Temtem featured image.
Temtem is not shy or coy about where its developers, Crema, got their ideas. This is a labor of love crafted by people that grew up playing Pokemon games and watching Pokemon anime and that’s immediately apparent from the first line of the game’s Steam store page listing: “Temtem is a massively multiplayer creature-collection adventure inspired by Pokemon.”
It doesn’t get more clear than that. At first glance you’d be entirely forgiven for thinking this was an actual Pokemon game—that’s how convincing of an homage they’ve created. But if you look past the surface-level similarities, there are enough differences to put it firmly in the “innovating on the idea” category rather than “imitating past success” which is a relief.
I got the chance to spend a few hours playing Temtem this past week during a closed Alpha testing period ahead of its January 21st release and came away extremely impressed.
Pocket Card Monsters
Let’s get the obvious comparisons out of the way first. There’s a lot that’s extremely similar here. Firstly, the whole game is about capturing, training, taming, and battling small creatures with and against friends. That’s the whole pitch.
Instead of being called Pokemon they’re called Temtem. Instead of catching them in Pokeballs you use flat, digitized TemCards. Instead of being a “trainer” you’re a “tamer,” and instead of logging info in a Pokedex you keep track of everything in your TemPedia. Evolutions are just called evolutions, no fancy word play there. Overall it’s truly some expert level “find and replace” wizardry at work here.
The game also begins with your character frantically waking up, already late for the big day where you leave town on your adventure just after stopping by to see the Professor. Yes, he grants you your first Temtem and yes, there is a rival NPC that is always one step ahead, prodding at your ego and making fun of you.
A battle from Temtem.
It doesn’t get a whole lot more like Pokemon than that.
I only got to play about three hours total during the Alpha testing period this week, but that was enough to see dozens of wild battles, explore the first couple of areas thoroughly, battle some trainers, and do a few quest-style missions.
Where they’ve mostly set themselves apart though is by building this game on top of an MMO framework rather than as a single player game with minor multiplayer features like Nintendo’s franchise.
The social screen from Temtem.
Creature Taming With Friends
Every time you play Temtem you’re playing online with other tamers around the world in a shared, persistent environment. As you run across the overworld you’ll see other players exploring, doing quests, talking to NPCs, and battling. There’s a chat box in the bottom left corner just like most MMOs and you can even group up with players, trade items, and go on adventures together.
There are some other key differences too from Pokemon too. Since Temtem is an MMO things like friends lists are a thing and you can trade items between players it looks like. There’s even a pretty detailed housing system that looks to be inspired by Animal Crossing a bit with lots of fun customization features. Character customization looks similarly thorough.
Walking around the overworld and seeing other players running about with their Temtem’s following behind is a real treat. And thanks to the character customization system everyone actually looks quite distinct.
The main way that it differs though from what I’ve seen is the battle system. Rather than most fights being simply 1v1 affairs, most fights in Temtem are actually two Temtem versus two Temtem. If you’re playing solo then it’s the first two in your squad list. If you’re playing co-op then it picks the top Temtem from each players, but limits you to only your top three each for the whole battle since the max is always six in combat to choose from.
Everything is turn-based, just like Pokemon, but individual moves don’t have limited uses. Instead, each Temtem has both a health meter and stamina meter. Every move costs stamina and you only recharge a tiny bit between turns. If you try to use a move you don’t have stamina for, the Temtem uses up some health to make up the difference and is then exhausted.
It’s actually a very good system that lends some good strategy elements between the resource management and 2v2 battles. When you add in the co-op aspect, teamwork becomes important. Which brings up my biggest gripe so far. There is no text chat during battles with your buddy, only in the overworld. This means you can’t strategize or plan out moves. In fact, you can’t even see what the other player picks which could lead to wasted turns if you end up picking a move that’s not useful because you thought they’d do something else.
Crossing a suspended bridge in Temtem.
To Be The Very Best
The best compliment I can pay Temtem is to say that it makes me truly wonder why Nintendo hasn’t gone this direction with the actual Pokemon franchise yet. In the anime there are always tons of trainers running about, competing alongside each other, and handing over control of those rival trainers to actual players in Temtem breathes more life into this formula than Game Freak has managed in decades.
After playing Temtem I don’t think I can go back to a single player Pokemon game.
Temtem hits Steam Early Access for PC on January 21st, 2020 and is eventually coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch sometime afterward.
Oh also the soundtrack is straight fire. Go listen to it now.