This preview only covers the first two floors of the game but so far I’ve really enjoyed my time with this unique story driven strategy game.
The story in Lost Dimension revolves around a team of amnesiac teenagers climbing a tower to stop an apocalyptic event being promised by someone known as ‘The End.’ It’s a very ‘anime’ story but a particularly interesting one. Early on The End declares that there is a traitor among the group of 11 and that at the end of each floor they will have to vote to decide who it is and that person will be killed on the spot. Obviously this is reminiscent of Danganronpa, and that’s a great start.
The gameplay is reminiscent of other strategy RPGs and it reminds me a lot of Valkyria Chronicles with much smaller maps. Another key difference is that you, for the most part, don’t have to worry about a character dying in battle. In fact, a valid strategy can be to send someone to die as a distraction. This leads into a unique mechanic: berserk.
Every skill uses GP and also sanity. You generally don’t need to worry about GP but conserving sanity can be a big issue. If you use up all of a character’s sanity they go berserk, regain all HP, become really strong, and go on a rampage for a few rounds attacking friend and foe alike. Obviously this can end up being a valid strategy to finish off the boss of a mission quickly but it can also lead to devastating losses.
Every member of the party has their own skill tree with a ton of different things to learn related to their own specialization. There’s the melee tank, the white/blue/black mages, ranged fighters, and others that each have disparate abilities. The six allowed fighters per mission give you enough room to stick with quick favorites and also try out a few of the others. And when people start getting eliminated, you will then have to adapt. Luckily when a character dies they leave behind an equipable materia that contains their learned skills. This ensures you won’t have to go the rest of the game without a healer, for example.
The levels so far have been a tad on the easy side except for a few exceptions. This comes down to unit placement, which is out of your control. By doing this though, the levels all feel fairly different and are still able to offer enough challenge later on.
Each character is unique in personality and ability. Naturally some are more interesting than others and you can choose your free time between levels around who you want to get closer with. These relationships exist between all characters and affect assist attacks and voting at the end of a floor (although I’m not quite sure how that works out).
Main character and avatar, Sho, is the only one with the ability to see into the future, so you must suss out the traitor and spread the word around camp.
Here’s where things get even more interesting: if I am to understand the randomness of the traitor, it will be a different character each playthrough. And there are multiple traitors throughout the experience. This is a very interesting, and ambitious, concept that makes the game extremely replayable, but I’m not sure just yet if that’s something I’d prefer over having a more focused story.
What I mean by that is because anyone can be the traitor and die on any given floor (and keep in mind that if you fail to find the traitor, someone will get killed anyway) you’re left with some strange dialogue. You might be thinking, “Oh, that’s because it would be difficult to write out a character at any point and not know what characters are left.” And you’re right, that would be difficult, so developer Lancarse avoids the situation by making the other characters’ reactions nonspecific. For example, one of them will say, “I can’t believe we had to kill one of our own,” instead of, “Fredrick seemed so nice. Was he really lying to us?” (Note: There is no one named Fredrick in Lost Dimension. I made him up. But if he did exist, I’m pretty sure he’d be a traitor.)
This subtle writing trick lets them get away with the randomness created by the traitor system but it removes the sense of personalization that would come from characters really acknowledging their friend is now gone and had betrayed them.
The main plot points that occur are less vague but you can still notice the same pattern. Especially when you realize that no one really says anyone else’s name that often. That being said, the story still seems well put together, if a little light. Lost Dimension is more about the interpersonal relationships between Sho and everyone else, and it does that well.
Figuring out who is the traitor isn’t immediately obvious. On every floor of the tower, there will be three suspects—people who are acting weird and can be identified after playing a mission with them in the party. But the game doesn’t tell you explicitly who is being suspicious, just their voice playing and a tally that says how many suspicious voices were heard at the end of the mission.
Through different character combinations, you’ll find the three suspects and have to narrow it down from there either by guessing or using Vision Points to look into their minds. This is a simple mini game that results in either clearing that person of suspicion or convicting them. However, there are only a limited amount of Vision Points per floor of the tower.
Even after you figure out who the traitor is, you still have to let everyone else know. Granted, everyone often asks for your opinion but if you don’t figure it out soon enough, popular opinion will go of its own accord. There is no ‘trial’ or anything at the end of each floor of the tower, just a vote. So it is imperative that you convince enough of the group, otherwise you’ll murder an innocent person.
The turn based battles are a lot of fun and really scratch the strategy itch, and the social visual novel-esque aspects are interesting as well. There are not a lot of games out there like this so it is great to play something different. It’s not perfect but I can’t wait to continue up the tower and solve all of its mysteries.