Atlus’ Lost Dimension (video game review) – Trust nobody

Anime (15)

What do you do when you’re told that a traitor is among your newly formed special powered military squad on a mission to save the world? Well that is pretty much the situation that the 11 member “S.E.A.L.E.D squad” finds themselves in right at the start of Atlus’s new turn-based strategy RPG, Lost Dimension. “S.E.A.L.E.D. Squad” is formed and sent after a mysterious terrorist called “The End” has begun bombing locations all over the world decimating the population; the squad’s goal is to enter this mysterious pillar and execute “The End” before he can commence another strike that will destroy the world. The character design and development for Lost Dimension draw inspiration from another game in the Atlus family Persona, and the story unfolds like that of a visual novel with a few actual cutscenes sprinkled in to communicate the weight of the more important plot moments, and the closest game I could compare the gameplay to would be Valkyria Chronicles.

LD Screens (2)

However after entering the pillar, every member realizes that they have developed amnesia surrounding key parts of their history including who is ally or friend, this confusion is immediately compounded when antagonist “The End” magically appears and tells the squad that they have a traitor in their midst. This plants the seeds of mistrust in the newly formed team and will cause new alliances within the team to be formed that will impact their performance in battle as well as their travel upwards through the tower. As the squad begins to develop any type of teamwork, you enter a room with no clear way of exiting. This room is explained to be the Judgement room and the only way to leave is for the team to vote on which member of their team will be erased (sacrificed). This is so that the rest can continue their ascent while battling against the war on attrition, which will take its own toll on each member as the story progresses. This dynamic creates an intriguing story that at times may be predictable, but thanks to excellent writing and voice acting, the story rarely disappoints and the voted sacrifices add a level of depth and will start to take a toll on you as you become attached to the various members of your team.

Anime (6)

That brings me to the characters. Each of the 11 members have been selected due to their unique gifts that have been bestowed upon them. These abilities will vary from the common superpower talents like Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis, and Rejuvenation to Teleportation, Flight and even the most important skill, Precognition.

After the first sacrifice, main character Sho Kasugai reveals that he has the precognition, and this is your biggest ally in revealing which of your allies are actually traitors. After every battle you will be able to listen to the inner most thoughts of your allies that fought alongside you, however it should be noted that you will have to determine the traitor from 3 possibilities on every floor. This is where one of the games biggest strengths lie. Every floor the traitor will bechosen at random and will also be different on each subsequent playthrough, so just because one character is an ally now doesn’t mean he or she won’t change allegiances on you when you least expect it.

Each character is fully voice acted during cutscenes and key conversations. Each have a unique personality to go along with them, such as the Super powerful Mana, who has decided to speak in an English accent because she believes it’s the cutest way to speak and treasures things being cute above all else. She, along with the other  quirky party members such as Agito, wants to befriend everyone instantly including the main antagonist, Sojiro, a doctor who follows his own creed above all else. You will realize that any one of these people could be the traitor.

Suspicions (1)

Throughout the game the characters will gain or lose points based on their actions in combat: kills, assists, healing and performing other meaningful actions will increase points. Dying or team killing will decrease the points obtained during the mission. These points will continually accumulate throughout the game and play an important role during the Judgement sections. Every character still alive will vote who they want to sacrifice, and while each character starts with 1 vote, the top 3 performers in combat will be granted a second vote so they can vote off whoever they feel is the traitor. After battle you will get a forecast of where the characters stand and who is in danger of being erased. Various characters will also ask you who you think the traitor is or give you their guess about who the traitor may be. These moments are crucial because depending on the social connection, since each of the characters will be determining how influential your answers will be.

Now to help you filter out the traitor, you also have the Deep Vision ability, which will allow you play a mini-game in order to dive even deeper into a character’s subconscious where they are unable to hide if they are a traitor or not. The trick here as these cost Vision Points, and you only gain a limited amount from various missions, so you have to use them wisely or risk going into the next Judgement blind and figuring out who is planning to betray the team which risks you losing a true ally.

Visions (6)

While I was never able to actually figure out who the traitor was during these mini-games, it did help me learn who was not a traitor and reduce my options about who I would choose to erase during the next Judgement. The game also prevents you from being able to cheat the system by only allowing a singular save slot and then auto saving after every important decisions you make. After every mission you are also able to forge a stronger bond by having private conversations with up to two characters. These unique conversations give you a chance to learn about the characters backstories and their own personal agendas/motivations. Once your bond has grown enough, you will unlock character specific missions. If you succeed it will maximize each character’s trust with you and share their deepest secrets and most influential moments from their story. I also believe you can cheat the single save slot system by quitting the game and making a copy of your save file before each major decision, but I chose to play the game and live with the results of my actions and decisions, and it led me to an experience that was both enjoyable and natural.

Nagi (6)

The character development system is simple and pretty straightforward. Each character has 3 skill trees that unlock abilities and upgrades that use their unique gifts in different ways, and you get rewarded for unlocking all talents in each tree with either another ability or stat bonus. Each skill will have multiple levels so that you can improve upon that specific skills power either by increasing the damage or range or possibly adding new effects and reducing the cost to use the skill in combat. The further branches of the tree will also be locked until you upgrade the prerequisite skills, but these are all clearly stated so that you can plan out how to use your skill points. Skill points are gained after every other level up and will take around 20-30 points depending on the character in order for them to at least learn every skill. There are also various special missions and story missions that will contribute gift EXP to the members that actually fought in battle. The skills with the most strength variety combine two characters powers and are locked until you acquired various Fate Materia from your teammates remnants after they become erased due to Judgements.

Mana (3)

Combat unfolds like many other turn-based strategy RPG; you take a turn moving all of your units into position and attacking, with the enemy doing so afterwards. The key to combat here is that allies for both sides will also join in on each attack if the target is within their range. Between the 11 characters you will have access to like a variety of spell casters, melee, and ranged units, each character comes equipped with a certain weapons for normal attacks during battle but sadly each character is limited to that specific class of weapon.

In order to survive the most difficult encounters, you will need to have learned both the skills and attack ranges of the various enemies you have encountered. Through this knowledge you will know when to group your units for team attacks or split them up so that you can avoid AoE attacks or divide and conquer. Skills will fall into normal RPG categories where single targets are often the strongest. AoE’s deal moderate damage with more tactical potential, and then there are global skills which generally buff your team or debuff the enemy team with low damage.

One of the tricky things to remember in close combat situations is that friendly fire is on for both allies and enemies, meaning that casting that AoE Thunderstorm spell on an enemy surrounded by your team may due more harm than good. This will help instill better team positioning skills. The last action that strikes a balance between necessity and exploit is the defer option, with defer you are able to move your unit and then forfeit their attack in order to pass his/her attack to a teammate who may be more viable in your current situation. Throughout battle you will have to manage 3 bars for your characters HP, GP, and SAN. GP stands for Gift Points and SAN is Sanity. These two are resources required for using most of the skills you acquire throughout the game. The trick is that Sanity will also deplete when attacked by enemies, and if a unit’s sanity is reduced to 0, then they will become berserk and attack the nearest target with massively increased power regardless of allegiance. (Genuinely it will continue for 1-3 turns.) Rankings are given after every mission and receiving the cherished “S” rank will also bestow bonus items upon your team. ranks are solely determined by THE number of turns, so the faster you finish battles the higher your ranking. Most missions generally last anywhere from 2-6 turns, which translates to about 10-25 minutes real time to complete.

LD Screens (6)

My 20 hours or so with Lost Dimension is another example of the great games that are made for the older generation of consoles after the new ones have released. It’s the mixing of a fun yet suspenseful narrative with variables that will change portions of the story each time you add a good level of replayability.

Along with the changing of which characters will be traitors, subsequent playthroughs also add extra missions to add more variety on the new playthrough and there is a way to change the initial story outcome by maximizing your trust levels with each of your team members. Sadly the only option for voice acting was limited to American voice actors, but they managed to channel real emotion into each of their characters extremely well. Although there are a few cliches in the roster of characters, they are developed in unique, ways which allow you to become engaged with each of them. The combat is fun and intelligent, and if planned out properly, you’ll be able to have all the pieces fall perfectly into place for you. Doing it carelessly can quickly turn the easiest of battles into one that is much harder than it needs to be. One of the hardest things for me while playing through was the pain of losing teammates that I wrongfully erased during Judgement sections. The raw emotions of anger, frustration, and helplessness they showed as they were erased made me mourn for their loss more than I realized I would. Truly my only disappointments with Lost Dimension lie with the camera angle. It would often be inside of debris or a wall during enemy turns, making it hard to see where they’re positioned, inability to skip or fast forward enemy turns as well, and the lack of choice for Japanese voice overs even though the game launched in Japan last year. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Lost Dimension and would highly recommend it to all fans of Strategy/RPGS and also to Persona fans who enjoy seeing the other work from some of its creators.

Agito (4)

Lost Dimensions will run you $39.99 and is now exclusively available for purchase physically and digitally for the PS3 and Vita.

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

Facebook Comments