Trigger happy havoc
Lost Dimension is a game about friendship, trust, and crazy psychic powers in the shadow of the apocalypse. The End (the mysterious and sharply dressed villain shown above) plans to destroy the Earth in exactly 13 days. SEALED, a collection of 11 psychic warriors assembled by the UN, must band together and ascend a massive tower called The Pillar in order to confront - and defeat - this villain. However, they discover early on that there are traitors in their ranks; traitors who are secretly undermining the group by working with The End.
Exposing these turncoats and ascending The Pillar means succeeding in both tactical, turn-based battles and visual novel-esque investigations. It's vital that you pay attention to how your party behaves - both in and out of combat - because you will ultimately be responsible for who lives and who dies in the group; a choice that could make your journey significantly harder. Paranoia - more so than any weapon - is your greatest ally here.
Sacrifice is how you progress
Between each level of The Pillar, you must vote on who in your group should be put to death. The game says you "erase" them, but we all know what that means. This heinous decision is alleviated somewhat by the fact that there are traitors among you. By reading another's mind, or by observing how the characters interact, you can uncover clues as to who these traitors are. If you're not careful, you can completely screw up and erase someone innocent, and the game will just keep on going.
Here's the kicker: if you choose wrong and there are still traitors among you during the final battle, those traitors will leave your party and join The End, making the fight that much harder. And if you think you can just hit up a guide online to learn who the traitors are, think again. In each game of Lost Dimension, three out of the four traitors are randomized, meaning they're different people each time you play. The only person you can rely on to not be a traitor is yourself.
Combat is a mix of real-time and turn-based
While combat here is turn-based, characters can run around the battlefield freely to get the best possible vantage point for their attack. Flanking, line of sight, and other factors all need to be considered before parking your squad member and firing. This is similar in style to Valkyria Chronicles, but Lost Dimension's fights take place on a smaller scale and focus more on puzzling out the most efficient way to eliminate your enemies.
If two allied characters are near each other and one of them attacks, the other has a chance to launch a follow-up attack to help pile on the damage. Characters may also "defer" their turn to another, letting the receiving player take an extra turn. By using these two mechanics together, you can ensure your strongest fighters are doing the actual fighting, while your support characters are hanging around nearby to provide assist attacks.
What about character advancement?
The characters in your 11-person party all play different roles, be it a medic, tank, rogue, et cetera. Each one has his or her own skill tree filled with special abilities to unlock, as you can see in the image above. You'll also notice several references to "Materia" in that image. Materia is another way of powering up your character, and it's what gets left behind after you sentence someone to death.
While it may be heartbreaking to send one of your strongest fighters to the grave, the departed will leave behind some materia that can improve your remaining characters. This is hardly a silver lining, however, when your medic is exposed as a traitor early in the game and you lose his oh-so-helpful healing abilities. Hopefully that won't happen to you.
The threat of insanity looms over all
Oh, and did I forget to mention all your party members are slowing going insane? Each character has a set amount of sanity, reflecting their mental health. Almost every action you take - using special abilities, receiving friendly fire, or deferring your turn - consumes sanity. Should a character run out of sanity, he or she will flip out and start attacking everything in sight for a few turns.
And can you really blame them? Being forced to knock off your friends while simultaneously fighting to stop the apocalypse doesn't exactly do wonders for one's peace of mind. Hopefully you'll keep your wits about you when Lost Dimension is released on PlayStation 3 and Vita this July.