Hundreds of thousands of people have just been wiped out by a madman sat atop a tower. He gives the world a chance to stop him and they send in you, with 10 other psychically gifted soldiers, who you've never met, and who will betray you. To progress up the tower you have to execute your teammates, influencing the vote so that they vote off the traitor. Worse still the madman seems to know you, and boy does he hate you.
As setups go, Lost Dimension's isn't bad.
Gameplay isn't entirely dissimilar to something like Valkyria Chronicles or Codename STEAM. You take a squad in to battle and each of them get a turn during your phase. Everyone has a movement range, and when they take their action a certain chance of success. It's more free flowing than a grid based system, even if it ultimately amounts to the same thing. Attack an enemy with teammates within range and they'll chip in with assists, take care with placement and this can be devastating. Enemies are weak from the back, as are you, and they have an attack range, if you can attack them from outside their reach, while your chance of success will be lower, it will also mean they can't counter you. There's some real depth to Lost Dimension's combat.
The problem Lost Dimension has is that it doesn't really use the potential depth, or at least not often enough, and this is almost entirely because the fights are too short to make the most of it. Alongside each characterís health meter is a GP meter, points spent each time you want to perform a special attack or buff, magic points essentially. During my playthrough I never once ran out of them, I only came close with one character once. More important is the ĎSanityí meter. Each time a character takes damage or uses one of their gifts it takes a toll on their sanity. If they they come under too much stress theyíll go berserk, attacking wildly and powerfully, and then become dazed. When you, or an enemy are dazed youíre defenceless, and wide open to critical attacks. Truth is though, if youíve taken so much damage you tap out your sanity, youíre probably already dead, itís just not something youíll encounter often. And, while some moves and setups can use huge chunks of sanity, chances are the fight will be over before it becomes a real issue.
As an example of whatís possible; thereís a character whose skill is that he can link with other characters. I gave him a healing skill, which opened up a new move for him, and began pairing that with his higher level ability to link with everyone for one turn. Iíd link with everyone, use ĎDeferí (you pass one characterís turn to another so they can go again), then heal everyone who was linked with me. It used a good chunk of my sanity, but it was an effective, if long winded way to heal everyone, and brought in other skills that meant everyone became stronger for that turn, and deferring had a much reduced cost.
Working out who the traitor is may not seem hugely important at first, but getting it right will only benefit you later on. After every fight youíll see the thoughts of your teammates, annoyingly the text on the screen doesnít necessarily match up to the profile picture paired with it. Instead youíll find that there can only be a maximum of 3 suspects per floor, you need to repeat fights until you work out which 3 it is, and then spend a point on a Ďdeep diveí which will reveal if that person is the traitor or not. These are limited though so itís important to do the leg work before hand
A nice touch, but a bit of a double edge-sword from my experience, is that who will be the traitor is random. A second play through will lead to you executing different characters to your first. Itís a good idea, it means you have to play the game rather than rely on a guide. The problem is that it can mean you lose characters way before you ideally should. When a character dies their skills can be equipped to someone else, however, if, as in the case of my healing character, they arenít around to learn or improve skills needed for the end of the game, then tough, youíre done. I also wonder what would have happened if Iíd lost Zenji, my reserve healer, early, Iím not sure how I would have managed to heal anyone sufficiently other than wasting expensive items.
Ultimately Lost Dimensionís biggest problems lie in its narrative. While the setup might be intriguing, itís only when you get the secret ending (at least 2 playthroughs) that youíll have any of it explained. Why are people betraying you, why does The End hate you, itís hinted at right at the end of the game, but by that point youíve spent tens of hours being left with no explanation. Itís also never explained why a character who wasnít a traitor on any floor previously suddenly decides to betray you. Even the characterís explanations are merely an apology and a shrug. While Iím reticent to draw comparisons with other games, itís hard not to think back to Danganronpa and what a good job that did finding motivations with each chapter.
Donít let that put you off though. The combat may be a little underdeveloped, the narrative a little throwaway, but itís still a very good game. In fact Lost Dimension is comfortably one of the better games Iíve played this year, if it was a little more developed it would be a classic, as it is, I still have no qualms recommending it to rpg fans