Review: Temtem has the potential to step out of the shadow of the game that inspired it

Will Temtem be the best of the best, or just another contender?


Image via Crema

Temtem, the new creature-collecting MMO from Crema Games, launched into early access on Steam in late January. Effectively a love letter to the Pokémon series, the game tries to put a new spin on a well-worn formula, and while it doesn’t always reinvent the wheel, it is still an entertaining and worthwhile game in its own right. The developers have been very open about the game being heavily inspired by their love of the Pokémon series, and in many ways, it wears that inspiration on its sleeve.

Unfortunately for Crema, launch day was a spectacle for all the wrong reasons. Eager players ran into issues getting online, then staying online when they finally managed to get into the game. There were glitches in battles and more than a few unfortunate restarts. While launch day issues are often expected, especially for MMOs and early-access games, Crema was extremely responsive to the problems. Communication with players was excellent as they used both Twitter and Discord to keep everyone informed about hotfixes and known issues.

A launch on PC allows for quick and relatively easy responses to issues like this, and it also hints at the potential grand vision for the game. An MMO needs to be big and bold. It needs to jump off the screen at you because while you are playing with lots of other people. The world needs to grab you and suck you in. One of our biggest issues with recent Pokémon titles is the strangely regimented world that you exist in. Temtem feels a little more organic, a little more grown and a little less planned, in all the right ways.

Familiar ground, but with a few notable twists

It all starts in a very typical vein. You have just hit the age where it’s time for you to get your own Temtem, creatures with abilities that share the world with humans and can be used in battles. Temtem taming, training, and battling are a big part of society, and many young children dream of growing up to be great Temtem tamers. You are quickly introduced to essential characters and must choose your starting Temtem.

So far, so familiar. Where things start to differ is in your first battle with your rival, Max. In similar games, victory is pretty much assured, but in Temtem, your rival can destroy you. This won’t be a case of them chasing you, trying to win; this will be a case of you needing to overcome the apparent advantage that your rival has, a Digital Temtem. Digital Temtem are rare and powerful, so you know you’ll have to work hard to have a shot at beating them.

Image via Crema

Your squad can consist of six different Temtem, with two of them taking to the field at any one time. They then take turns doing techniques, or abilities. All Temtem have a Speed stat, which is used to determine the turn order. You can pick from up to four different attacks or the use of items in your bag. If you are victorious, either in defeating a trainer or catching a wild Temtem, your active Temtem will then receive experience, leveling them up. The first go against Max is a fun introduction to the battle system, and you instantly want a Digital Temtem of your own.

After that, you are off on your journey to explore the Airborne Archipelago and the islands that make it up. These islands are teeming with different Temtem, NPCs to meet, quests to complete, and, of course, Dojos, where you can fight well known Tamers and increase your knowledge and fame. For veterans of the Pokémon games, nothing will come as a surprise. Even people with a passing knowledge of the brand should be able to identify some of the more obvious mechanics quite quickly.

Temtem are caught in TemCards and kept in a TemDeck. The needs of Tamers on the islands are met at Temporiums, which sell all kinds of items that you might find useful. Temtem evolve, have different types, and exist in a world of complex counters, strengths, and weaknesses that leads to nuanced, tactical battling. That is all familiar ground to people who know the genre. It’s about having the right Temtem in your squad at the right time, but once again, the difficulty is where it differs from recent Pokemon games.

It may be cute, but it can still be challenging

It’s very easy to lose a battle in Temtem. Use the wrong move, or field the wrong Temtem, and that’s it. The reason for this is Stamina. Temtem have a limited pool of Stamina they can use to power their abilities. Once they go over that pool, they are exhausted and will hurt themselves from using moves. This encourages players to pick the right move for the moment, not just the hardest-hitting move all the time.

Combinations of Temtem, and how well they work together, are also important. If you take on another trainer and lose, there is value in rebuilding your squad before you go back for a second round. This is important, as it gives the player a route to victory outside of pure grinding.

Image via Crema

There’s a lot here, but a lot more coming

At the moment, there are three islands, of a planned six, in the game. There are also about 100 different species of Temtem, which is expected to approximately double by full release. Even in the early stage, this gives players a lot to do, with 20 hours of campaign gameplay that you can experience with a friend in cooperative mode, should you choose to. Players can battle each other, or just explore the island, complete quests, and collect Temtem.

The creature design is a high point for us, as every Temtem I have seen so far errs on the side of realism. They look like actual creatures, albeit with the cuteness dial turned all the way up. The in-game models and animations are very nice, and the game benefits a lot from the visual fidelity of a modern engine on PC.

Each creature has some well thought out animations, once again venturing towards “too cute.” From Paharo’s little dance as he casts an ability to Crystle’s head bob as he throws a Crystal Blade, there is plenty of character on display.

While the game certainly struggled at launch, with lots of connection issues, server problems, and overly long queues, those have largely been solved, and the experience is currently smooth. The game runs beautifully, with no jittering or frame rate issues, and we haven’t had a single crash in all the time we have been playing it.

Keep your eye on Temtem

The most important thing to consider about Temtem is that it has two primary audiences. First, the people who have played similar games, potentially for years, or even their entire lives. While Temtem puts a new spin on certain aspects of the genre, it also fails to truly step out of the shadow of the series that inspired it. It is, in many ways, an homage, and for good or bad, it will be very familiar territory to anyone who has played the Pokémon series.

As an MMO, it is great to play a game like this and feel like part of a community. Seeing so many players in your area makes the world feel that little bit more real, and more lived in. You can play cooperatively with any player than you meet in-game, and experience the campaign together, or play through it all with someone on your friends list. You can trade with other players just by interacting with them, which adds a lot of potential to a good trade economy in the game. We are hoping that Crema have a new spin to put on traditional MMO mechanics and marry them well with the creature-collecting nature of Temtem. It is, perhaps, where they can explore something unique to really set them apart from the competition.

For people who have never played this type of game before, there is a lot to enjoy here. It represents the genre well and is a smooth jumping-off point to explore these types of games. There is certainly a lot to learn, and the basic elements that more experienced players will take for granted are well explained within the game. Through talking with NPCs, you can learn important things about mechanics, the world you are playing in, and you can even find plenty of quests to finish as well. Some characters may wish to see a particular type of Temtem or have a job they need help with, but there is always something to, and a reason to head to a new location on the island.

Temtem is undoubtedly one to watch as it moves through the early access process. What it does, it does very well, and if it can find a genuinely unique hook, it has the potential to be something special.

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