Note: Temtem is in early access and this review is representative of version 0.5.10 of the game. Because the game is subject to major changes and content updates, there will be no score for this review. We look forward to doing a scored review when the game leaves early access.

  • Developer: Crema
  • Publisher: Humble Bundle
  • Platforms: PC
  • Price: $34.99
  • Release date: January 21, 2020
  • Date reviewed: February 3, 2020
  • Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
  • Review code provided: Yes

From a very early stage of the game’s development, I already knew I wanted to play this game. The kickstarter for this MMO creature capturing RPG went off without a hitch (where 11,716 backers pledged a total of $573,939 to the project) and development of the game kept moving along after that with constant updates on the progress of the game’s completion. Hopping into the game’s official discord was a great way for me to keep updated on the game and even get the chance to vote on some of the creatures’ names. It’s finally time to jump into this bright and colourful creature catching experience after following it for so long and even though it’s in early access, the game in its current state is absolutely spectacular.

No better time to address the elephant in the room than the very beginning. Temtem is incredibly similar to Pokemon, specifically the Nintendo 3DS era of Pokemon games (X/Y, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Sun/Moon). If you have played any of the more recent mainline Pokemon games, you will feel right at home. The new creatures called “temtems” all have evolutions, four combat moves, abilities, base stats, IVs, EVs, natures, single or dual typing, and even shiny forms. The battle system works very similarly as well where you have a team of six creatures and battle in a turn-based fashion, order determined by certain elements.

The story is even almost identical where you start your journey by going to see the professor to obtain your first starter temtem, meet your annoying rival and set out to visit the dojos (which are just gym battles) to take on the Dojo Masters. The whole experience will feel right at home with Pokemon fans and admittedly might be a little bit too similar. To some people, this game is going to look like a straight rip off. But to others more open-minded and knowledgeable about the project, this game is going to feel like a Pokemon inspired game that is a brand new twist on the game and even pushing the genre much further than recent Pokemon adventures have. Now with that out of the way, I can talk about how Temtem is doing just that.

The biggest feature that sets the two titles apart is that Temtem is a massively multiplayer online game. Temtem takes the journey to a whole new level with this fresh new take on the genre. You are no longer making your journey with just NPCs, and you will be able to see and interact with real life players roaming around the over-world. You can wave to them and they can salute you back. You can even challenge them to a fight. Its incredible to see something like this for the first time in a monster hunting RPG. There have been smaller scale attempts at this but Temtem aimed to make this multiplayer component work in real time. So much so that the developers spent a ton of time beta testing the game and spend the first week week of its release hot fixing the game.

When Temtem first launched with version 0.5.0, players had to wait in a queue to get in the game, there was a ton of latency issues, the game would lock at certain screens or take a long time to load. Thankfully a week later the game was patched up to fix all of those issues and as of writing this review, the game runs flawlessly.

Easily one of the best features to come from this MMO style game is that you can play the entire experience in two-player coop. The player will control one temtem during battles and the player you invite to game controls the other. This makes the game a lot of fun because you can experiment with team compositions to either complement your friend’s team or pull off your own combo moves during battles. Both players level up and use their own teams, so this feature makes the game so much fun.

Overall the multiplayer features are an interesting and I hope they expand the feature with more things to do with the people journeying around you in future updates. This could include stuff like battle towers, events, competitions and other stuff of this nature. With the game in early access, some places you visit in the world are still labeled “work in progress” and more features and activities will be coming to the game later on. Right now about half the game is playable and half the temtems are featured in the game.

Speaking of the temtems, they are well designed and interesting. The plucky looking creatures are all colourful and have great animations that fit the personality of the design. You can tell that the designers took a lot of inspiration from the first generation of Pokemon when designing these creatures. Many of the creatures fit the preexisting archetypes like there is a three-stage bird temtem, a rodent looking temtem, a cocoon looking temtem that turns into a flying bug, etc. However, the starters break the traditional trio of fire, water, and grass typing by creating a new trio of crystal typing (Crystle as your starter), mental typing (Houchic as your starter) and melee typing (Smazee as your starter).

Creatures come in a variation of the 12 types found in the game like one of the all-stars on my team Ganki being a dual combination of electric and wind. Part of the excitement of coming across a new creature is finding out what typing it is and learning their weaknesses and resistences. Working knowledge of the temtem in this game is an important part of the battle system.

Another major difference with the battle system is that it’s always played in doubles, meaning two temtems at a time. While not a completely new feature in monster capturing RPGs, it completely changes the dynamics of battling. It’s often better to take down the opponent’s creature that is a bigger threat, especially if you are at a typing disadvantage. This is nothing new to veteran Pokemon players who have played double battles before but they are going to have to adapt to the new changes made to the battle system.

Developer Crema has spruced it up a bit to make matches feel more competitive. Instead of having a set amount of times a move can be used, each move costs a fixed amount of stamina that reduces the creature’s overall stamina bar. Higher damaging moves use more stamina and using a move that brings your temtem’s stamina bar below zero will result in your creature taking damage and missing a turn. This is a great addition to the game because firstly, it prevents matches from stalling and secondly, it prevents players from spamming their best move over and over without a penalty. There’s an extra layer of strategy that goes into these fights now thanks to the competitive focused changes made.

To top it off, some moves have stronger versions if conditions are met like pairing up with a creature of a certain typing. The moves will have increased priority to attack first or have an extra status effect or other fun surprises. As a downside, the increased learning curve might make the game overall a bit more difficult for casual players (combined with the fact that there is no exp share when training your monsters). Otherwise, battling feels familiar but more refined taking the whole system into account.

One other big change is the visual aesthetics. Temtem looks gorgeous and this all thanks to Crema’s choice of art direction. The visuals adapt a less realistic look where edges are softer and colours are more vibrant. It’s a very similar look to fellow indie title Slime Rancher where everything looks more abstract and rounder. Character models look great and the environments all look different from each other. Each new area adopts a new colour palette helping to differentiate one region from another. The monsters also look great when adopting this art direction, giving the creatures a distinct appeal to them.

At the start of the game, your main character is fully customizable with a fairly robust character creation tool. There’s not just 4 or 5 presets, there’s customization down to eyebrows, two-tone hair colours and much more. Plus there are shops where you can buy even more clothing to further change the look of your character. Your character will have a unique name that no one else can choose further making your temtem tamer truly special. Also, your tamer has a voice of their own and speaking with NPCs has branching dialogue paths.

Some of these branching dialogue paths will uncover hidden side quests that the player can complete and this is another great addition to the game. NPCs might reveal through dialogue they have a problem that you can help them with. This might require you to find a certain item, talk with a certain person or explore a certain area of the map. The hidden side quests combined with the main character’s ability to speak and choose dialogue make interactions with the NPCs far more dynamic. No longer does it feel like NPCs are having one-way conversations with a voiceless character and are talking about nonsense before every fight. You can choose to skip through that kind of dialogue by choosing the options to get to the battles or you can explore more conversations with the NPCs.

It even makes your interactions with your annoying rival even better now that you have more control over what you want to say. Max will be antagonistic with you and now you dish it right back if you want to. I really grew to have a rivalry with Max especially when I lost to him. Losing the temtem battle to your rival doesn’t mean you will immediately rematch him on the spot. The story will go on from there and you will take that “L” with you on your journey. All this makes for more satisfying moments against your Max who will become your rival in every sense of the word. This new deeper use of conversation is possibly my favourite addition to the game because it makes the story that most people have played a variation of before much better.

Along your tamer’s journey you will visit some familiar places like a Pokemon Center-like building to heal, store and buy items for your temtem. The game also features a place to breed your creatures and the breeding system works almost identical to how it does in Pokemon. If anything, it is more streamlined with the introduction of items that help offspring directly inherit certain stats or abilities. I’ve mentioned the dojos that work like gyms and even have puzzles to solve and tamers to fight before taking on the Dojo Master. As mentioned before, some buildings are labeled as work in progress so newer versions of the game may introduce some more awesome places to see along your journey.

So far Temtem is off to a great start on its maiden voyage! There is already a ton of stuff to see and explore and there will be more coming as the game updates. You can easily pour 20 plus hours into the experience with the promise of more coming later this year. Even though the full game is not available as of this review, I can recommend buying the game now if you are interested in jumping in right away. The main issues of server connectivity and most of the bugs have all been addressed as of the latest patch. While the game is heavily inspired by it’s contemporary, Temtem is quickly proving that it can stand on the things it does differently. The game is pushing the genre in a brand new direction and proving that other games in the genre might want to take a page from them.

Look forward to a full scored review of Temtem in the future when the title leaves early access.

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