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Our overall verdict "silver"

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The End is Nigh

A dastardly but strangely handsome villain named The End is waiting at the top of a tower. In thirteen days he will release enough nuclear warheads to kill the entire planet. That is unless an elite team of young people with extraordinary gifts can battle their way to the top of the pillar and cut him and his fantastic hair down in his prime. Lost Dimension is a gorgeous tactical JRPG with Visual Novel elements. Clear waves of enemies to climb the tower but, beware, because this game has an enormous twist. There is a traitor among you. This RPG/Visual Novel is also a whodunit of sorts, and a damn fine one at that. You must weed out the traitors and exterminate them before they can turn on you. Complex, original, addictive and with high production values – Lost Dimension has it all. Hold out your upgrade slots because I’m about to drop some seriously exiting information about this fantastic RPG.

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So is Lost Dimension an RPG or a Visual Novel? First and foremost it’s an RPG. You begin at the bottom of the tower where you will have to complete several stages of story quests and optional side quests in order to climb upwards. These stages are all reasonably similar but will grow in difficulty as you progress. Combat is turn-based in the same vein as Persona 4 Golden but is also subject to strategic positioning a la Natural Doctrine. Rather than being set within a grid, each character can move a set distance in any direction. One slight flaw here is that it is possible to block the way for characters behind you. It will seem that you’ve left space to move past them but no way no how can you squeeze through. It’s not a massive deal because it doesn’t happen too often but your tactics will occasionally go tits-up if you’re not cautious.

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Also like Natural Doctrine you can link attacks. So if the main character, Sho, has fisticuffs with an enemy, some of the characters around you may help you out with an Assist Attack. MAY help you out. Combat links in very nicely with the game’s main hook. You are all complete strangers and yet some of you are traitors. Allies will only help you and each other in battle if they trust you and each other, and that is a massive if. We’ll talk more about this traitor shortly.

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Options during battle are reasonably standard, with attack, wait, item, each character’s special gifts and the ability to spend SAN points to defer and have a team member take another turn instead. Very useful for getting a powerful character across a long distance to thwack something pesky or open a gate. Special gifts all have to be earned and upgraded and there are a lot to play around with. Part of the fun with these types of games is choosing what special abilities to work on. Do you want a mega powerful single dive attack that uses less points to perform or are you better off upgrading an area attack that does less damage but to more enemies with a higher cost. The choices are yours and if you’re anything like me you’ll spend more time upgrading than actually battling. Each time you use a special gift, you’ll use SAN points. Use too many and your character will drop into Berserk mode. He or she will become mega strong but also completely uncontrollable, and will attack other party members if they’re in range. In some of the later levels, using Berserk mode tactically should not be dismissed.

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For me, upgrade points are like crack. I crave them, I need them, and they make my eyes bulge like two stomachs after a Sunday roast. My perfect game would consist purely of statistics and upgrade screens. Hopefully you’ll be pleased to know that these things feature heavily in Lost Dimension. As you can see in the screenshots here, there are more stats and options than you can shake a cross badger at. Battles will earn you general points for levelling up, gift points for upgrading your special skills, vision points for detecting your traitors and energy points for new weapons, defences, boosters and helpful items. Again, balancing these options is a big part of the game and it’s all set out in such a way that tedium is some other game’s problem.

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Of course all this combat and upgrading has a purpose. In addition to being a cracking RPG, Lost Dimension is part Visual Novel. As Sho and his comrades climb the tower they are forced on each floor to identify one of their own as a traitor. I should probably mention that your party all have amnesia so even they don’t know they are traitors until they reach the next floor. Luckily Sho’s special gift is premonition. The only way to identify a traitor is to pick six people for a battle and afterwards Sho can listen to their future voices and pick out anything suspicious. This is where Lost Dimension stands out from all other RPGs and Visual Novels.

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The system of deduction and elimination is complex and unless you consult a guide it will take some time to fathom out the best way to catch your traitor. The vision screen will keep track of who you took out to battle and how many suspicious voices you heard. You’ll need to fight multiple battles, switching your suspects in and out to see if the number of suspicious voices goes up or down. You can mark prime suspects with a particular colour, people you’ve eliminated from suspicion with another colour and people you’re yet to check with another. When you’re reasonably sure who the treacherous shark is and have ruled out the red herrings you can spend a vision point to go into a deep vision and check you’ve cracked it before you venture into the judgement room.

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You’ll spend a whole lot of time with this process. The methodology is quite baffling at first and actually it is worth checking a guide to see if you’re doing it right. Don’t worry, aside from the first traitor, all others are randomised, so there’s no fear you’ll accidentally spoil yourself. While the game is very good at pausing proceedings at certain points to explain terms and aspects, it does fall down a little at explaining the most important part of the game. I mucked up my first proper deduction because I didn’t have a Scooby Doo what I was doing. Fluffing your deduction and sentencing an innocent to death will presumably flood you with guilt, but even if you’re a bunny-kicking sociopath you won’t like that you’ll now have an extra traitor to deal with, and you’ll like it even less when any remaining traitors turn against you at the climax, making your final battles with The End that much more difficult.

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While the game is classed as part Visual Novel, the story is a little weak. It starts out well, but it doesn’t take long before the combat and deduction not only outshines but burns the retinas out of the story aspect. Luckily there aren’t hours and hours of dialogue to flick through to get to the exciting bits and skipping this dialogue doesn’t make much different. Character side quests are probably the weakest part of the novel portions and I wasn’t massively impressed with their Jeremy Kyle woes. There is a trophy available for finishing each quest and then bonding with the character in question so it’s still worth veering off to complete them and, of course, it all helps you level-up and evaluate your suspects.

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There are thirty-six trophies available including a platinum that seems reasonable to obtain. I got forty percent of the trophies on the first playthrough. Unfortunately it is not possible to platinum Lost Dimension the first time around. Certain stages do not unlock until you begin a second game and some character side quests are also not possible until you start all over. If you’ve got a spare few days, you’ve nailed the deduction method, and you’re happy to play the game all the way through twice, 100% should be very possible and a very pleasurable task.

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Conclusion

While there are a couple of small flaws and the story isn’t particularly interesting, the combat is fun and solid and the investigation and judgement aspect is so good you’ll want to make excited seal noises on the bus. Lost Dimension is a great JRPG with a good replay value, plenty of trophies and a highly original and complex investigation and judgement feature. If you’re on the fence about this game jump down, skip over the cross badger and do a Riverdance all the way to the shops.

S J Hollis Rating – 8/10

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S J Hollis

S J Hollis has been a keen gamer since the Atari 2600. She freely admits she thought E.T. was a good game but would like to stress her tastes have since dramatically improved. She is also an author, a morning person and thinks Elf ears are sexy. Follow her on twitter @SJHollis_