Lost Dimension review: in sheep's clothing
|Box Art N/A|
|Release Date Jul 28, 2015|
Despite some self-sabotage, Lost Dimension totally infatuated me.
Released in Japan last year for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, Lost Dimension is the latest title from developer Lancarse and Persona publisher Atlus. It's a tactical role-playing game with a killer hook: As you progress through the game, you weed out traitors from your group of companions.
The premise is clever, but Lost Dimension doesn't execute on it flawlessly. It has hiccups, falling prey to repetition especially. Among its faults, however, is a genuinely interesting take on the genre.
Lost Dimension opens on the eve of the world's destruction, when a cartoonish villain by the name of The End threatens to destroy the planet. World leaders send an elite team of 11 "gifted" soldiers to take down The End for good. To do this, hero Sho and his companions have to fight their way through a mysterious tower filled with strange enemies while weeding out the traitors in their midst.
The tower itself is divided into several floors, with main and side missions to be completed in a selected squad of six. Battles are turn-based, but action-oriented; you take control of each character and can run around the map with them. As characters begin to trust and like each other, they'll provide support in the form of satisfying follow-up attacks. By positioning my team smartly and building these bonds, I learned to topple tough enemies with ease.
These battles are fun on a basic level, but it's the characters themselves that make them so satisfying. Everyone has a unique gift that makes their individually leveled talents valuable. There’s an assassin with the power of levitation, for example, and a teleportation-based fighter who becomes a puff of smoke when he moves. Lost Dimension made it easy to create vastly different yet complementary squads with the soldiers I had, even if there were a couple I never found terribly useful.
Lost Dimension takes bonding with characters one step further with some light social elements. After every battle, you can talk with members of your team. The first two you speak with will get a camaraderie bump, which impacts their trust levels and opens further conversation options. This social system is fun enough at first, but it gets stale quickly. Most of the talk is idle chitchat; actual character development is rare.
For as boring as I found it, the social system was not something I was meant to abandon or ignore. Maxing out bonds with every character on the team appears to be key in unlocking Lost Dimension's’ true ending. Or, so I think. When I cleared my first playthrough, I was treated to a short, obviously "bad" ending. Post-credits, I was given a vague hint about the "chains of fate" only breaking after I'd completed every bond.
the social system was not something I was meant to abandon or ignore
This idea in itself isn't a bad one, but being caught off guard by it felt like a cheap trick. Although I was told early to bond with my teammates, the game failed to express how important that socializing actually was. It’s not that I didn't try to master this mechanic, either. I simply gave up after it started to feel pointless — building the trust of my teammates didn't seem to affect the identity of the traitor. I watched my closest squadmates turn on me floor after floor, no matter how much time I’d spent winning over their support.
Traitors are randomized with each new game
Sniffing out traitors is one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, aspects of Lost Dimension. After every battle, Sho hears snippets of his companions' thoughts, allowing him to sense traitors in his midst. When you’ve got one in your group, he’s firm about it.
Traitors are randomized with each new game, so it's impossible to find them any other way than Sho's powers. In practice, this boils down to shuffling in and out different party members for each battle and employing a good deal of mental sleuthing. Once I'd narrowed my suspicions to a handful of people, I’d use a Vision Point to dig through a culprit's thoughts and either confirm my guess or clear a suspect. I love how much this made me sweat. Vision Points are a rare commodity, only achieved through certain battles, so I couldn’t afford to be foolish.
Although it was a relief to clear a character I loved of any wrongdoing, panic would set in when I realized I was one step away from failure. You must expel one traitor by group vote at the end of each floor, whether you've correctly figured out one of the culprits or not. Lost Dimension autosaves before every gathering too, so there’s no room for mistakes.
Identifying traitors is not enough to successfully eliminate them, however. After battle, teammates will often approach you for your opinion. Here you can influence them to vote for or against specific comrades, a mechanic you’ll need to use if you want to be successful. I learned this the hard way in the late stages of the game. After failing to influence enough of the vote, I was stuck in a deadlock. No matter how many times I ran through the vote, it remained a tie. Finally, I was forced to vote for the wrong person, essentially sentencing an innocent to death.
Lost Dimension isn’t afraid to punish you for your mistakes
Lost Dimension isn't afraid to punish you for your mistakes, which lends even more weight to these decisions. The traitors you let live eventually turn on you, leaving you to finally kill them in battle; if you screw up, you’re at a disadvantage with one less teammate. Even when I felt unfairly forced into this situation, I loved the sense of actual consequences to my choices. It's a testament to the likability of the game’s characters that, upon learning two of my favorites were traitors, I was heartbroken.
I like that Lost Dimension randomizes these outcomes, even when it's frustrating that you can’t influence characters to stay at your side by building their trust. The game is smart about balance, too. Every time you lose a character, their skills are kept alive through materia you can equip any party member with. When my healer or my favorite tank died, I was able to not only keep their talents, but actually enhance a character that would otherwise be a weak link.
Lost Dimension is flawed but fun
Even when its high concepts don’t fully pan out, Lost Dimension remains confident in its ideas. Building trust — and subsequently losing it, as traitors are revealed — never gets any less exciting, even amid the plodding social systems and battles that wear on just a little too long. Lost Dimension falls short of outstanding, but it’s still a standout title.
Lost Dimension was reviewed for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita using a download code provided by Atlus. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews
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