Developer: Crema Games
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Available On: PC
Official Site: https://crema.gg/games/temtem/
Release Date: January 21, 2020 (Early access)
Version Tested: PC (Steam)
Disclaimer: Temtem is in an early access state, not slated for full release until 2021. As such, the game is unfinished, and statements about its current quality should be taken with that in mind. Still, it is being sold to gamers at a full price who must decide on that purchase, so The Nerd Stash is providing a review of the game as it currently stands to aid in that process.
Crema’s Temtem, in its current state, can give you a couple of weeks of monster-catching fun, but the game is not a finished product.
There’s a lot to like in Temtem, and there are signs that it could evolve into something more. That said, right now, there’s nothing much to speak of in terms of a post-game, which cuts down on the game’s lifespan—a significant detractor if you’re interested because you’ve been dying for an online Pokémon-style game.
Temtem doesn’t try to hide its inspiration. Beat-by-beat it follows in the footsteps of history’s second-biggest gaming franchise, from the way you start your journey to the progression through gyms (called dojos) in different towns. Temtem fight, level up, learn attacks, and evolve. Same formula you’ve known for 20 years.
As an early access game, only three of Temtem’s eventual six islands are currently available and four of eight planned dojos. There are presently 86 Temtem known to be in the game, which is about half of the expected total.
Temtem: The Good
As I said, there’s a lot to like.
The mere promise of an always-online Pokémon-like world is going to be enough for many players. Ultimately, there could be an active competitive scene with the ability to host tournaments and reward players in-game. That is something that Pokémon sorely lacks, even if it shies away from developing a full-on massively multiplayer online game.
Further, the ability to play the game cooperatively is one departure from the Pokémon formula that could be a big boon for Temtem.
In Temtem, battles are 2v2 by default. While doubles battles exist in Pokémon, they’re an afterthought, and most people don’t care about them. Moving doubles to the forefront changes the equation for strategy, and there are a lot of moves and abilities in Temtem that take advantage of that, which is smart.
It’s hard to tell, with only half the roster released and the game unfinished, how the competitive meta will shape up, but there’s a definite opportunity there. It could go well, but it will require Crema to be responsive to balance issues and creative in keeping its online world fresh.
As much as being Pokémon is an advantage (despite heaps of criticism, Pokémon Sword and Shield became the fastest-selling Switch game—having that word in the title is a “win-now” button for sales, just like being a Mario or Call of Duty game), Temtem has some opportunity by virtue of not being an actual Pokémon game.
There is freedom borne of lacking two decades of a built-up canon of monsters with moves and established balance and gameplay. Playing through Temtem can be bewildering, but it also can inspire a lot more wonder than playing through a new Pokémon game. Instead of 15 new Pokémon, every monster is new.
“Is this monster any good?” I wonder every time I encounter a new creature. When I see a rattata or a pidgey—or even whatever new pidgey analog a new generation comes up with, I already have an idea of its value. There’s something fun about starting over from zero as to each creature’s merit.
Temtem: The Bad
As one would expect from an early access title, the game is unfinished, and it lacks polish. In addition to the second half of the game simply not existing yet, there are a host of areas that have been omitted from the currently present world with only a sign saying “WIP” for work in progress to signal that something will eventually be there.
Temtem had a rough launch, as many online games do. It was completely unplayable for me for the first couple of days as Crema was beset by myriad server issues. Since then, it’s been mostly stable—there have been occasional hiccups and resets, but the game has mainly worked as expected. Still, any player considering jumping in early should be aware that there are risks with an EA MMO’s availability. To note, though, Crema has said that there will not be a server wipe when Temtem leaves EA, so your progress is safe.
In terms of play, there are three main flaws. First, the game world gets repetitive. Mandatory enemy tamers (trainers) are stationed every few feet to slow your progress, which gets tiresome. And outside of the occasional quest-giver (who is marked on the map) and those trainer battles, none of the NPCs have anything to say, which is a second big flaw.
Sure, they fill out the world a bit with mostly empty dialogue, but nobody gives you items, trades with you, or has any other substantive interaction. In the 1990s, I developed a compulsion to talk to every NPC, and Temtem regularly punishes me for it. The NPCs are all empty, uninteresting dialogue. If they’re between towns, it means a battle, and if they’re in towns, they’re either providing quests that I can see on the map, or they aren’t worth talking to. That makes the world feel a lot emptier than it appears at first glance.
I don’t know if fleshing out NPCs or adjusting tamer placement is on Crema’s to-do list at all, but it would do a great deal to improve the playing experience.
The third big issue is that areas are very strongly themed in terms of what kind of Temtems populate them. The early game, for example, features almost all Nature and Wind Temtems. That lack of variety is both annoying and means that certain Temtem is useful in every battle, and others are ineffective in every battle. In your next area, almost all you will fight is Water Temtem. What I’m saying is: Get a Ganki as soon as you can and let it carry you through most of the current game.
In terms of smaller gripes, while the art is attractive and the creature design is good, it’s sometimes misleading. Often, in Pokémon, you can tell the typing of a Pokémon based on how it looks. An evil-looking, black, and purple creature is probably Dark-type. A pink, fluffy thing is almost certainly a Fairy. If it has flames, it’s Fire-type. In Temtem, the success rate is much lower. Things that look like fish sometimes aren’t Water-type. Birds sometimes aren’t Wind type. I don’t want an easy game, but the cognitive dissonance there is an annoyance.
As it stands, Temtem is a solid Pokémon alternative with some online functionality. You can probably expect 25-60 hours of gameplay, depending on how quickly you power through the content and whether you spend time grinding for rare Temtem and breeding. But once you’ve finished the part of the campaign that’s ready, there isn’t much to do. You can keep catching and breeding, but it’s challenging to fund that endeavor, and it doesn’t feel very worthwhile, so it’s hard to call Temtem a proper MMO at this point. There’s more content and ostensibly a proper endgame coming over the next year. Whether it’s a good buy for you right now depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.
- A Pokémon MMO!
- Some clever battle choices
- Good art and music design
- Gotta catch ‘em all?
- Stays very close to the Pokémon formula
- Tedious battles
- Empty-feeling world
- No endgame (right now)
- Stays very close to the Pokémon formula