If you're unsure of yourself, can you be certain about someone else? That's one of the questions at the heart of Lost Dimension. When placed in a situation where the fate of the world is at hand, can you keep a group of strangers focused on a singular task? The answer is yes, but it's going to take a lot of grinding to complete that task.
The United Nations have come together to assemble a group of people who all have supernatural powers. These members of SEALED are capable of using unique abilities like telepathy, telekinesis, and forms of energy manipulation to defeat opponents. They've been sent on a Pillar created by The End. Their goal? Ascend this tower and defeat the terrorist within 13 days, before he finds a way to destroy the world.
Except after entering the Pillar, everyone has their memories wiped. They vaguely remember who they are, but allegiances are gone. Which is a predicament, since not everyone has the same goal. While some want to truly stop The End, many have different motivations and could sabotage the entire attempt. As the team passes stratums, memories return and traitors emerge. Fortunately our hero, Sho, has the gift of telepathy. After every battle, he can read the thoughts floating on the surface of his most recent allies' minds. If a traitor is there, he or she will be thinking about an impending betrayal, allowing Sho and the player an opportunity to rout them out.
The traitor system is the most intriguing part of Lost Dimension. Like Atlus' Persona series, FuRyu's title has its own sorts of social links. As you battle along the 10 other members of SEALED, you'll get opportunities to talk in the hub area. The virtual relationships formed aren't as intricate as ones found in Shin Megami Tensei or even Harvest Moon games, since people's memories aren't intact. Such talks are brief and superficial. Instead, I began to care about the characters as I used them in battle, and I suspect others will too. Their usefulness in the field, due to their movement options or special attacks, made them matter, not their personalities.
It was heartwrenching when someone I really enjoyed having with me, was in the party when I received a fateful message after battle, saying someone in the group was a traitor. You can't keep multiple save files in Lost Dimension. The second a game starts, the traitorsare randomized. The first one is always going to be a particular character, but it could be anyone after that. You can't get used to particular strategies, because the next stratum could take away one of your key players.
Fortunately, Lost Dimension encourages you to rotate your allies. Discovering a traitor requires replaying battles to see which three people on that floor are having questionable thoughts and solo out the real enemy. Using Vision Points allows you to run through that person's mind in a brief "minigame" to confirm your suspicions when you think you've found the "right" one. If that person is the traitor, then, you have to isolate that person, fighting battles without the character so the other members of the team will distrust him or her, and vote to have that person erased when the time comes to ascend to the next area.
It's difficult to say whether this alleviates tedium that comes from grinding in Lost Dimension. It's a turn-based, strategic RPG, where players can arrange a team of six on the field. General attacks and special skills are used to damage foes. Clustering together ishelpful, as it not only allows characters to back one another up with follow-up attacks within range, but build trust between them. Deferring turns, that is transferring one character's chance to attack to someone else, can prove beneficial to bonding as well.
Keeping track of relationships isn't the only important factor. Keeping track of their mental health is too. Using abilities can take a toll on the mind. Overtask someone by placing them in strenuous situations and they'll go berserk, restoring them, but also taking control from the player.
It's an entertaining battle system, but the fact that you have to keep going through it to find which people are against you makes even the most entertaining affair a chore. You go through the motions, all for the sake of narrowing the field. It does get less difficult after the second stratum, since there are three dissenting voices. Two carry over from the previous area, meaning you'll have some idea of who could turn against you.
The funny thing is, sometimes you'll wish a character was the traitor. Characters have skill trees and gradually earn points to unlockextra active and passive abilities. Some of these are only unlocked after equipping a cube that is created when an ally is erased. You could see a fantastic skill, but only be able to get it if the person who would provide it is eliminated at the Judgement. You could simply offer the person who would turn into the Materia as a sacrifice and make the other character who would use their essence more valuable, but then you may be playing into The End's hands.
It's funny, because Lost Dimension is full of thought-provoking moments like these. It's as though the game wants you to question how deep bonds are between people and what really matters. Whether some motivations are justified or not. But I came away feeling like it was too superficial to really leave me questioning things. Like it was a nice concept, but the follow-through wasn't enough to really make me critically consider things.
Instead, I started wondering if some elements of the traitor system were implemented to pad the game. Lost Dimension wants you to replay it. You have to, maxing out friendships with everyone, if you want the best ending. The first time through only took me about nine hours. The second time went far faster. This was with "grinding" to make sure I picked out the exact traitor each round the firstplaythrough. Had I not felt obligated to exercise caution the first time around, I would have completed it in half the time.
Regardless, I enjoyed my time with Lost Dimension. The first playthrough robbed me of my two favorite characters by the time I reached the fourth stratum, but it was okay because I genuinely enjoyed myself. It felt like a "light" strategy game, but one that still challenged me. A little more depth would have been appreciated, especially since I only cared about people based on their usefulness to me, rather than their responses during conversations in the hub. I mean, the game depends on these connections to encourage someone to return for a true ending. But the serviceable gameplay was reason enough to return twice so I could see the "real" end.