Mysteries have always had a big place of intrigue for me. I love piecing together clues, solving puzzling scenarios, tracking down a prime suspect in both film and game. I've always tried reading between the lines in games that have a story to solve, the .Hack// series had me connecting the dots through its various media that was available. The folks at Atlus had me racking my brain to figure out 'whodunit' in Persona 4, of which I have extremely fond memories. It is only fitting that Atlus once again brings me yet another mystery to solve in the Strategy RPG of Lost Dimension.
The world is on the brink of annihilation by a being known only as The End. Countries from across the globe assemble a crew of eleven Psychic wielding warriors known as SEALED. Each one features their own unique ability supporting you throughout the game. One character has the ability to heal teammates, another has the ability to weaken enemies, and another can read the thoughts of inanimate objects (strong against machines). Each stage will present you with enemies small and large, requiring different tactics to beat. The End challenges these eleven heroes to face him at the top of his tower; he also leaves the knowledge that there is a traitor among you! In order to proceed to the next section of the tower the team of eleven must vote to who they think the traitor is and live with the consequence of either guessing right, or getting it wrong and having to continue with the traitor.
The story sets up for a great Danganronpa setup style of 'Whodunit' but without the risk of getting it wrong and being unable to proceed. The End gives a couple more rules; the heroes can't kill each other before the voting otherwise the next section of the tower won't open. It also turns out that each section will feature some sort of traitor in your group. It's also not very clear as to how he intends to destroy the world; The End essentially drops his castle onto a city and challenges the world with this empty threat. The world then believes him and sends in this special task force as all other attempts at stopping him have failed. The traitor is randomly selected on each play through, so you won't know who it is until you play through that particular section.
Lost Dimension plays like your standard SRPG. You'll have various characters to control on your turn, equipment, and magic abilities. However, the Defer system creates a new dynamic. Defering allows your character to give their turn to another character that has already had their turn. If you want a character to move greater distances, or use an attack again you'd defer to get that opportunity. Also overwhelming your enemies with assists is a great technique to use too. If other characters are within attack range of an enemy that is being attacked by another character, the characters on standby will also pitch in a few hits of damage. While this is a great tool to use, it can also get you into a great deal of trouble as your enemies can do the same! Lastly you need to pay attention to the Sanity bar. On enemies this creates an opportunity for you to deal massive damage if you deplete this before the health gauge is gone. Depleting the Sanity of your characters sends them into the berserk mode. When an ally goes into berserker state you lose control of them, and they attack friend and foe alike. But the attacks they dish out are much more devastating!
The 'Whodunit' portion of Lost Dimension has various parts to help you narrow down the traitor. You'll need to build trust amongst your comrades which in turn helps out in battle, and consequently keeps you from being voted as the traitor. To do so you'll talk with the members of your team in the hub area between missions. You'll also build trust during missions via assist attacks, and even supporting characters by healing or buffing their abilities. If characters don't have trust in another they're more likely to vote for whom they don't trust. This gives you an incentive to frequently play with various characters to save others from suspicion. The more battles characters participate in, the more votes they get as well. After each mission some characters might come up and actually ask you who you think the traitor is. It's an opportunity to see if you can sway how the vote will be cast, if the person speaking to you has great trust in you they're more likely to vote the person that you believe is the traitor. When the traitor is selected in the voting process their stats are left behind in as an item you can equip. The person who equips it will gain the abilities as they were last set from the traitor. This is the game's 'Materia' system, so the character that is lost isn't necessarily lost.
The main character has a few tools to help you sniff out the traitor. Sho uses his vision ability to see the trust levels of the team, and how the vote will end if you were to go to the judgment hall at that moment. After each mission is completed Sho will see the inner thoughts of the team members that were brought along on the mission. Doing this is the main way that you'll narrow down the traitor. The thoughts will appear alongside the character rapidly, and you'll have to keep an eye out for the red quotes. You'll use the vision history in the game to mark who you suspect to be the traitor and who is safe from judgment. However, it isn't so simple to pick out the traitor as Sho will have to use Deep Vision by spending vision points to confirm who the traitor really is before the judgment vote. You'll get 3 points per floor, and you'll have to use them wisely. Failure to find the real traitor will have you going into the judgment blindly hoping to guess correctly, but you won't know where to sway the votes.
Lost Dimension is a fairly simple game when it comes right down to it. There isn't anything all that complicated about how it works, but it certainly becomes a bit tedious after a while. You'll grind through mission after mission with the end goal not changing all that much. The dynamic that you absolutely will need to use different characters in each mission is a brilliant idea. It forces you to make all your characters useful. The constant worry of possibly losing one of your good/necessary team members helps you to ensure that you find the right traitor. But it's odd knowing that each floor will present a traitor, it almost makes the judgment process pointless. We know that there is a traitor, but not just one but several, and it isn't a secret group or organization with a grand plan but people that up and decided inside the event to betray everyone, despite knowing that they would be suspected as a traitor. We can't kill each other on the way up because we need everyone to vote to decide who to kill off. It's nice to be able to talk to each team member, but it never helps to reveal who the traitor is. It does help you invest in each character, but they're the usual Anime archetypes that we've all seen repeatedly. Playing both on the Vita and PS3 the game is rather choppy in some aspects. There will sometimes be a load screen between switching character's turns and abilities. Otherwise the game looks fine on Vita, but odd that it has practically the same fidelity on PS3. Music is extremely redundant and overused just as much as the one line dialogs of "yea" "uh-huh" "hmmm..." and attack quotes.
Lost Dimension is a simple grindy SRPG from Atlus. The attempt to create a 'whodunit' mystery is fine, but the story restricts any sort of suspense or reasoning behind the traitors. The SRPG elements are really simple with a lack of uniqueness to its mechanics. I do appreciate the idea of being forced to use each character to narrow down the traitor and sway the vote how you want. I found the game was best on the Vita despite the choppy play. The first two weeks of release offers free DLC which includes an 'Episode 0' story arc which helps to piece together why the events within started and some connections with characters. Otherwise the story is pretty bland at best with a super cliché Anime tropes style. For something quick and easy to play with a twist Lost Dimension is certainly one of the easier SRPGs to get into. The investment of time is much less than that of say Fire Emblem or Disgaea. The randomly selected traitor creates for great replayability, but the same grind will appear for you to discover who it is on each floor.
Lost Dimension is a distraction at best, but doesn't have enough to hold you like other SRPGs.
Score: 5.5/10 (Review is based on both Vita and PS3 versions of the game provided by Atlus)