Home Games Temtem Review: Like Pokemon that listens to what the fans want

Temtem Review: Like Pokemon that listens to what the fans want


TemtemThe inspiration was always clear. We didn’t beat around the bush when it entered early access back in 2020 – Cian Maher called it the best pokemon game in years – and I won’t beat around the bush now. It’s still the best pokemon game in years. It borrows so much from the giant Nintendo, but it also takes some much-needed lessons that Game Freak fails to acknowledge, taking the formula to its highest evolution.

Catching Temtem creatures will be immediately familiar to anyone who has had at least a little bit of Pokemon fun over the years. You play as a child who leaves his home to go on a grand adventure in the Airborne Archipelago. Along the way, you’ll catch critters, fight numerous gym leaders – sorry, dojo masters – and fend off a nasty organization called Clan Belsata, a bunch of toxic scumbags. Been there, done that. Many times. The story mostly treads old ground, so don’t expect much from the plot. However, there are many small but significant tweaks that take Temtem beyond simple imitation. This is a step forward; an improved iteration of the genre that actually listens to the demands of fans that the Pokemon company has brushed off over the years. This includes tougher battles, a more tactical combat system, an improved online experience, and now a powerful endgame that just arrived with a full launch from early access.

However, there is still a long journey ahead before you arrive at the new endgame island. You start in the city of Zadar, where you create your character before getting your first Temtem. One option allows you to choose pronouns, including a they/them option, which I really appreciate. You can’t choose multiple options, so it doesn’t allow for example he/they, but being able to choose non-binary pronouns immediately makes Temtem more welcoming. Pokemon was a small way for me to experiment with gender identity when I was young, because I often chose to be a female character when it felt more natural. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring it out, and Temtem’s selection of pronouns has allowed me to choose the option I like best. All in all, Temtem’s world feels like it’s really identity inclusive, and the opponent also identifies as non-binary, making it a great place to explore.

After creating an avatar, you quickly get your first two Temtems and are off to battle before you have a chance to breathe. It’s a welcome change of pace from the tedious tutorials that have plagued Pokemon since its 3DS days, and immediately introduces you to one of Temtem’s biggest changes. Dual battles are standard in Airborne Archipelago, making battles more tactical than one-on-one Pokemon battles. You can use support moves to enhance your second Temtem on the field, or equip moves that synergize when used with another Temtem of a certain type to deal increased damage or longer-lasting status effects. It can also be punishing if your opponent starts with a type advantage, so you’ll need to prepare your team before entering the fray. Not every battle will make you want to fight, but the memorable ones are much more memorable and make you consider the team composition for victory.

If you don’t come prepared, fights can get heated. Each of your Temtems has a certain amount of toughness that grows as you level up, and each turn has a toughness cost. You pay stamina to use moves and recover a small amount of stamina each turn. If you want to hit hard to end the match, you can use a high cost move, which will drop your stamina bar below zero, but it will also drain your health. This can disable your Temtem, which is either the calculated cost of winning the battle or an unexpected side effect for those who aren’t paying attention. If you’re struggling to get ahead, being able to sacrifice your Temtem to use some of your big moves again adds more tension to these already tough battles. Temtem also simplifies the experience by draining stamina after each fight, so you can go all out in each fight and use your biggest, flashiest moves to secure victory.

At key moments in history, these difficulties increase. Temtem Dojos are much tougher than standard Pokemon gyms, and more comparable to ROM hacks like Storm Silver and Sacred Gold, or PokeMMO. Dojo Masters has a full team of six powerful Temtem, and they also offer competitive rematches with tougher teams for rewards every week. With Temtem fully launched in Early Access, Dojo Master rematches are just the tip of the endgame iceberg. The new island now features tons of endgame action with competitive battles that require skill, and even a roguelite tower to climb with a new crew of creatures. Those who loved Emerald for its Battle Frontier will feel right at home here, and it finally gives Temtem that replayable MMO experience that you can revisit for years.

However, many of these difficult battles are delayed until the end of the story, and there is a lot to go through along the way. Between Dojo battles, Temtem has a lot of tedious back and forth questing, forcing you to fight your way through wild Tems. This is where sticking to its inspiration makes Temtem falter, as it’s so desperate to be a PC Pokemon that it carries over almost every element, for better or worse. Wild temtems keep popping up as you run through the tall grass, but they quickly became a nuisance. This problem is only compounded when you realize that every island is filled with the same small group of temtems. Sure, Platypet is cute, but when I fight one for the hundredth time in Denise, I want it to piss Platypi off. You can eventually buy Scents, an item that allows you to fend off wild battles, to alleviate this problem, but I’ve already put myself through hours of wild battles while saving up to afford them. They’ve always been a concern in the mainline Pokemon games, and Temtem would do better to break that bond.

Temtem screenshot showing the Tempedia entry for Platypet, the blue duck on the left.

Wild Battles would probably feel more exciting if I was constantly pushed to new areas, but Temtem is MMO which have evolved through early access. This means that many quests send you back to areas you’ve already explored, presumably because they were there to fill the time waiting for new islands to arrive in future updates. Many of these quests consist of delivering items or messages back and forth, and are just another chore to add to the list.

Fortunately, MMO-ness isn’t all bad. The actual online implementation sets a standard for a genre that Pokemon hasn’t even begun to explore yet. You’ll see other tamers running and fighting, and you can stop to have random or competitive duels with those around you. If you hope to fill Tempedia, you can start trading or head to the auction house where you can bid on other players’ Temtem with pansuns (the currency of the Archipelago). Everything is fast and responsive, and Archipelago is at its best when it’s full of players. However, I imagine it will be the busiest at launch, so if you want to see it flourish, be sure to pop in this week. As with any online game, the player base can disappear and move on to the next within days.

Temtem screenshot showing a busy Temporium, with various players using the storage system or buying items from the shop.

This is where I start questioning Temtem. It’s a fantastic experience, ready to improve the creature-catching formula, but it’s best when it’s busy. To stick around, I’d love to see new content – new Temtem, new islands, and more to keep exploring in the years to come. however, Crema said it was unlikely, with current post-launch plans consisting of Final Mythic, Arcade Bar, and a Nuzlocke mode that was funded during the Kickstarter. Launching early access has always been the goal of Temtem, but this is a multiplayer world where I want to stay longer. Without new creatures to use and new lands to explore, I wonder how long the PvP and PvE communities will last. And since Temtem is always online (you’ll need an internet connection to play, and offline isn’t an option), I wonder what might happen if that player base eventually goes away.

Temtem is a treat for Pokemon fans on PC that innovates significantly on the formula while staying close to its roots. It’s not always a good thing, as Temtem has a lackluster story and an endless string of wild battles that are inherently Pokemon-like, but it’s still the best take on the genre in a long time. However, the best thing about Pokemon is that I can pull out my platinum cartridge and be back in Sinnoh in an instant with all my old monsters waiting for me, and whether Temtem will stand the same test of time remains to be seen. For now, though, this is a fabulous creature-catching experience that you need to try. There’s a chance that Temtem might even become your favorite Pokemon game.

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