Lost Dimension is a tactical RPG developed by Lancarse that tells the story of S.E.A.L.E.D., a team of eleven psychics tasked with thwarting The End’s plan to destroy the world. Protagonist Sho Kasugai becomes the leader of this rag-tag group of strangers who have to work together and develop strong bonds of friendship if they are to succeed.
The End has control over the situation, with nuclear warheads trained on key points around the world. He also controls S.E.A.L.E.D.’s ascent to the top of his Pillar, only unlocking each strut after the team votes to erase one of their own. On top of this, he has traitors within S.E.A.L.E.D. with a new one needing to be uncovered per strut. Erasure is heartbreaking even if a traitor is eliminated, especially once you buy into the characters.
This comes as a result of visual-novel conversations that develop the members of S.E.A.L.E.D. Each character in the game has a unique psychic ability which is symbolic of their personality. Himeno, for example, has pyrokinesis and acts very cold and distant, while Zenji can copy other’s abilities to the detriment of his own sense of self. I really appreciated the very clever character work within Lost Dimension, with conversations slowly revealing the issues each team member faced prior to their present predicament, and helping develop camaraderie.
The animation in these segments works to bring them to life, with blinking, mouth movement, and expression changes meaning they are never static. Each character is charming in their own way, making it an awful feeling to know someone is being dishonest. The music in The Pillar also reflects this. There is a restful tune here, with a wood block undercurrent that constantly reminded me of the betrayer lurking in plain sight.
Sho’s psychic ability to read minds comes in handy for identifying a traitor. Visions appear after each mission, with it up to the player to cross reference these to determine who to suspect. From here, the dreamlike realm of Deep Vision comes into play. You are taken to a trippy world with an endless horizon of white light to reveal a character’s inner thoughts. Simply running to catch up to your suspect in this space became a little monotonous after a few uses, but is a necessary bit of tedium to save eliminating an innocent ally.
Once your traitor is uncovered, the game then allows you to fix the vote. This occurs in numerous ways, the most effective being filling in your fellows on what you discover when they pull you aside. You can also set the traitor’s combat ranking into freefall by neglecting to select them for missions. It sounds dirty, but gaming the system is the only way to be sure you root out as many traitors as possible.
All this is incredibly intriguing, and brings about a mature tone. The story progresses through character moments that form the emotional heart of the story. Everyone is a stranger at the beginning, and getting to know each character introduces a palpable bond blossoming in a time of extreme hardship. When a character is gone the weight of their absence is felt, with whatever you spoke about last destined to remain unelaborated upon.
When a character is gone the weight of their absence is felt
The game’s tactical RPG combat is turn based with a great many options afforded by freedom of movement. Moving units into close proximity to an enemy forms the basis for success, with an assist system that allows for massive damage output. There is also a deferral system which lets you pass turns off to the most useful unit for an additional move.
Deeper than this, deferring also allows access to special abilities by sharing Materia. Each member of the team is in possession of Materia, a unique set of abilities. A skill tree for each allows new abilities to be unlocked and existing ones strengthened by Gift Exp. Sojiro acts as an all purpose healer and status spreader, while Toya is especially adept at fighting robotic enemies, as a couple of examples. Materia also survive a character’s death. Skill tree progress ceases, but they can be equipped and used by the remaining characters.
As can be expected, each character has stats that determine where they will be most useful. Health and Gift Points (GP, think MP) are standard, strength determines basic attack damage, vitality determines defence, and agility which controls the likelihood of avoiding damage. Various weapons and items are also available to improve what a character is best at or improve weaknesses.
Sanity is also in play during battle. Using a gift takes a toll on mental state, as does being damaged by enemies. When sanity hits zero, Berserk Mode is activated. Berserk characters become incredibly powerful, and can use Gifts infinitely at the cost of control over their actions. A couple of times I overstretched a character, only to have them turn on the rest of my team and begin obliterating allies. Sending a character into Berserk in a bind is still a viable strategy; just keep everyone else at a distance.
Each enemy type evolves throughout the game to reflect advances in difficulty, with humanoid units accompanied by mechanised ones,like drones or large bipedal tanks. While I had many close scrapes with defeat, there was rarely a situation where I failed a mission. Losing a unit requires an adjustment of tactics on the fly and I found that there was always something I could do to secure victory. Between assists, deferrals, Gifts for offense and support, there is no shortage of combat options. Combat is definitely offense-heavy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to grind out a victory by buying time through diversions in order to recuperate.
One minor annoyance in combat is the lack of a way to speed up or skip enemy turns. Certain enemy units are slow moving and watching enemy turns play out became tedious. Add to this the fact that without line of sight on enemies I would quite literally be staring at walls while the A.I. took their turn. Another smaller issue that hampers immersion is loading screens that appear when using certain Gifts. Given the technical limitations of Vita hardware this is understandable however, and I always got a kick out of Gift animations, which makes this a forgivable issue.
Graphically, maps and character models look fine. Nothing in the environment especially stands out, though the colour schemes employed differ drastically between struts. While the main lobby of the Pillar is a drab sandy coloured room, each of the five struts offer something different as The End changes scenery to keep the team off guard. A particular favourite of mine was a forest theme, with greenery creating a peaceful scene. Music in battle is a selection of rock tunes that kept me locked in at all times, focussed on the objective in full knowledge of the desperation of the situation at hand.
After completing the game’s story for the first time, New Game+ becomes available. Notable here is the removal of the scripted first judgement, a bounty of Gift Exp, and some new missions. There is also the challenge of unlocking an alternate ending after hitting a few conditions that lend themselves very well to completionists. While the original ending is satisfying, the prospect of something more substantial means that I will continue with the game to experience it.
Lost Dimension thoroughly impressed me throughout. While the story begins in a cliché manner, it quickly blossoms into a character driven tale of a band of outcasts tasked with saving the world. Learning each character’s back story is riveting, and the traitor system had me both hooked and heartbroken as allies disappeared. Combat is surprisingly deep, with ever more options to make use of with progression. This is a mature game, not in the sense of objectionable content, but in the achievement of a grim tone throughout where death means something profound.