The Pokémon franchise has seen a lot of rivals over the past 24 years with the likes of Digimon, Yokai Watch, and Monster Rancher capitalising on the monster-collecting genre. The latest competitor to enter the ring is Temtem, a colourful monster-catching indie from Crema Games (Immortal Redneck). The studio's new game has just launched in Early Access and strives to distance itself from classic monster collectors by adding a more challenging combat system and MMO elements. The title also aims to be released sometime in 2021 - with PS4, Switch, and Xbox One versions currently in the works too.
Our adventure in Temtem started out familiar enough - we were acquainted with the region's Professor and were tasked with selecting between one of three Temtem before having to face off against the classic obnoxious rival. After a short tutorial of sorts, we were then let off the leash to explore the beautiful tropical land of the Airborne Archipelago. We then conquered our first dojo challenge and thwarted the plans of evil group Clan Belsoto. Despite being in its early access state, Temtem has a 20-hour story to burn through, which is pretty sizable considering that additional content is said to be arriving in upcoming months.
Turn-based encounters within Temtem are always 2v2 regardless of whether you are challenging a duo or a single 'tamer' (that's unless they only have one). Temtem have stamina bars, which drain from using attacks (different moves take different amounts of stamina), if a move takes more stamina than is remaining, the Temtem's health will be sacrificed instead; differing greatly from other games where moves have a certain point system deduction. Moves come with a priority rating that dictates what order they will be performed in battle rather than the creature's core speed stat (if two moves that are used simultaneously have the same priority then the Temtem's speed stat will come into play).
Having to consider how we managed our stamina felt refreshing and pushed us to carefully consider how we approached each turn. We found ourselves clinging onto less effective moves as these were less taxing on stamina and skipping turns actually felt like a viable option so that we wouldn't inflict damage upon ourselves. In Pokémon, it was all too easy to fall back upon our most powerful offensive move and the shift in mechanics meant that this lazy exploit was no longer possible and battles felt all the better for it.
We also found Temtem to be pretty tough and we had to tactically retreat to heal our team more than a couple of times as we failed to prepare ourselves for the challenge ahead. There's no XP share in Temtem so you'll need to drag your weaker creatures out onto the battlefield if you want them to gain strength. Additionally, the routes present are padded out with up to 15 inescapable tamers who you'll need to conquer, it can feel like quite the gauntlet - especially if you are exploring the tall grass to make a few catches along the way.
The MMO elements in Temtem help it to feel like a living, breathing playground - with more content such as auction houses said to be on the way. As you explore the colourful landscape you'll see other players roaming around with their favourite Temtem behind them; you can interact with them to trade as well as competing in competitive battles. A neat touch is that you can even complete the full adventure within co-op, with you and your partner commanding one Temtem each during battle.
The designs of the Temtem themselves are great for the most part and fondly reminded us of the knockoff Pokemon we spent our youth doodling in the classroom. There are 81 creatures currently within early access, and whilst we liked the majority, some felt like pure copycats. Saipat, for example, looks identical to Psyduck but with a different colour pallete and a clam shell comically strapped to its head. We also found that due to limited designs many were reused in battles - this became tiring over the many encounters we faced. The developers have said, however, that more Temtem will be arriving in future with the total expected to rise to a much more handsome figure of 161.
Conversations were a healthy two-sided affair in Temtem as there's often a whole slew of dialogue options for you to select from. Responses are often hilarious; we remember a moment, for example, where we mocked a member of Clan Belsoto as he remained cocky despite being ill-prepared and bringing one creature to battle. There are also fleshed-out side quests here and we found ourselves searching out many fun distractions, such as when we took control of a tour group and when we tried to earn a stranger's child a spot in a prestigious university.
That's not to say we found everything to be perfect with Temtem, as we found the economy to be unbalanced; accessories within the clothing stores were outrageously expensive, and it was strange to us how a Temcard (Pokéball equivalent) cost us 15 Pansuns - but revives are an extortionate 500. Another shortcoming with Temtem is that if you'd like another save there isn't the option to create multiple save slots so you're forced to start afresh.
Temtem's new take on the monster-collecting genre is an admirable one - and in many respects, it is able to hold its own. The MMO elements really help to give the game-world a sense of being alive, and its stamina-based combat system is thought-provoking and challenging. There are a few drawbacks, however, as there is a limited number of creatures currently in the game. We also feel that the economy prices could do with a rethink. That said, Temtem is still showing heaps of promise despite being in Early Access - and we're excited to see how things shape up as it inches its way to its 2021 release.
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