Temtem Review – Review – Nintendo World Report
In January 2020, Temtem was released to the world on PC via Steam Early Access. It was an obvious competitor or an homage (depending on whom you’re asking) to the monster collecting games of the past, but now online with crossplay and cross progression. This means you can truly bring your pocket monsters (or Temtems) anywhere you go, but how does it stand up to the rich history of digital mons that have come before? Simply put, Temtem is enjoyable but somewhat misunderstands what makes those games special even while also pushing the limits of what was previously possible.
Temtem at its core is an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.) It’s an online monster catching game that tells a very familiar story of a child receiving an interactive index of monsters, a starter monster, and items that help them capture new creatures in the wild. You have your classic rival to fight throughout your journey, dojos to complete, and villains in Clan Belsoto to thwart along the way. It’s all very cookie cutter in a way that can feel soulless and generic. It’s a copy and paste job that does the bare minimum to differentiate itself as far as the story is concerned. What does work to Temtem’s benefit is that it really rushes you through that introduction to get to the core gameplay. From the start of the game to the first battles takes only a matter of minutes, which is refreshing in a time of long-winded RPGs. The capturing system is similar to other games. Finding monsters in the wild via random encounters, then attacking them until they are low on health so you can follow up by throwing a capturing card at them.
The 164 Temtems are mostly unique while still feeling at home in the world of digital monsters. The designs start out basic but really begin to stand out the further you go into the game. As your creatures evolve, so does their design and that was something I was initially hesitant on but in the end walked away impressed. The same goes for the islands of the Airborne Archipelago. Our journey starts at the beachside property of Zadar but eventually escalates to lava-spewing volcanoes, mines, mountain tops, and shrines. The locales are varied and relatively complex, but they quickly get old as quests will have you revisiting these locations often without a means of fast travel.
While a lot of these presentational issues may come off as egregious, there are some big differentiators to Temtem. The number one difference is the battle system. Temtems battles play out in 2v2 matches. Having two Tem teams opens up a whole other level of strategy with their abilities and elemental type. Pairing the right Tems together will lead to boosts in stats and attacks. Abilities like Chain Lightning can even hit multiple targets. There’s also an added wrinkle of a stamina system in place of MP. Used stamina fully regenerates at the start of every fight, but if you are low on stamina mid fight, abilities can still be used at the cost of health. Otherwise, you can have your Temtems rest a turn to regenerate some stamina. There’s a real risk-reward system in play that always made me agonize over rolling the dice for that final killer blow and hurting myself or playing conservatively. You can also equip items to your creatures for passive boosts and additional strategy.
The structure of the base game is set in the classic style of roaming the lands of the Airborne Archipelago, completing quests, capturing new monsters, and fighting in Dojos to prove yourself the top Temtem tamer. It’s a tried and true template that rarely differentiates from the classics. While it wears its influences on its sleeve, the online nature of the world makes it feel bustling. There are dozens of other Tem trainers roaming the lands for friendly battles, team ups, trades, or even just a chat. There are general and trade chats for those looking for tips or a conversation and even an auction house for rare Temtems, though it can be tricky to access.
The real appeal for Temtem doesn’t necessarily come from the main 60-hour story. The engaging part lies in the endgame content. Repeating Dojo battles comes with increased difficulty for rare items, a deep competitive online scene (remember, cross platform), breeding Temtems, and even a rogue-like tower that rewards extra loot to build out your own personal home space. There’s also a battle pass (naturally), though completing it is a bit of a heavy grind at launch. For the longest time, Pokemon fans have pleaded upon deaf ears for updates, a supported competitive scene, and rich endgame content. Now there are options for those clamoring for more, in a cross-platform cross-progression format.
Temtem proves that there is still room for competition in the monster catching and battling space. There’s also proof here that games like Digimon or Pokemon, while doing a lot well, leave a lot of things on the table and that’s where Temtem shines. It’s easy to write it off as a copy-pasted clone, but the additional features of co-op battles, deep synergy combat mechanics, and rich endgame content culminate in a real diamond in the rough for those finding the competitors lacking. The main story content can be rote but for those hardcore fans wanting something deeper, Temtem may be what you’re looking for. Temtem is both better and worse than the opposition, and I think that’s okay.