Lost Dimension Review (PS Vita)
Lost Dimension is a modest, fairly original turn based JRPG, but it punches above its weight by combining two (or possibly three) fashionable sub genres together into one. With turn based combat that evokes Valkyria Chronicles crossed with back-stabbing choices and character interaction that most closely resembles Virtues Last Reward (and Danganronpa), it’s well placed to find a solid niche following. People who like those games REALLY like those games, and in particular, fans of the Valkyria series have been poorly served here in the West. While Lost Dimension never really matches up to the quality of any of those games, it’s nonetheless just original and unique enough to make it worth playing.
The set up is brief and vague enough to be moderately intriguing. Facing an enemy called “The End” (not that one), you control a squad of soldiers who have had their memories wiped. Each character has a different psychic power (telekenises, pyrokinesis, magnetism etc), and you can only take six characters into each mission. Choosing from the ten characters, the selected team will level up more quickly and develop closer bonds than the ones you leave out. As you go on one mission after another to defeat The End though, you’ll have to identify which of your characters are traitors, whittling away at your squad until at the end only a few are left. The traitors are random each time you play, making the betrayal more heartbreaking for you the player. You might become attached to one (and indeed rely on them to get you through tough missions) only to discover they are the traitor and you must vote for their removal, and subsequent death.
The action is turn based, with each team member able to move within a set area and perform an action. It’s not a grid you’re playing on though. Rather, your character can move as far as a ring that shows their potential final position. Once you move them, you can attack enemies or use items, or interestingly, you can default on your own action to let another nearby ally move and fight instead. This gameplay mechanic allows you to leapfrog further ahead, moving a character to an ally then getting a bonus move for them. It also means you can default on your action with weaker characters to let the more powerful members of your team attack multiple times.
It’s not the only good idea in Lost Dimension. There’s also an assist mechanic, whereby allied characters will team up to attack together when nearby. You also do more damage by moving around enemies and attacking them from the rear. Combined with the myriad unique powers of your team, there’s real depth to the strategic options open to you. Some of the best characters have really peculiar powers, making them deceptively powerful when used correctly. For example, one team member can copy other team members powers, making him very versatile in different situations.
While the combat system is great and your characters are well designed though, the enemies and the levels are bland. Beyond freezing you, your opponents have few tricks up their sleeve. Similarly, the stages are mostly flat, basic arenas floating in the ether. Supposedly set inside a giant sci fi tower, the game never presents you with an interesting world to explore. It’s a bit like being in a half finished building, devoid of features or anything nice to look at. The few bosses you face are lumbering silos of hit points, rarely offering much challenge as long as you are careful not to stretch your team out too far.
Between stages, character interaction is interesting, and Lost Dimension layers on multiple systems – perhaps too many – to help you identify the traitors. It’s all quite poorly explained, but essentially you have to identify the traitor by looking out for some floating red text in a cut scene after each stage. You also get an idea of how likely your team was to contain a traitor after each mission you complete. To be sure, you need to swap team members in and out to narrow down the options. Once you have it narrowed to three suspects, you can spend points to venture inside their mind. This results in a kind of mini game (where you can’t really lose) where you find out what they really think. If they are then revealed to be a traitor, you have to convince everyone else to vote for them in a kind of fatalistic version of the tv show Big Brother.
If some of these ideas don’t quite pay off, they are nonetheless welcome. Lost Dimension might blend together familiar JRPG tropes, but the resulting product still feels new and exciting. The combat is fun from start to finish, there’s deep customization options for how you level their skills and despite some rather generic anime character traits, you really do develop bonds with them that are genuinely affecting when they betray you.
Still, I feel like I enjoyed Lost Dimension more than others would. It blends genres I already love, and the lack of a good Valkyria game has me hankering for something just like this, but it would be remiss of me to fail to mention some crippling flaws. The game would simply crash my Vita quite often. Maybe once an hour. The environments and enemies are bland, and the story is less intriguing than the initial premise. Worst of all, completing the game once only gives an abridged, anticlimactic ending. Getting the “true” ending requires at least as many as two playthroughs, and maybe more if you are unlucky with the traitors.
Still, what is a review? Ultimately, it’s an evaluation of how much one person liked a game. And I liked Lost Dimension. I liked it quite a bit.
3.5 dimensions out of 5
*Some Screenshots form PS3 version