Rewind the clock to the very end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. Pokémon has done gangbusters numbers on the Nintendo Gameboy, it has just made a splash with a re-release on the Gameboy Colour via Pokemon Yellow and the upcoming Gold and Silver games are poised to earn all the money in the world once Nintendo releases them.
Naturally, there was a whole lot of sincere imitation doing the rounds back then, with game developers working on their own collect ‘em all time-sinks that players could while away the hours on. Some were good, like the Medabots (MEEEEEEEDAAAAAAA-BOTS!) games! Some were awful, others were totally forgettable but the end result was proof positive that Game Freak had made their mark on the gaming industry.
Two decades later, and those games are an afterthought of a bygone era. Pokémon is stronger than ever, its recent Sword and Shield games have been system sellers and you can bet your gym badge that I want to grab the expansion pass content coming out mere months after those games were released.
Along comes Temtem, a new MMORPG whose setup sounds rather…familiar. An avatar that you create, having come of age and ready to venture out into the wilds on a grand adventure? Check! The choice of one of three adorable monsters that can fit into your pocket when not in use? Check! Various elemental strategies that create a massive rock-paper-scissors mechanic of power where every Temtem has its own pros and cons? Check and double check!
It’d be easy to just rattle off a list of what Temtem has in common with Pokémon, but for a game that so unashamedly wears that influence proudly on its sleeve it’s more important to see what makes Temtem different and where it improves upon a catch ‘em all formula that has stood the test of time for decades now.
At its core, Temtem is about expanding that experience, opening the floodgates to create a more connected world of Temtem trainers as they throw down a gauntlet and hunt for rare Temtem. Pokemon Sword and Shield also experimented with this idea last year, but even in its early state Temtem simply does it better and far more smoothly in comparison. A quick press of the TAB key highlights options for connecting with other players, forming parties or even some impromptu battling in a manner that puts the lack of communication in the Sword and Shield games to shame.
The other big takeaway here is the how of battle. There’s still a rapid RPG at play here where certain attacks function with a level of efficacy based on how you train your Temtem and grow their stats, but the addition to this system is a stamina bar that adds a new layer of strategy to any bout. Whereas Pokemon games usually get to a point where you can One-Hit KO the opposition provided that you have enough power points in stock per move, Temtem’s stamina bar makes you choose each move more carefully and save your more powerful attacks up as grand finishers.
Spend too much stamina on flashy high power moves, and your poor little critter will soon start taking damage from all of that careless exertion on your part. The other big difference here is that Temtem focuses on 2v2 battles, thus opening up the possibility for tactics even further. Playing with a team to favour defense and offense, pure attack strategy or tricky use of skills to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat are all possible.
All this, and an absolutely gorgeous world to boot. Temtem’s archipelago of exotic islands look fantastic, vibrant pastille aesthetics draped over everything from the wild grass you’re exploring to the Temtem themselves who all boast some fresh designs and plenty of artistic flair in their battle animations. There’s a deceptive sense of calm to be had in a chaotic world filled with trainers, but the important message here is that Temtem feels vibrantly alive and buzzing with energy.
The best part about all of this? That feeling of venturing into the unknown once again.
It’s surprisingly exciting to not know what awaits around the next corner or if your battle strategy will prove to be effective against a random opponent. It’s fun to fail and learn from the experience, it’s fascinating to pick up snippets of story as the lore of Temtem grows around you. Sidequests aplenty can be found, encountering a Temtem for the first time is exhilirating and there’s even some opposition in the form of Clan Besto who’ll be harassing you along the way.
Temtem deserves to be on the radar of anyone with a love for catch ‘em all gameplay, as this love letter to the genre is working to take the idea of pocket monster fun into a more exciting and social direction. Early Access for Temtem kicks off on January 21 for Steam, with the game going for a full release in May this year.
Last Updated: January 14, 2020