EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
It's Not Pokemon, I Swear!
Look, if youíve been doing any reading about Temtem, Iím sure youíve noticed that just about every article seems to compare it to Pokemon more than judging it on its own merits. In principle, think strictly comparative discussions do games a disservice, and, even when tempted, itís something Iíve tried to avoid in the past. Yet, sitting down to type out my thoughts, I donít see another way to do it. Is Temtem really that similar to the Japanese behemoth of a franchise that any discussion necessitates comparative rhetoric? The short version is yes, Temtem is remarkably similar to Pokemon. The longer version is that while many games take gameplay or thematic inspiration from one another, the similarities between Pokemon and Temtem are so unnecessarily plentiful that, despite the game being a lot of fun, itís going to be incredibly hard for it to earn its own good-will and escape Pikachuís giant shadow. I absolutely think that thereís a ton of untapped potential in the creature collector genre, but instead of forging its own path, Temtem seems too content to make minor changes and rest on the idea that itís basically bringing Pokemon to PCs. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will probably depend on how much Pokemon youíve played, but, if that amount is much more than ďnone,Ē youíre in for a lot of deja-vu.
Temtem starts off like literally every mainline Pokemon game has since the originals. Youíre a young boy or girl, and the day has finally come for you to leave home in pursuit of Temtem-battling greatness. You head next door to the professorís house who lets you choose one of three monstrously adorable critters, and youíre given the basics of how this world works. Temtems are monsters that seem to enjoy being caught and battling each other. Each creature belongs to an element or type classification (crystal, fire, water, tech, etc.) that engage with each other in a rock-paper-scissors web of weaknesses and resistances, and at certain experience levels they evolve into new, stronger forms.
Play With a Friend
Heading out into the wild, Temtemís fist unique contribution to the genre becomes immediately clear- there are other players running around! While other trainers don't yet change the game too much, seeing other people doing more than walking back and forth on pre-mapped routes certainly does make the game world seem more alive. Ultimately, though, how many players are put into the same server or will be allowed in one area might make or break the experience. While it makes sense for certain places to be packed, Iím nervous weíll see traditional MMO sights light crowds around important NPCs that generally pull me out of my escapism fairly quickly. Conversely, though, the potential for interactive elements like world-altering events, real-time tournaments with viewers, and, of course the ability to play cooperatively with friends are all incredibly exciting.
Speaking of playing with a friend, battles in Temtem are designed around tag-teaming content. Battles are 2-against-2, and a decently high helping of moves interact with your partner. How battle flows will be fairly familiar for anyone whoís played a Pokemon game, but itís here that Temtem throws out a few small, interesting new elements that shake up how things work. First, thereís little randomness involved. Moves do what they say theyíll do, when theyíre supposed to do them (speaking of move descriptions, though, many descriptions contain jokes and allusions, which I found to be out of place in a technical in-battle description). Furthermore, a stamina meter replaces usage limits on moves. In short, each move uses a certain amount of stamina. Each temtem has a stamina bar, which can be refilled by taking a turn to rest. If the bar reaches zero, the temtem will hurt itself for however many stamina points it overexerted and will be forced to rest the next turn. I love this mechanic, and it stops any one creature from blindly spamming one strong move the entire match. Deciding between big damage now followed by a rest or choosing something more modest adds strategy to both offense and defensive prediction. Lastly, certain moves gain additional effects/damage if the temtem thatís using it is on the field with an ally of a certain type. This adds strategy to combat pairings beyond pure typing, and itís an element of combat I donít know if I could leave behind now that Iíve played with it.
Meet the Monsters
For many that play any kind of creature collection game, myself included, using the most competitive teams takes a back seat while playing through the story. I want to use the monsters I find coolest. In general, Iíve found the design of the available temtems to be... alright. Some are cool, but, and maybe itís just the art style, I find most of them to lack personality. Some, like the armored duck Saipat, have won my heart, but many havenít clicked with me yet. Thatís personal preference, though, and you might absolutely love them all.
While Iím personally of the opinion that Temtem would have been a better game had it separated itself further narratively from its franchise inspiration, thereís no doubt that whatís here is still a great start. The potential for cool things made possible by its persistent online world, plus a few interesting twists on classic battle mechanics, left me with enough to be more than entertained with the currently available four (of eight eventual) islands and dojos. Plus, who knows, maybe the back half will come with enough twists and turns to make up for the early similarities.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.