Having to root out a traitor in your midst plays a major part in plenty of board and party games. It forces you to analyze the actions of your fellow players and figure out their true motivations. Was a suboptimal decision made because your friend is trying to undermine your efforts or because they simply misplayed? Is that person acting nervous because they’re the traitor or just because they’re a little awkward in groups? Even when you’re convinced someone’s a traitor, persuading the other players to vote them out can meet with fierce resistance. Considering how social these traitor-laden games are, translating the concept into a single-player video game seems impossible, but the developers at FuRyu managed to tap into that tension with the brilliantly cruel Lost Dimension.
Players take on the role of Sho, one of 11 psychics in the secret task force known as S.E.A.L.E.D. The team has been sent to stop a maniacal terrorist dubbed The End from living up to his name and destroying all life on Earth. The End proclaims that the only way S.E.A.L.E.D. will be able to stop him is reaching the top of his tower, but to advance to the next floor, the team must vote to kill one of their members. The End has also removed much of the team’s memories, and as they slowly return, some of your teammates begin to realize they have ulterior motives. Your job is to eliminate the traitors rather than your loyal teammates. If the team chooses wrong, one of your allies is killed off for good.
Luckily, Sho’s psychic power—each S.E.A.L.E.D. member has a unique ability—is telepathy, which gives him glimpses into the minds of those he fights alongside. After every battle, you’ll pick up on how many members of your six-person squad had traitorous thoughts. When you narrow down to the prime suspects, you can use the three Deep Vision points you’re afforded during each level to determine whether a character is the traitor. Each level’s traitor is picked at random, and characters can change allegiances even if they were loyal on the previous floor.
Unsurprisingly, given the game’s concept, none of the characters trust each other. That becomes a problem when your team is in battle. Characters with good relationships will back each other up in combat, performing follow-up attacks on enemies that their friends have targeted. Your enemies will abuse this same buddy system to stack up and chain attacks, taking your characters from full health to near dead or flat-out dead in a single action. If you can’t do the same, you’re at a serious disadvantage.
Pinpointing the traitor is certainly a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to persuading your fellow party members to vote for the right person. Sho gets the chance to build his camaraderie with two teammates after every battle, and those relationships eventually lead characters to come to him for advice about the traitor. Sometimes they’ll ask Sho whom to pick in the upcoming vote, but other times they just want to voice their own suspicions. Barring other input, your team will always vote to eliminate the member who has performed the worst in combat, while those who fight the best get extra votes to cast.
That can seriously ramp up the difficulty depending on who the traitor is. On the game’s second level, I discovered my healer—who I’d already used so often and so well that he’d earned an extra vote—was plotting against me. I had to stop using him in fights so he’d drop in the rankings, while at the same time giving plenty of love to some unimpressive characters that the rest of my team wanted to kick to the curb. Thankfully, once you’ve eliminated a character, you get an item that allows you to access their powers, but the fact that I could never unlock some of the better healing magic was a serious blow.
Considering how well executed the traitor search is, it’s a shame that the rest of Lost Dimension is so uninspired. Bad guys have no personality and few unique abilities. For the most part, they just silently shoot and stab your team. Some of the team’s psychic powers are interesting enough to add twists to battles—like Zenji, who can link himself to another character to share their buffs and abilities, or Agito, who teleports around obstacles and can grab items in otherwise impossible-to-reach places. Others are simple and repetitive. There’s little difference between Mana and Toya’s area-of-effect attacks besides the scene you have to sit through to use them, even though one is supposed to be driven by super strength and the other by a mastery of magnetism.
One clever element in Lost Dimension’s combat is the ability to defer a character’s turn to one of their teammates, giving them a second go. This can be great when you want to let your pyro-kineticist unleash on a squad of bunched-up enemies or give up a close-range fighter’s attack to a gun-wielding teammate who won’t get counterattacked. But it depletes a character’s sanity meter, which is also reduced whenever they use a psychic power or get attacked. If they drop to zero sanity, they go berserk and can’t distinguish friend from foe, lashing out at the nearest target with enhanced strength. That effect can be used to your advantage if you can isolate opponents, but having to be aware of the threat puts a limit on how often you can use abilities without forcing a character to rest and recover a bit of sanity. That forced conservation can make fights drag on.
You’ll need to go through a lot of those long combat scenarios to figure out who the traitor is and engineer character performances to produce the vote you want. Character-specific quests that might seem like a chance to mix things up largely all play out the same: Kill everything on the level, which, at its most exciting, might also require you to flip some switches or figure out how to get your team back together after they’ve started in different areas. In the end, the reason that fights seem so underwhelming compared to the hunt for the traitor might be the stakes. If a character goes down in battle, they’ll still be fully recovered and ready to fight the next time you need them. But with just a single saved game allowed, if you vote to kill a character and regret it, that’s a decision you’ll need to live with for the rest of the game.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita