Poketem

HIGH Battles are a highly strategic take on a creature collection battle system.

LOW Tracking and backtracking through long linear corridors.

WTF I wonder if Temtem had to get permission from Pokemon to use all their ideas?


Pokemon fans love to complain about the series. From grievances about difficulty, linearity, or the underwhelming graphics, there’s always something wrong with the latest entry from GameFreak. Enter Temtem, an MMO entry into the monster collection genre looking to improve upon Pokemon’s shortcomings. Though it makes some improvements in battle strats and multiplayer capabilities, most of Temtem’s ideas have already been attempted, polished, and expanded upon in other titles.

From its initial moments, Temtem’s ties to Pokemon are obvious — choose from one of three starter Temtem from a professor, meet an annoying rival who picks fights at inopportune moments, catch as many TemTem as possible to fill a competitive team of six, stop an evil organization trying to destroy the world, and battle through eight dojos to try to be the very best, like no one ever was.

Usually, I would disparage such direct comparisons to another game in the genre, but Temtem is not trying to hide its connections to Pokemon — they’re right out in the open for everyone to see. However, this homage is a double-edged sword. With similarities that are so obviously lovingly – or perhaps, not so lovingly – ‘inspired’ from Pikachu’s multimedia giant, it’s difficult to not judge the game through the same lens.

Presentation is solid, with a cute, almost claymation-style art that allows for expressive and interesting Temtem designs. Though all three starters are tempting options given their immediately distinguishable personalities, I went with Smazee, the meelee-type chimp. Though NPCs are lacking in personality and facial expressions, the Temtem look great and were varied enough to make me curious as to what silly or imposing creature might pop out from the grass next.

Speaking of grass, Temtem features random encounters which hold it back. Though these kinds of encounters were a staple of the genre for many years, in most modern titles monsters can be seen onscreen and the player can decide whether to engage or not. At first, I thought this might be due to technical limitations, but there are usually many Temtem onscreen at once following their trainers (due to the game’s MMO nature) with little-to-no noticeable frame drop.

Then there’s the combat — Temtem‘s game’s strongest suit. Temtem features turn-based, rock-paper-scissors, two-on-two battles. All Temtem have types that play into their various strengths and weakness, and knowing these advantages and disadvantages is key to victory. The level of strategy is amplified through the implementation of a stamina meter which prevent a Temtem from using its most powerful moves over and over again, plowing through opponents. Mastering this stamina is highly rewarding, and adds significant challenge when compared to the notoriously easy Pokemon titles.

Adding another level of complexity is the fact that Temtem’s battles are exclusively two-on-two fights, compared to Pokemon’s standard solo battles. This forces the player to think critically about multiple type matchups, move pools, and health bars at once. The combination of the duo fights and the stamina bar forced me to play more conservatively than I would in Pokemon, constantly switching out Temtem not only to survive battles, but to conserve status during long routes with healing areas a good deal away.

Unfortunately, this is where the improvements upon the Pokemon formula end.

Capturing Temtem feels quite familiar — inflict status effects upon them, weaken them, and throw a Temtem card to capture them. However, with no strong rewards to capture the creatures aside from battle purposes, this system grows old rather quickly though there are 164 Temtem out there to accumulate. The collection aspect fell flat for me – once I had my hands on six solid creatures, I didn’t feel the need to capture anymore.

Temtem is also an incredibly linear experience filled with narrow routes to progress through, it retains outdated random encounters, and its sidequests force the player to retread areas repeatedly. Though these are certainly tropes repeated time and time again in Pokemon titles, they have been done away with in recent years, leaving Temtem’s structure and gameplay (outside of battle) feeling like a relic from gaming generations past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with the improvements the monster collection genre has made in recent years, Temtem often feels archaic.

On the other hand, Temtem takes a step forward by adding the MMO element to its formula, allowing players to battle, trade, and even progress through the story together. Seeing other players running around with their partner Temtem (though a bit overwhelming in more populated areas) makes the world feel alive, and makes interaction with others much less of a hassle than Pokemon games’ clunky online interface. 

Playing through the campaign with a friend is also a great idea, and with Temtem’s built-in 2v2 battle system, it’s tailor-made for cooperative gameplay. Just be aware progress will only be made in whichever player’s save file is further behind, so there will inevitably be some backtracking for those looking to play with less-experienced friends. 

With its online implementation and improved strategic combat, there are certainly appealing qualities to Temtem, but its entrenched ties to old-school Pokemon prevent it from blossoming into something greater. It isn’t redefining what we already know, so for those simply looking for another Pokemon-like experience who just wanna catch ‘em all, this one might be a good fit.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Cream, and published by Humble Games.  It is currently available on Switch, PS5, XBX, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS5. Approximately 15 hours of play were spent playing the game, and the game was not completed. Approximately 3 hours were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents:  This game is rated E 10+ and contains Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, and Use of Alcohol. From the ESRB: “This is an adventure game in which players assume the role of a Temtem tamer, using small creatures to battle an evil force. As players explore islands, they acquire and use cartoony creatures to engage in turn-based battles against other tamers. Players select attacks/skills from a menu, as their creatures use attacks (e.g., kicks, bites, bursts of energy) to deplete opponents’ health bars. During the course of the game, players’ character can visit a tavern, briefly talking to a drunk patron. The words “b*tchy,” “p*ssed,” and “a*s” appear in the dialogue.”

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: In-game text is resizable, and audio cues are not required for progression, making this game fully accessible.

Remappable controls: Yes, controls are completely remappable.

Alex Prakken
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