong to a game released on the PlayStation 3 only a few years ago.
I usually include a blurb about each game’s soundtracks when I write articles on this site, so I’ll at least mention it here. While the game has a few stand out tracks, the vast majority are nothing special. To be honest, I had to revisit the music for this review in order to conjure any memory of it, aside from a track played during the games’ anime-esque intro, which is generic to an impressive degree. In summary, it's not bad, but it's not all that memorable either.
In ClosingLost Dimension is not necessarily a title that I can recommend based on the merit of its story or the depth of its characters, as, although they are competent, they are never given that much of the game’s time. Fundamentally because of the way the Judgement system works, there is only a limited amount of time that can be dedicated to the development of characters other than the protagonist. Still, I felt as though the time was still used pretty effectively. While the party members are often reliant on their respective tropes, I still found some of them engaging to the point that I didn’t want to lose them in the voting segments.
Its gameplay mechanics are incredibly unique and facilitate a unique experience every time you play it, which leads into something I should probably make note of; to get the game’s true ending, you’ll have to finish the game more than once. I don’t think this takes that much away from the game, as, at just about eighteen hours, it’s not terribly long for a role-playing game, and I’m sure you could finish your second run in only about ten hours if you choose to avoid sidequests and the like. I felt that the standard ending was satisfactory enough and left the door open for the true ending to clear things up should you pursue it. While it isn't ideal, it does express the idea that the story is trying to get across by the end.
As of this writing, the game will be launching on Steam in just a few hours, so I can't speak to the quality of the port myself. If PC is your platform of choice, you should take a quick look at the user reviews to see if they indicate any performace issues. If the PlayStation 3 or Vita is more your flavor, go ahead and pick it up. It won't set you back much, and it's a memorable experience.
Here’s hoping that Lost Dimension's Steam release goes smoothly and it finds an audience on PC where it was unable to on the PlayStation platforms. I’d love to write about a sequel in the future.
Resonance of Fate (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Further Playing - Languishing In Obscurity
While not particularly similar to each other outside of sharing a few thematic devices, both Lost Dimension and Resonance of Fate are massively overlooked role-playing games with an abundance of unique mechanics. Battles in this particular game are a mixture of turn-based, with an action element woven in. I'll include a gross representation of it here, but Resonance of Fate is a game that you kind of need to see in action to understand.
Essentially, you select your target and path of movement and choose when to fire upon them as you move. It plays well, and the combat looks fantastic as you watch it play out. The number of characters is limited to three, but as such, they all get plenty of screen time and are generally very likable.
The world's background is distinctly fantasy-driven and in a unique way. It's in almost a modern style, with some steampunk-esque twists to the aesthetic for good measure. Resonance of Fate does a great deal to stand out from other game's in the genre and should get some recognition for that. Definitely, check it out!
Valkyria Chronicles (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows)
Lost Dimension's core gameplay is fairly unique, so this isn't a one-for-one comparison, but the closest gameplay facsimile I can think of, I'm recommending Valkyria Chronicles. It is similarly turn-based and both share a real-time element when moving your units, although Valyria does more with this concept than Lost Dimension. It has more of a squad building element than the game of the evening and doesn't focus entirely on just a few select members.
On the other hand, this means that the vast majority of playable characters get even less time to express their personalities, although there are a select few that do get the screen time to make a difference. Somewhat similar to Lost Dimension, Valkyria allows some party members to be permanently killed off, although here it happens during battle instead of during a vote.
The worlds aren't particularly similar, although both are very loosely spun on reality, with Valkyria Chronicles' sharing certain similarities to the events of World War II. Stylistically, the game is very nice, with cell shading and a photo-like filter applied to the screen. It's a title worth visiting for sure, but your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy the tactical nature of the gameplay.