As the PlayStation 3 enters its twilight years, the number of big name games for it has slowed to a near standstill. But fortunately for RPG fans who have yet to invest in a next generation console, there are still plenty of titles coming down the pipe that promise epic quests and dozens of hours of cut-scenes and monster slaying. While most of these games are new entries in franchises — that are decades old at this point, such as Persona 5, Star Ocean 5, and Tales of Zesteria, a handful of original games yet remain in the PS3’s near future. Today we will be talking about just such a game in Lost Dimension, a tactical RPG developed by Japanese game company Furyu and published in the United States by Atlus.
In Lost Dimension players take control of Sho, the head of an elite strike force known as SEALED which consists of 11 people gifted with psychic powers who are tasked with saving the world from a mysterious figure hilariously known as The End. As the story goes, if SEALED isn’t able to climb to the top of a gigantic tower that one day suddenly manifest itself in the middle a Japanese city, The End will unleash an unstoppable wave of nuclear missiles upon all of the Earth’s major city centers, killing billions and effectively ending life as we know it. All of these trappings make Lost Dimension’s story, for lack of a better descriptor, anime as hell to the point that it often seems as if a cheesy Original Video Animation anime somehow escaped from the 1980’s, landed in 2015 and became the basis of a video game. But that is also part of Lost Dimension’s charm. Despite how cheesy its story maybe, and how ridiculous its premise can be at times, Lost Dimension nevertheless plays all of this straight and is rather endearing in doing so. This extends to the game’s characters as well, as even early on, you will come to care about the various members of SEALED as you chat them up between missions, a feature much akin Persona 3 and 4’s social links, and eventually come to despair as you later see them picked off one by one through The End’s sadistic judgement games.
As mentioned above, a large part of Lost Dimension’s structure as a game is devoted to the fact that on every floor of the Tower, the game’s main setting, players will have to be on their toes as they search for a traitor who lies in their midst. This is accomplished by using Sho’s recognition and mind reading powers to dive into the thoughts of your teammates and find the which of them is most likely to turn coat and stab you in the back at any given moment. Then, once the enough missions in a given area have been cleared, a vote is called in which the character with the most votes is killed. It is thus the job of the player to sway the vote of Sho’s teammates towards eliminating the traitor, rather then letting an innocent soul be prematurely eliminated.
The process of elimination, though simple to play with, is often nerve-wracking as the potential for the player’s favorite character being the traitor always hangs in the air and lends a sense of paranoia to Lost Dimension that is both very interesting and emotionally taxing at the same time. I experienced when a certain female character whom I’d become rather fond of was outed as the traitor during the third round of elimination. There was a certain sense in my mind of “no she can’t be the one” given how much of her personal quest I had completed, but the upset of that notion was an effective emotional moment and one I will not soon forget. Thankfully, however, the death of a character does not mean their skills are lost. On the contrary, upon being eliminated, your teammates will drop items that the survivors can equip to access the skills of those who have passed on. This makes for some interesting mix and match gameplay as you try different combinations of psychic powers to find that which is best for taking on the tower’s legion of mechanical monsters.
The bulk of Lost Dimension’s gameplay lies in its elegant yet expansive battle system. Playing much like the Valkryia Chronicles series of games, Lost Dimension sees characters moving across wide open battlefields with each member of SEALED’s locomotion is governed by circular range of motion who’s size is determined by a MOVE stat. Once you’ve crossed the battlefield and engaged an enemy, Lost Dimension gives players some options with which to defeat their foes, some of which I will discuss below.
While each character does carry a gun of some kind for basic ranged attacks, true effectiveness in battle often involves calling upon each characters’ unique psychic powers. Each of these mental abilities functions much as a spell or skill might in more traditional RPGs, and invokes such wide-ranging effects as damaging elemental attacks, stat buffs, and even healing. But players must be wary of taxing their brain with these powers because each character has a unique statistic known as “sanity.” Sanity drains whenever a character uses a skill, is hit by an enemy, or under the influence of certain ailments, and once it hits zero causes a character to enter a state called “Berserk.” A berserk character regains all of their HP, sanity, and SP and experiences a dramatic increase in their offensive statistics. However, this power comes at a price, as a berserk character cannot be directly controlled by the player and has an increased chance to attack a friend as they are a foe. Berserk thus becomes a powerful tool in a player arsenal, as purposely lower a character’s sanity to zero under certain circumstances can deal huge damage to otherwise difficult foes and end a battle in a hurry.
Battles in Lost Dimension are a highly tactical affair and force players to use proper character placement and strategy over brute force. The best example of this lies in the fact that movement and map placement are each equally important as keys to victory. For example, when attacking an enemy from behind, an attack’s accuracy is raised dramatically and damaged increased by nearly fifty percent, making it important to try and form a habit of creeping behind enemies before acting. Player’s can also take control of the battlefield with proper use of Lost Dimension’s assist system, in which any ally within range of an attacking character will chime in with normal ranged attack to pile damage onto an unsuspecting enemy. Both back attacks and assists stress a level of thinking in gameplay that is a refreshing change over many tactical RPGs in which the best strategy is often to rush in head first and attack until the battle had ended. All of this applies just as much to your enemies as your friends however, and enemies in Lost Dimension are smarter than most in the genre and will often assemble in groups to assist attack SEALED members to death and even use area of effect attacks to suppress possible counter strikes. Because of this, players must not only be mindful of how they can maximize damage through proper troop placement but also must try and cover their rears to prevents enemies from doing the same in turn.
From my first experience with Lost Dimension, I can say one thing for sure, this is a quality RPG and an experience fans will not want to miss if they are looking for something with a bit more meat on its bones than most in the genre. We’ll have a full review of Lost Dimension later this month.