Disclaimer: Temtem is still in an alpha state. It releases to early access January 21. As with any game, this early, experiences should be taken with a grain of salt, as the game will continue to grow and while developers work on it. Still, with early access starting January 21, the current state of the game will likely be close to what many players experience.
What Temtem Is
There’s this new game. Here’s how it starts: You’re a young monster tamer, finally of age to leave your town and venture the world, catching and training a party of creatures. Your mother wakes you, and you meet up with your rival at the local professor’s house. He gives you a choice of three monsters to get you started, and before you can go venturing out into the deep grass, where wild monsters wait, you have to battle your rival. Then it’s off to visit new towns, beat leaders in each town, and fill out your encyclopedia of monsters as you grow your team.
I could be describing any one of dozens of Pokémon games from the last two decades, but I’m not. I’m talking about Temtem, the Kickstarter-funded monster-taming MMO being created by Spanish developer Crema.
Temtem has been called a Pokémon knockoff. I cannot stress enough how 100% completely accurate that is. If you squint or take your glasses off, you would be forgiven for thinking this is an actual Pokémon game with creature, item, and place names switched out.
But that’s not a knock! There are droves of people out there who have spent years wishing the Pokémon games they’ve been playing were MMOs. Unlicensed third-party versions such as PokeMMO even tried to fill that void. While they have continually added more and more online functionality to their games, Nintendo and Game Freak have shown no interest in developing an MMO, so Crema stepped in.
Temtem does little to revolutionize the tried-and-true Pokémon formula, but that may be enough for many people.
What That Means
When you start Temtem, the first thing you do is create your avatar. You have a host of pretty basic choices: boobs or no boobs, which of four stances you want your character to have, a range of skin colors, and then a large selection of hairstyles and colors. You can also choose your name and preferred pronouns. Unfortunately, I was not even through creating my character by the time I had received my second crash to desktop. This is definitely not a polished game right now.
Note: You do not have to wear pants.
The game has a pleasant cell-shaded art style with lots of bright colors and movement through it feels very smooth. However, given the speed and fluidity of movement and the fact that I was playing on a PC, I was dying for the ability to adjust the camera or field of view, neither of which I could do. The fixed camera felt very stifling.
In addition to the look, the environment feels different from Pokémon. I was only able to spend a handful of hours in the game during the stress test, but the locations I visited inspired by Spanish or Latin American locales—they had Spanish names (such as Briçal de Mar), but they also had a brisk, beachy feel—were notably different from anything you’d see in Kanto or Johto (Alola veers closer but still different.)
Similarities and Differences… and Similarities
When you arrive at Professor Konstantinos to receive your
Pokédex Tempedia and first Pokémon Temtem, you see a notable but superficial difference from Pokémon: the types. Like Pokémon, Temtem have one or two types that impact their performance in battle. There are 12 total types (Neutral, Fire, Nature, Water, Electric, Mental, Earth, Wind, Crystal, Melee, Toxic, and Digital). As in Pokémon, attacking a Temtem with a type that it is weak to does double damage—if it is doubly weak to it (because it is a dual-type Temtem and both its types are weak to the attack), the attack does quadruple damage. In the inverse, attacking, for example, a Mental Temtem with a Neutral attack, only does half damage. Attacking an Earth/Water Temtem (both strong against Fire) with a Fire attack would do quarter damage. This is all the same as in Pokémon, just with different types filling out the chart.
Also, as in Pokémon, each Temtem has a name, level, gender, trait, and the same stats (hp, speed, attack, defense, special attack, and special defense) with one addition: stamina. There are also SVs and TVs, which seem to respectively be Pokémon’s IVs and EVs (specimen-unique modifiers that can boost each stat beyond their species’ norm. If you’re someone who would care what those are, you probably already know).
The other difference that was obvious to me when it comes to stats concerns speed. Arguably the king of stats in Pokémon, it seems like it will be considerably less important in Temtem because each move has one of six levels of priority that helps determine the attack order. It seems like the two work together, with a higher priority speed meaning a Temtem acting with a multiplier of its speed and a low-priority move meaning the opposite.
There are 14 (pretty standard) status ailments with which Temtem can be inflicted, though unlike a Pokémon, a Temtem can have two ailments at once. Inflicting them with a third will bump the first off. Additionally, if you inflict an opposing Temtem with a status, you can see how many turns remain on the ailment’s duration (compared to Pokémon, where it’s either permanent or randomized).
Pokémon Temtem still hang out in tall grass, they still evolve, and you still travel to towns to battle gym dojo leaders. You still battle wild creatures to weaken them and then try to catch them, but you trap them in a card instead of a ball. So… there’s that difference.
The biggest changes occur during battle. They’re subtle but significant. Rather than having its own limited number of uses, each move pulls from a constantly regenerating resource pool determined by the new stamina stat. Further, some strong moves can’t be used on the first turn.
A lot of information (whether the move can be used on the first turn, super effectiveness against the current enemy, etc.) is indicated onscreen through things like color or an unlabeled mark on the name of the move. These take some decoding. Once you’re used to it, though, I imagine it’s a cleaner way to convey information than filling the screen with menus and text. For now, it could use an introduction or explainer somewhere, but perhaps that will be added in time.
Battles are two on two, and your Temtem can synergize. Using two Temtem of the appropriate type together will boost their effectiveness. Similarly, certain moves can receive a power-up or an additional effect if the user’s teammate is of a certain type.
The game also includes equipment, but I’m not really sure how that works yet. Possibly the same as held items in Pokémon, but I can’t confirm.
What Temtem is Like
Temtem mostly felt nice to interact with. As I said, the art style is pleasant. The music was particularly lovely, with a jaunty-ass battle theme that would feel at home in The Legend of Zelda. The game is not voiced, but Animal Crossing-style sounds accompany text bubbles (so get ready to hear the professor say “Ah-hah!” a lot).
The first hour or so wasn’t terribly fun, per se, but I never really find the first hour or so of a Pokémon game to be fun, either. It’s just going through the motions and getting the necessary exposition out of the way so I can explore and catch more monsters. Once I was unleashed on the world, things improved, though I do have to note that there was an absolute ton of tamers to battle. As in Pokémon, walking across the path of a tamer forces a battle, and you could barely go 10 feet without encountering one. I’d consider this a drawback as, at a certain point, I just want to move on and see the next area or catch more Temtem. Temtem mostly sticks to the same staid tropes as Pokémon, though there is some attempt at internet culture reference and humor, as well as some wish-fulfillment—finally, after years, the professor is a proper dick to your rival and nice to you, vicariously paying back all your rivals for years of smelling you later.
The small ways Temtem differentiates its battles could make things interesting. The fact that you have to manage a stamina bar (if you exhaust it, you injure yourself and risk having to sit out a turn) throws some additional strategy into the mix. There might be some additional use for otherwise weak moves because of the priority system and the fact that some moves can’t be used on the first turn. I didn’t get far enough into the game to comment on balance, though it will be important for any sort of competitive scene and longevity.
Some parts of the UI work very well, while others fall short. Walking around, your Temtem have icons at the bottom-right that you can click and drag to reorder your party whenever you want easily. That’s great. However, if you’re standing next to another player and want to interact with them, you need to: open the menu, scroll over to “social,” find their name in the list of all nearby players, select them and choose what you want to do. Why isn’t there a way to simply right-click on the player and bring up a context menu? Interacting with another player shouldn’t be so awkward in a game whose one defining feature is being an MMO.
Once you do all that, the menu is intuitive. You can chat, offer them a trade, challenge them to a competitive or friendly battle, or ask them to join you for co-op play, which is the most intriguing feature. It essentially links you to each other and allows you to play through the game and participate in battles together. Because battles are double battles by default, the presence of a second player doesn’t unbalance the entire game as in Pokémon: Let’s Go.
I got to my first crash while playing with settings before properly starting the game. Just blacked out and closed, but wasn’t repeatable the next time I opened the game. The crashed like that a good number of times, probably on average around every half hour, while I was playing. Fortunately, if I was out in the field and the game crashed, it was very quick to boot back up, hit continue, and I would pop back in exactly where I had been and could pick up where I left off. That’s a benefit to it being an MMO; I didn’t lose any progress since my last save or anything. Still, you’d hope Crema can get stability down soon with the game releasing into EA next week.
Currently, half of the ultimately promised islands are available, with more slated to release over the next year or so (and a similar timeline for release on Switch and other consoles). You occasionally see buildings or areas that are listed as work in progress, but, for the most part, the areas I explored were fully realized.
A note on settings: In addition to the very basic, you can turn on and off egg-opening animations, quest trackers, tutorials, and backpack folders, and change the text speed (currently locked to normal). There is a full host of aspect ratios, resolutions, and frame rate choices available in addition to control remapping and performance monitoring. There is a setting for graphical quality (and, separately, texture quality) presets, but nothing more granular, and Ultra seemed to be the only preset option—not that Temtem should be a terribly demanding game.
If you want something different than Pokémon has been offering, don’t expect to find it here. But if you’re one of the people who has always wanted a Pokémon MMO, keep an eye on Temtem as it releases into EA next week and continues to develop. The game will cost $35.00.
Nick Zazulia is a trained journalist and an untrained gamer who gravitates toward anything with strong customization and management, whether it’s an RPG or a sports sim. He believes that FFVIII is better than VII, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is criminally underrated, and dogs and cats are equally deserving of our love.