I am going to really, really like Lost Dimension.
Due for release later this month, I've had some early hands-on time with the game, and although it's clearly a budget production for a console that is now unable to hide its age, this is alsoa game that clearly has a lot of merit in its favour. Despite being something of a commercial failure back in Japan, I am hoping against hope that it generates more attention out this way.
In its early stages it seems to be something of a cross between Danganronpa and a tactical RPG. There's a group of young soldiers that have infiltrated a massive tower, in a quest to stop an enigmatic evil-looking fellow called The End from launching a series of nuclear strikes around the world. On their quest to the top of the tower they move through "floors", or stages, where they need to take down a small group of enemies.
There's a large group of characters, and each of them have their own focus in battle. Some of them are melee specialists, while others fulfil the traditional sniper or healer roles. These characters each have their own skill trees, and while there's some cross over, what is most interesting about the system is that you can only take six of these characters into each battle. Picking a good group for each different mission, and developing characters so that they can fit in, regardless of which allies they have on the field, is promising to be a complex strategic layer over the rest of the action. I just hope that there is a greater impact to your character decisions in latter battles because for now there doesn't appear to be much incentive to experiment beyond a favourite team of six.
After a couple of stages like this turn based action, the team is pulled into a "judgement room" which behaves very much like the courtroom scenes in Danganronpa. Here players need to figure out which character in the group is a secret traitor. When a traitor is discovered, they are "removed" immediately, and we're led to assume they've been killed. Then the team returns to their quest, with one fewer in the team, but the promise from The End that there is another traitor that's planning to betray them...
So far I've done only the first judgement room, in which the traitor is pre-determined by the narrative, but I'm told that from this point, the traitor is actually randomised. How that works into the fairly tightly controlled narrative I'm not sure, but I'm intrigued to see how things play out for here. One a character has been uncovered as a traitor and killed, he or she leaves behind a weird cube-thing that can be passed on to any other character, who will then acquire that character's skills too, so mechanically there's no punishment for losing a favourite character.
Combat is fairly slow and methodical, but at this early stage it does look like it's complex enough to be worth digging into. Enemies do tend to be difficult, but good tactics makes it relatively easy to take them down, because if a character attacks an enemy while other characters are in range, they will perform assist attacks. The goal seems to be to have groups of characters "gang up" on tough opponents. There's also some reward for good spatial positioning, with plenty of enemies in the first couple of stages taking sharp damage when attacked from behind.
It's not a great looking game, it must be said, with some very unattractive character designs and primitive, limited battle environments. But what makes or breaks this game will be its narrative, and it is too early to say much more about that one than it's very intriguing. There are very clear indications that the narrative will address a number of different themes, including the likes of nihilism and game theory, and while I won't know how well it addresses those until I've played the game through, I have faith that it'll do a good job. The opening chapter of the game is well-written and snappy, and I am loving that the PlayStation 3 is still having new games released on to it as the lead platform.
Lost Dimension will also launch on the PlayStation Vita, and will be available later this month.
- Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld