In the near future, the world is in ruin with just days left before total destruction at the hands of a suitably over the top villain who calls himself “The End.” An elite secret service group is put together to stop him, but only a handful survive the initial assault and make it into his tower. They all have special powers, but The End has a nasty surprise in store: there are traitors among them.
At its core Lost Dimensions is a action/strategy rpg, and an extremely good one. There is a central hub where the characters plan between levels. Here you manage/buy equipment, get to know the other characters, learn new skills, etc. The nested menus are a little overwhelming, but nothing crazy and it doesn’t take too long to get used to them. Most importantly they’re functional and fairly clear despite being numerous. The skill system is pretty robust and does a nice job of keeping characters varied while making them all relatively useful. The first couple of characters you talk to during each interlude receive a camaraderie boost, leading to improved influence over them and personal discussions that flesh out their backstories. The hub also has a key role that opens a bit into the game – gathering intel to identify traitors. I’ll discuss this in detail later.
The gameplay isn’t quite the dungeon crawler (well, tower climber in this case) that I might have expected, but absolutely no complaints. And it does have a bit of that feel during individual levels. The levels are self-contained mini-mazes with enemies that generally need to be wiped out. You generally field six characters, and can move them in any order each turn. Each moves freely within a circular indicated range, and then can attack, use skills/items, or even forfeit their turn to allow an ally to move again. There are other nice nuances, and the battles proceed quickly and are quite fun. I don’t think I’ve seen an action oriented implementation of squad combat like this that’s deep yet keeps things brisk. I enjoyed it immensely.
The story is fine. Nothing terribly deep and a bit cliched, but it moves things along and there’s a nice mystery that builds about the villain’s connection to our protagonist, Sho. The game’s key innovation also hamstrings proper story development a little. Let me explain – at the end of each layer of the tower The End makes you sacrifice a suspected traitor from among your group. This is done via in game vote, and there are numerous things you can do during a layer to get your teammates to target someone specific.
The cool thing is other than the first one on your first playthrough, the identity of each traitor is COMPLETELY RANDOM. There’s no way of knowing in advance whether it’s going to be your least favorite ally or the character you use for point on every mission. This can obviously have a huge effect on gameplay, depending on your choices. To help ferret out the traitor the player uses Sho’s special ability of clairvoyance to identify how many traitors are in a given combat group and then has to puzzle out who’s a prime suspect for further investigation (via a minigame with limited trials). I ADORE logical puzzles, and this is one of the most innovative and well integrated game mechanics I’ve seen in ages.
Of course there are always trade offs. Since the traitors can be anyone and they are preemptively killed, the reasons for them plotting to turn on you aren’t fully explained. This is the detriment to story I mentioned above. I felt the background details you could find out about each teammate by becoming friends made up for this, but it is a little frustrating to see your favorite character turn on you without more than vague hints as to why. Still I felt this was a fantastic element to build the game around, and overall was implemented very well. Erased allies also leave ability enhancing devices, making sure their key powers don’t disappear with them. You aren’t even forced to eliminate the traitors if you don’t want to, although that will have repercussions later in the game…
There is significant info dump at the end, a consequence of keeping the story mysterious. It makes sense though, and is a fitting reveal / endcap for the journey. The true end requires more than one playthrough, and there were a couple of obvious questions left ope n for that. But if I stopped after once through the game it would still be satisfying enough an end.
Lost Dimension won’t be for everyone, but overall I loved it. At a point where it’s hard to come up with time to sit down and play rpgs, I can see myself revisiting this to get to know other allies, see how things turn out with different traitors, etc. It tried something quite different and despite not being perfect, the gamble paid off.