Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Lost Dimension (PS3)

Lost Dimension - Playstation 3 Game Review

Keep Your Friends Close, Enemies Closer To Save The World

Lost Dimension starts off with the stakes as high as they seem they can get: a cartoonishly evil villain who calls himself The End has created a tower called "The Pillar". He launches a scattered nuclear strike and the death toll is 2 billion. The End announces to that he has more nukes pointed at the rest of the world's major cities and he'll launch them in just 13 hours unless someone can scale the tower and stop him. Conventional military weapons are useless, so the world's last hope is SEALED: an 11-member team with psychic powers.

There's a twist, though: 5 of your team members are secretly traitors. Before you can proceed to each level, your group is required vote to "erase" the traitor before you can continue. If you choose wrong, not only do you erase an innocent person, but you will have to fight the traitor AND the final boss.

Sho Kasugai  uses his powers to try and weed out suspects.
The team leader, Sho Kasugai, has the power to use psychic visions to read the vibes of those he leads in battle. This means that after each battle you can get vague impressions of the chosen squad members-- with three suspects per floor. You can use Sho's "Deep Vision" ability to delve further into a squad member's mind to find out if they are innocent or not. But the "Vision Points" that grant you this ability are a precious resource, only given out after 3 of the many battles on each floor. You can only use that Deep Vision on a squad member you've taken into battle recently.

The game manage to take the issues of suspicion, teamwork and trust and weave it into the core gameplay. The higher your teammates' trust levels are with you and with each other, the more likely they are to join in assist attacks-- free additional combination attacks on a target enemy in range. How do you build up trust? By taking them into battle with you. The more battles a character fights in, the weightier the vote is during the time to choose a traitor for erasure. Talk with teammates after battle and you increase camaraderie, which can lead to to the highest level of trust and a character exclusive subquest that offers more character insight and extra points to level up your skill tree.

The combat superficially resembles Valkyrie Profile-- combat is turn based, with circles measuring out your movement, your attack range and the enemy's range. In addition to ranged weapons and melee weapon attacks, each character has a unique set of psychic powers, both active and passive, that let you do everything from copy an ability to ignoring terrain height to turning enemies against each other. And when a traitor is erased, they leave behind "Materia"-- special items that let you assign your fallen comrades' abilities to others; this is also the only way to unlock special skills for each character. With so much flexibility in the battle system, abilities and combo setups, the combat is rock solid and fun to play, with all sorts of stackable strategies available to develop.

The story does start off like a typical "band together to save the world" quest, and the addition of a secret traitor in each section adds an extra level of tension to clearing each floor. Each character is broadly characterized, but display distinct personalities and issues that link the social aspects with the powers used in combat. Not only does this strengthen the character development in the story, it gives you a real punch in the gut if a character you like turns out to be a traitor. And the traitor is going to be different from floor to floor and from playthrough to playthrough. I don't just mean your playthrough would be different than mine. After you beat the game, you get a sort of "bad ending" and are then told that you must reach complete camaraderie with EVERY character to get the true ending, something impossible to do on one playthrough.

Whether this extends replay value or just artificially wastes your time depends on which side of the coin you fall on. I actually had to play through 3 times to max out all my friendships because one of the first-floor traitors in the second playthrough was one of the characters I hadn't gotten to max out friendship the first time around and you can't do character subquests until the 3rd floor. Lost Dimension really, REALLY makes you earn that happy ending! On subsequent playthroughs the dead-simple deep vision minigame gets a little repetitive. Some variety would have been nice. While the characters are strongly developed, the world building is pretty thin, leaving a lot of details to be filled in by reading game lore in standalone documents (confusingly categorized under "Tips"), which can leave you confused on character motivations for betrayal unless you track down some optional documents on the 2nd playthrough. Another issue I have to warn you about is that there was one battle on my first playthough (the "Alarm" battle) and one battle on my second playthrough (the first battle intro on the second floor) that consistently crashes or hangs, locking the console up too. Save often.

If you download this game from the PSN Store this week (either the Vita or PS3 version) you can also download $20 worth of free DLC for the game, from alternate costumes to mission packs. And while there are a few bumps in the climb upwards to save the world, the satisfying combat, intrigue and social dynamics system make Lost Dimension a worthwhile journey.

This review is based on the Playstation 3 version. The review was compensated with a download code for this game provided by Atlus.

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