Temtem is a creature collector MMORPG from Crema that was funded on Kickstarter back in 2020 and has now hit version 1.0.
You create a young tamer who sets out from the cozy floating island of Deniz to become a Pokém-eh I mean Temtem master. Temtem are creatures integral to the daily lives of not just Deniz but the entire Airborne Archipelago. However, that doesn’t stop everyone’s favorite pastime of collecting and battling with them for fun and sport.
The story is familiar: After selecting your starter Pokém-eh, sorry, Temtem, you battle, catch, and raise more to challenge a series of dojos to earn badges that prove your skill. All the while your annoying rival, Max, takes pleasure in taunting and challenging you. As you explore more of the surrounding regions, you stumble upon a hostile group led by Lady Lottie, with devious ambitions who are upsetting the natural order of the region’s wildlife and ecosystem. Your journey crosses paths with these and many more colorful characters, but it’s as linear an affair as you can get in an RPG. There are side quests, but they often have mundane setups and unclear rewards, which kills any motivation to engage with them. The few more interesting ones aren’t helped by the tedium of forcing you to trek long distances back and forth with random battles slowing you down even further.
The Pokém-eh, excuse me, The Temtem battles are tense rock-paper-scissors showdowns that test your creature knowledge and strategic planning in 2-on-2 bouts. There are several different Temtem types that are either strong or weak versus others, but dual types, passive inherent traits, and other factors can blur the lines of what can sometimes feel like a sure victory. In battles Temtem can make use of up to four attacks that are governed by a stamina bar. When low on stamina, you can still use high-cost moves but to the detriment of your health bar. This risk-versus-reward system can create opportunities for you to eke out wins if you’re smarter than your opponent is aggressive. It’s a really fun battle system, but it’s sadly the only fun thing to do in the game.
Collecting Temtem is boring. As you stumble into random battles, wild Temtem will challenge you, and the lower you get their HP before throwing Temtem cards to capture them, the greater the chances of your success. If the addiction of completing your collection doesn’t appeal to you, there’s nothing about this system that entertains. I’d have appreciated some sort of exploration or investigation that would reward you with an opportunity to battle and catch new Temtem. Perhaps a quest that grants an item you can use to lure a specific Temtem to you, or a sequence where you need a certain type of Temtem in order to trigger an event that will give you a chance to catch another. Many aspects of what the game has to offer have been seen elsewhere and are not only being done better, but they’ve been done to death.
The MMO aspects surface in the endgame content with repeatable activities, mostly battles, for rewards that help with tuning your Temtem for even more battles. The breeding, trading, and competitive battling all feed into that endgame loop, and it definitely feels made for a very hardcore kind of player. There’s also co-op; you and your partner are essentially treated as one character and can only progress the story of the lower-level player. It works for the game’s 2-on-2 battle system as you split your squad in half and have to work together. But if two players intend to occasionally play together, expect to play catch-up with each other’s stories over the 25-hour campaign regularly.
Aesthetically I like the look of the game, but clearly more effort was put into the designs of the 164 Temtem than either the environments or the human characters. Players and NPCs feature pasted-on faces with dollbaby-like expressions. Temtem on the other hand were often on par with some of my favorite-looking actual Pokémon, and I often questioned if a design may have been borrowed from one entirely because of it. The music also borrows quite generously from some familiar Pokémon arrangements, especially in the battle tunes, but I fell in love with the music’s overzealous violins.
Temtem feels like a Pokémon superfan’s attempt to fix the few things they weren’t getting from the game. So while it’s a very competent copy of Pokémon, that love for the franchise didn’t leave room to improve on things, like a stale story and one-note gameplay. However, if you just “gotta catch ‘em all” — I mean “gonna grab a bunch?” — then Poké-eh, damn it, Temtem might be for you. The game is out now for $44.99 on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Temtem.