Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to climb a tower with 11 strangers, learning all about them through your trials, and then having to kill one on each floor you arrive at? I am sure no one has really ever had that dream, but it’s the exact scenario that developer Lancarse and publisher Atlus have tackled with their PlayStation Vita release, Lost Dimension. I really enjoyed what I played during E3 this year, but would those feelings be different after digging into the entire experience? Read on below to find out.
Oh, No, a Terrorist!
A terrorist known as “The End” has set up shop in a tower that has crash landed on Earth. The End has stated that he is ready to launch warheads against every major city in the world unless you stop him within 13 days. With no ability to destroy this tower, the higher ups are forced to send 11 members of a group called SEALED into the tower to defeat The End. SEALED is a group full of kids with extraordinary powers, similar to that of the X-Men. This is where the player takes control, leading Sho Kasugai and the other members up to the top floor of the tower. To complicate the matters of ascending the tower, your group is told upon entering that to complete a floor and unlock the next, you must decide who the traitor is among your party and have them killed.
The story sounds really great on the surface but unfortunately it’s not delivered all that well. While there are great concepts, such as not only fighting to reach the top and save the world, but also to find the traitors among your group, it is just so poorly delivered that it kind of renders the whole story boring. There is not enough tension really built up through the story and character interactions to really feel like you’re having to make tough decisions to kill one of your own. To me, the story felt rushed, with not enough attention paid to the characters, their journey, or the end result. Everything just feels forced and it really hurts, especially since there isn’t a whole lot to do in the tower.
Thankfully, while the story itself isn’t so much a strong suit of the game, the combat in Lost Dimension is extremely well done. The combat reminded me somewhat of Valkyria Chronicles, as both your side and the enemies take turns in battle. So, you will have a turn to move and act with your six characters, and then it’s the enemies turn to move all of their units. It is a very strategic battle system where you have to pay close attention to where you’re moving each unit and what kind of movement range close by enemies have. Each of the characters you take into battle have very different play styles that you will want to take into account. You have your long range pistol shooters, one guy with a Katana for close range, a few machine gun wielding people, and some back stabbing rogues.
Hey, Assist Me Here
Speaking again to the strategy in each battle, players will have the ability to pull off assisted attacks and defer their turns. With assisted attacks, if you have friends near an enemy you attack, those characters will attack that same enemy after you have. This is huge in battle, as one attack from a character can be followed by up to five assisted attacks, essentially defeating an enemy in one character turn. You have to be careful though, as the enemies can also utilize this to do massive damage on your party. The defer ability I mentioned above allows players to defer their turn to a teammate. This comes in really handy if you don’t have anyone to heal with Sojiro, so you can have him defer his turn to a damage dealer like George. Each character can only defer once during each team turn, so make it count.
In battle, each character will also have gift abilities that you can use. These vary depending on the gift of the character, such as fire attacks from Himeno or a teleport gift from Agito that feels earily similar to Nightcrawler. These gift abilities can be used to attack a single enemy or multiple enemies, but be careful with your area of attack spells, because friendly fire is always on. One thing that players will definitely need to take into account come battle time is each character’s SAN (stands for Sanity). This meter depletes with each gift ability used, as well as when you defer your turn or take damage from an attack. Once the meter reaches 0, your player will go all berserk on you, and you don’t want that.
The biggest single issue you will find with the battle system is that’s it’s far too easy. Even on the hardest difficulty, you will have to try really hard to die in your first playthrough. I believe in my first run through the game, which lasted maybe 8-10 hours, I died three times and one of those was because I was far too under leveled for The End boss battle. The other two times were just simply stupid movement mistakes on my part. To be blunt, if you just grind a tiny bit to level your characters up a few levels, you will cake walk through your first playthrough. The difficulty did seem to ramp up a slight bit on my second playthrough, but not by any big margin. It really is disappointing to see a combat system with so many cool quirks be undone by something like this.
Lost Dimension Review - Shallow Loyalty (Vita) - PlayStation LifeStyle
Meet Me in the Lobby
When not in battle, players will spend the rest of their time in Lost Dimension hanging out inside the lobby. Here, you are able to spend points you have earned in battle to buy new equipment, which becomes available with each new floor you reach. Each player is able to equip their weapon, a gadget, and two apps. The gadget and apps are basically things like boosting your health, agility, dexterity, and such. In the lobby you are also able to spend exp points you have earned through leveling up to gain new gifts or strengthen current ones. This is done through a skill tree system, allow players to pick and choose exactly what abilities they want their people to learn. As you level up a specific ability, the amount of GP (mana) and SAN required to perform the attack will also raise. Gifts are broken up into four groups; Passive, Attack, Recovery, and Support.
In the lobby, you also have the chance to talk with the rest of your group and learn about them, growing your bonds through conversation, and weeding out those you think might be traitors. To do this, you will need to use Sho’s power of “Visions.” Using these visions allows you to see inside a selected party member and tell you whether they are a traitor or not. Once you have completed all of the story quests on a given floor, you are then tasked with entering the judgement room to select the traitor to be killed. By killing this person, you are allowed to move onto the next floor and give their gift abilities to another player. This is called Fate Materia, and any character can only equip up to two fate materia at one time. Pay close attention to who you eliminate though, as traitors you don’t catch during the story will turn against you at the end boss.
Lost Dimension is fairly so-so when it comes to its presentation. The opening cinematic is catchy and awesome, getting you set at the beginning for a game full of solid music throughout. The voice acting that is there in the game is surprisingly solid, with really not much to complain about in terms of vocals. Where the presentation sees the negative side of the so-so is in the world itself. The levels of the tower are a bit on the dull side, with not a lot put into the environment. The character models themselves are actually pretty solid and the same could be said about most of the enemies.
With Lost Dimension, I feel like there is just so much more the game could have been. The concept is there, it just needed a bit more on the execution side to really make for a great story. The combat system is in place and ready to wow you with all its interesting quirks, but is shot in the foot by it’s ridiculously easy “challenge.” The game also feels a bit on the short side, clocking in at around 8-10 hours on my first playthrough, with the game forcing you to beat it a few times to achieve its true ending. Just a little bit more time spent on the game could have done wonders, but even so, Lost Dimension is still a game well worth checking out and one that Vita/PS3 owners should be excited about. Oh, and it is compatible with PS TV, if that helps.
Lost Dimension review code provided by the publisher. Game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.