Trust. It’s what binds heroes together during times of strife. For those moments when the task at hand is just too great for any one person to accomplish. For when the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the chosen few. But what happens when the hand of these chosen few is forced? When trust has no time to even factor into the equation? They save the world anyway, because there is no alternative. They save it, with uncertainty…and a terrible cost to pay.
A terrible threat, a single being who possesses the frightening power to bring the world to its knees. But, what ho, hidden under layers of red tape and top secrets, a band of soldiers who possess the grit and fortitude to fight this threat…and a bevy of psychic powers to boot. SEALED is their designation, and bringing down megalomaniacal malcontents is their game…apparently. I mean I think it is, they think it is…they have amnesia…kinda. Yet another devious mystery held by The End, the self proclaimed nom de guerre of this apocalyptic antagonist. Now, in addition to serving as an all around annoyance to the eleven psychics who have found their way into The End’s tower/fortress base/home, said bout of missingmemory-itis allows them to succumb to the villains simple taunt; the is a traitor afoot. One who stands ready to don that most flip floppery of garments, that’s right; a turncoat. How will they strike? When? Why? All of the W questions. Enter the gameplay.
Deduction beeth the name of said game (well, technically the game is called Lost Dimension but, like a Fast and Furious driver, you catch my drift). As you progress through this adventure, with your ever doubting cast of characters, you must utilise psychic powers an good ol’ detective work to weed out the traitor who walks with you. More specifically, finishing a battle will allow protagonist Sho to hear the inner voices of his teammates. It is via this skill, suspicious thoughts are detected, hinting at the traitor. Utilising this, you must mix an match your active roster until you determine the three suspects amidst you (with three being the cap of suspicious people, a much easier number to crunch than eleven). Now, the next step is to confirm your doubts by diving into some minds…psychically. The caviat to this definitive test however is that you are restricted in its use, boun by a point system that remains dangerously low throughout the game. Sure you can use all three Deep Dive (the name of the skill) Points on you top suspects, know for sure, but what about the next area? Thougr there was only one traitor? That you only needed to do this once? Sorry. Additionally, it gets progressively more difficult as you go on. Think about it, what happens if/when you have just enough survivors to make an active roster? How will you find the three suspects when they’re always on your team? That’s the moment you wish you’d saved your Deep Dive Points. If it ever occurs that is, I may be deceiving you right now…i could be a traitor myself *dun dun duh* Anyway, for those of you who think you can utilise the patented strategy of save scumming, think again. The second you use a point, the game auto-saves. It’s a very clever feature…annoying for the less decisive of us, but clever.
I will say however that there was one definitively annoying moment for me, when an unexpected choice revealed to me just how careful you have to be in your setup. Considering the random nature of the traitor generator, it spoils no-one to know that the unfortunate person in my example was Zenji. Seriously, no matter what I did, he was always the prime suspect for everyone, until I swooped in and saved him. Nevertheless, despite his suspicion being on par with at least five other characters, and thus safe from the (SPOILER ALERT) unexpected second Judgement, and despite me knowing exactly who the second traitor was, and voting thusly twice, poor Zenji still copped the erasure laser. Which sucked. If not only for losing a character who needn’t be lost, it also forces a second playthrough for any Trophy Hunters out there who want All-Seeing Eye (Clear the game by erasing only traitors) as well as preventing you from seeing the True Ending. Really Lost Dimension? I get that far only to get locked out by a surprise I couldn’t see coming. Sure you want to showcase how no two playthroughs are the same, but don’t force it on me? Admittedly the True Ending also requires full Camaraderie and thus a second playthrough anyway, I hadn’t maxed out that particular aspect with Zenji yet. It just left a sour taste in my mouth.
SIDEBAR: Ok, full disclosure, I wrote that last paragraph the minute that the aforementioned event occurred and, I will admit, I was super nettled. This tangental paragraph however, was written after the fact, with me having had a little time to take stock and relax a lil’ bit (which is why I’m coming to you live via italics, the font inspired by that tower in Pisa). Arguably what occurred was the nature of this very game, something that apparently lies in conflict against that nagging completionist voice in my brain that tells me to unlock any Trophies that are within my conceivable reach. That one’s on me people. Additionally, given the random nature of the game and its contradictory inclusion of at least one predetermined outcome, this may have been a part of the story. I just don’t know. Regardless, the whole mis-Judgement shenanigan was far from a game maddening occurrence. Nevertheless, I still believe my initial reaction to be a relevant one and decided to keep it in the review along with this one. I still feel bad for the Zenj-man though, the amount of work I had to go through to keep him alive that long was astounding…literally everyone hated him. Psychic powers be damned, life can be mean sometimes, whether it’s being distrusted more than anyone else in a group of untrusting people, or getting shot with some weird erasure laser (trademark pending), there’s always something isn’t there?
Phew. That was a lot of uncertainty and doubt wasn’t it? Why don’t we take a breather an talk about something straighforward for a bit? Something like beating enemies into oblivion. As many of you may have already assumed, the agents of SEALED utilise their abilities for combat, which is handy given the weird monster robot beings that populate The End’s home sweet home. Though all born from a psychic point, each character possesses their own unique power that makes them stand out in personal preference and on the battlefield. On top of this, each character possesses a branching upgrade tree that contains three subset of abilities. Personal preference once more. Rather than going into the specifics of 11×3 sets of powers, I’m going to leave it vague and just say that all of them are useful in their own right, as is their proclivity for carrying firearms to fire when not using their Gifts. Smart move SEALED troops, smart move.
Jumping off this point, let’s dive into some combat mechanics, namely the ever present gauges that prevent unabashed use of Gifts. Each specific ability unlocked costs a certain amount of Gift Points to activate or use, typical RPG stuff. However, there is also a second gauge hanging around on the HUD; the Sanity Gauge. Yep, the more you throw your mind weight around, the less and less your character calls lucidity their home. Should this gauge reach zero, your hapless hero will go Beserk and lash out at anyone around them, enemy an ally alike. Now, whilst this state also doubles a units strength and completely restores their health, it is a risky game to play. Beneficial is used smartly, damaging if used poorly.
I also want to take a moment to focus on one of the most useful game mechanics I’ve seen in a while; deferring. During combat, each character has the ability to, at the cost of some Sanity imbue a teammate who has already moved that turn to do so once again. This is an immensely helpful skill that allows you to tag in your more powerful attackers for a second burst or, with some clever planning, chain characters to increase their movement across the map. It’s pretty awesome.
Outside of battle, players may also boost Camaraderie between the characters, through the ancient and mysterious art of conversation. After each battle, the first two characters you choose to converse with will nudge closer to whatever qualified as friendship amidst a band of untrusting psychics. After a certain amount of these nudges, characters will eventually present a special conversation option and, even further down this path, a Character Quest. See, friendship matters people…kinda…sorta…maybe. At the very least, a reasonable amount of trust between the troops allows for Assist Attacks to occur in battle, a very, very, very useful skill. Very.
So, what have we learned here today? Never trust anyone? Work for personal gain despite the effected it might have on others? I hope not…if it is then I really have to rethink my writing style. No, what we’ve learned here today is that Lost Dimension is a game that carries an interesting concept. A game wherein anyone might turn against you and your personal favourite character might be the next on the chopping block. Now, whilst the randomisation of this feature leads to multiple playthroughs that turn out differently, it also puts a limiter on characterisation. With no story reasoning behind who turns heel in each area, there are no clues to be found in dialogue, now way of establishing motivation. One minute, a character is rattling on about how they love singing, the next they suddenly and unceremoniously drop the traitor bomb. In one textbox no less. Sure, Camaraderie maxed characters have a more poignant farewell, but after that it’s immediately back to the central plot and non-specific references to the ally who just perished.
Ultimately, Lost Dimension possesses an idea that reads well on paper, fits nicely into gameplay, but unfortunately puts a rather heavy dampener on character development. Sure the randomisation of traitors is neat, but the lack of context clues makes dialogue almost inconsequential, like the characters themselves aren’t even aware they’re traitors. With that in mind, how are we supposed to believe these characters would turn against their only allies? What’s the motivation? Defying expectations, that last question wasn’t rhetorical, I have an answer (one that also relates to the game as a whole, despite my best wishes for it); it just wasn’t enough.