Developed by Lancarse, previously known for its work on earlier games in the Etrian Odyssey series, in cooperation with FuRyu, Lost Dimension is a tactical RPG for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 being released in North America on July 28, 2015 by Atlus USA and in Europe on August 28, 2015. Evoking the sort of paranoia seen in the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series and combining it with the style of tactical gameplay seen in Valkyria Chronicles and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., what I've seen so far from Lost Dimension puts it amongst this year's most engaging and intriguing titles.
The game is quick at setting up the premise, with a one-to-two-minute animation showing the mysterious appearance of character called The End while destruction suddenly rains down on Earth. Conventional attempts to assault The End's apparent tower of operation are quickly rendered useless and the decision is made to send in SEALED and its Gifted members. The Gifted are young people who manifest superhuman powers, such telekinesis or pyrokinetics. The game starts with player character Sho Kasugai and his teammates waking up after entering the tower, with only eleven members making it inside, all of whom are strangers to each other and appear to have lost their memories of actually getting in.
"Lost Dimension ticks all the right boxes so far."
Lost Dimension's makes this particular tower-ascending adventure interesting by way of its traitor mechanic. Outside of the first traitor who is preset, but only in the first playthrough, the game will randomly assign one of the characters for each floor to secretly be working with The End. This goes in hand with a mysterious function of the tower, which requires that the team sacrifice one of their own to progress to the next floor. The End tasks the SEALED members with establishing who the traitor is for each floor, with a vote determining who gets taken out. Players do not have 100% control of the voting so even if they do figure out who the traitor is through the various mechanics and hints that the game provides, they must also raise their suspicions with the other party members after battles.
Eliminating an innocent character does not mean the game ends, but it will come back to haunt the team later on. Lost Dimension provides a means for a remaining party member to take the abilities of an eliminated character, removing potential issue from, say, the main healer being the traitor. It should also be noted that save scumming in an effort to guess the traitor is not an option as each playthrough only gets a single save slot with frequent autosave. This method can be annoying in some games with missable content, but here it doesn't feel like anything it being held back and helps add to the tension.
The overall premise and actions of the traitors — the game hints that there are reasons they're prepared to go along with everything in this particular way — as well as general nature of The End and his tower provide lots of questions that just beg for more playtime in order to try and get the answers. The game also provides a conversational affinity system, which both lets Sho get to know more about his teammates, and make them more susceptible to his suggestions over who may be the traitor. I have yet to see if the high number of possible character combinations causes issues in the latter portions of the story and how it reacts depending on who is selected as a traitor and who ends up being eliminated, but so far the story and premise have done an excellent job of sucking me and wanting to see how everything plays out.
Lost Dimension's battle system also works well. Up to six members enter each mission, with the goal always to eliminate the enemies, though some only require specific enemies be vanquished. The two sides take it in turns, with each combatant able to act once each turn. The first action is always to move, with each character getting a particular range. The character can then do a regular attack, use a skill or item, or defer their turn to an ally if they end their movement close enough. This gives the ally a fresh turn, complete with move action, and allows for an variety of tactical advantages such as moving a particular character large distances across the map.
Other tactical aspects come into play, such as rear attacks causing more damage. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. there is no overwatch mechanic, which allows players to move without fear of being shot at while doing so and redo their move action if desired. Depending on placement, the attacker's allies can join in an attack, with counters also possible. Setting up turns where multiple allies can join in on an assault is key to success and encourages squad-based tactics. This is another area the affinity system comes into play, with characters more likely to help out if they have high affinity. Outside of Sho's post-battle conversations, minor affinity raises can happen between squad members through battle actions, such as healing and deferring.
Lost Dimension's visuals are generally decent but it obviously isn't one of the highest budget titles around and the UI sometimes isn't the speediest. The animated portraits work well for the conversations and the 3D models used in battle and event scenes look crisp enough. So far, there hasn't been too much variation in enemy designs and each floor appears to have just the one tileset, but there have been different layouts and starting positions for each mission, which helps to mix things up along with the encouragement to keep rotating the squad members used in order to suss out the traitor. The voice-acting is perhaps a little overdone in some places, but it works well in the context of everything and certainly hasn't grated anywhere. Music is somewhat variable so far but not objectionable, one of the earlier battle themes was a bit repetitive, however, it made way for others soon enough.
Although I'm still a bit of way from completing it, the gameplay and story for Lost Dimension have left a very positive impression. It remains to be seen how well the battle system holds up throughout the latter portions and how the flexible the story is to adjust to the traitor mechanic and the player decisions, but Lost Dimension ticks all the right boxes so far. If the game can continue its very strong start then it's well on course to becoming one of my favourite games of the year.