Monday, July 27, 2015

Lost Dimension (PS3/ PS Vita) Review

Lost Dimension, which I first talked about several months ago when Atlus revealed they would bring it to the US, has finally arrived and I was happy to check it out.  Its claim to fame is the traitor mechanic.  Each floor has a traitor, and you must sniff them out and have them erased to be able to proceed to the next floor.  The catch?  The traitor is randomly determined each time.

Well, not exactly each time.  The first time through a new game, the traitor is always the same.  After that, everyone is free game.  If you do a new game+, the first traitor is then randomized, always leading to new experiences each run and even different experiences for all players.

Each character has a powerful psychic ability, and the main character's is precognition.  Using his Vision, he tries to figure out who the traitor is.  After each battle, you will hear the voices of the participants, with traitor voices in red.  There are three possible traitors each time, so you have to do several battles to help narrow it down.  The game keeps track of the last 10 battles each floor to help you figure it out, and you can mark the characters with a blue, yellow or red highlight if you think they are safe, suspicious, or a traitor.

When you have narrowed it down, it is a good idea to spend a Vision Point to delve into one of their psyches and confirm whether or not they are a traitor.  You can of course do it at any time, but you only earn 3 Vision Points per tower level.  They do carry through the game, so if you only spend two on one level, you can have four the next one.  The mini-game to run through their psyche isn't too bad.  You just turn to see where the text is coming from and run toward it a few times.  The only downside is when you confirm the traitor is one of the characters you like using.

Once you figure out who the traitor is, you then have to shift your teammates' votes onto that person.  Or, if you want, any person you choose.  After each battle, you will likely be approached by a teammate and asked who you think the traitor is, or they will mention who they suspect.  Your answers will help determine who they will vote for.  Until you have a better idea who the suspect is, choose "I don't know".  It makes it much easier to change their opinion if you don't have to undo your previous work first.  I learned this the hard way.  At the end of each chapter, you enter a judgment room and cast your votes, and the rest of the team casts theirs as well.  Then, one person is eliminated and you move on to the next level.

Lost Dimension's battles are like a gridless SRPG.  Therefore, you have a movement radius that you can move around in, which will shrink as you approach the edges.  Two of your teammates even have special movement abilities, hovering and teleporting, which lead to some interesting strategies in battles.  Characters have certain weapon types, like pistols or knives, that determine their attack range.  You can also learn many skills that have different ranges for more flexibility.  To be the most effective in combat, learning where to place your characters is key.  Utilize those assist attacks!

Every other level a character gets a gift point that is used to purchase a skill or skill upgrade.  They each have a different skill tree that encompasses three different skill sets.  Purchasing all of one group (defined by colored box) will even grant another special skill, some of which are amazing.  The healer, for example, gets one that grants his normal attack a chance to apply any status ailment.  Some of them will benefit all the characters in battle, so I consider it worth it to get them.

When a character gets erased, they leave behind a materia for each skill group (up to the three) that you had purchased at least one skill in.  Equipping it to a character grants them all of the purchased skills, and may even unlock a special combo skill in their own tree.  I really like that once a character is erased, you can still use their skills.  I was paranoid my first run through that the healer would be a traitor, and I would have to rely on items to heal, but it was all for naught, since I could easily make a replacement healer.

The only real downside to the skill tree screen is how little of it you can see at a time on the Vita's screen.  Since so much space is needed for the header and other stuff, you don't have much room left over to see the tree.  I resorted to repeatedly turning off the info window to get a better view, and turning it back on to see the skill's effect.  This is slightly better on the PS3 version, since you have a bigger screen, but it is still cramped.

Now, as much as I like the game, it definitely is not perfect.  My biggest complaint is the saving.  When you start a new game, you pick a slot, and that is where it will save to.  So, no multiple save files.  Yuck.  While this makes the traitor mechanic more impactful, it makes me uneasy, since I love to save a lot and have back-up saves.  The game will also auto save after each battle and when you enter the judgment, so be careful!  The after battle save is annoying since the camaraderie missions are not repeatable, leaving you a small window to reset the game if you don't get the highest rank and you want it.  Other than that, my other detraction is the random loading.  The game would load at random times during the attack/assist/counter phases.  Not a deal breaker, but just strange looking to attack, then load, then the assists and then counters.  This didn't seem to be much of an issue on the PS3 version.

Each level of the tower has three main (story) missions and three sub missions, not counting the special missions for your teammates and such.  It doesn't seem like much, but you will be doing some of the levels over a few times.  It is mostly to help determine the traitor, and then sway the votes how you want them, but it does help to get the extra experience and money.  So, there is some grinding, but at least it's not directly for experience.  All of your characters will get experience, but those not in the battle will get a little less.  This is good so you aren't wasting time training up people to use if you need a replacement, or to help narrow down who is betraying you.  It took me maybe 25 hours in my first run through the game to beat it.  I don't know for sure, since I see no game clock to tell me how long I played.

Since most of the traitors are randomly determined, there is replayability to the game.  There is a new game+, which is always welcome in my book.  You only really carry over the camaraderie of your teammates, which is needed for the best ending, and you get a handful of bonus skill points when starting out.  The game isn't really difficult, even if some battles can be harder than others.  Most of the challenge is from trying to get the highest rank on each of the fights.  The trophies aren't too hard either, but will require three playthroughs to get them all.  Well, you can do it in two if you are really lucky and the people who still need camaraderie aren't traitors the second time.

As you can probably tell, I really like Lost Dimension.  It is a strategy RPG, which I enjoy, has a really unique and fun traitor mechanic that has you play amateur detective to figure out who is betraying your team, and a nice skill and materia system that is fun to play around with.  It was easy to keep playing the game, and I felt like I was making progress every time I played.  After finishing the game once, I immediately started a new game plus, and played a bit more.  I forced myself to stop so I could actually write up the review.  Lost Dimension is a fun game that I recommend to RPG and SRPG fans.  Which version is likely determined by what system you have, but the Vita version seems to load slightly more often, and the PS3 version doesn't look quite as good.

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