Temtem on PS5
If someone were to look at Temtem without knowing anything about it, they’d probably think it was one of many Pokémon clones and leave it at that. And to an extent, they’d be right; Crema’s latest title borrows plenty from the storied Nintendo franchise and leaned heavily on these elements when it first hit Early Access over two years ago.
Fast forward to today, though, and things have changed dramatically after it has reached its 1.0 version. Borrowed elements aside, Temtem is its own experience through and through and is an experience anyone would do well to dive into fully.
The game kicks off much in the same way that the original Pokémon titles did. One morning, the player awakens to discover that they’re finally old enough to become a Temtem Tamer and must choose the first Temtem they’ll receive from the quirky Professor Konstantinos. They then must set out into the world to gather more Temtem, battle against Dojo Masters, and earn enough recognition to be crowned the strongest trainer in the Airborne Archipelago.
It’s a basic setup pretty much anyone can follow thanks to its similarity to Pokémon, and it can be just as corny as a Pokémon game’s plot in certain areas. At the same time, though, Crema has injected a decent amount of effort into fleshing out the dialogue and writing with tongue-in-cheek jokes that lampoon the tropes and norms of what inspired it. This goes a long way in making the overall narrative more enjoyable, as it doesn’t take itself too seriously and leaves plenty of room for the gameplay to shine.
Speaking of which: Temtem is split mostly between exploring the Airborne Archipelago and engaging in Temtem battles. The exploration mechanics are fairly standard, with a few different mechanics thrown in to block players off from certain areas and force them along a certain path. Otherwise, it mainly boils down to going from point A to point B, with a few sections that require using a particular tool mixed in between.
As for the Temtem battles, they’re a bit more in-depth, though one might not realize it based on their first impression. When combined with the initial gameplay explanation, it’d be easy to think the game’s core turn-based combat was a nearly one-to-one copy of the Pokémon formula. There are creatures launching attacks at each other that cause more or less damage based on their typing, and their stats can be boosted or debuffed through the use of specific moves.
In practice, though, the combat proves itself to be a much deeper and more methodical version of Pokémon’s mechanics. Case in point: A Temtem’s moves pull from a shared pool of points as opposed to separate counters, and once said points run out, they’ll start draining their HP to let off attacks. Attack priority is also more strict, and there aren’t any critical hits that can turn the tables of a match, thanks to RNG.
It all comes off as a more forgiving version of Shin Megami Tensei‘s turn-based combat and can be just as punishing and rewarding.
This can also make battles much more intense, with even early NPCs able to wipe the floor with players if they aren’t careful. Once one gets the hang of the mechanics, though, it’s just as fun – if not more so – than anything the game initially tried to ape and stands as an entirely unique approach to the turn-based RPG genre.
Only bolstering this is Temtem’s approach to multiplayer. Whereas Pokémon has always had a certain level of multiplayer functionality, Temtem kicks it up a notch and introduces components that make it feel like a pseudo-MMO. Other players can constantly be seen running around the Airborne Archipelago and can be interacted with to trade Temtem, battle, or otherwise, just chat.
This makes the game’s world feel much more alive than any Pokémon title and leaves it sitting comfortably in a very specific niche. Players can still enjoy it as a single-player experience, with the online elements acting as a way to keep the world around them feeling alive and constantly in motion.
Unfortunately, this also opens the game up to certain drawbacks. If players encounter any sort of internet connectivity issues, they can be booted from the game and might need to reload, which can take a while, thanks to Temtem’s longer load times, even on the latest and strongest hardware. They’ll never be at risk of losing major chunks of progress, though, so it’s more of a minor grievance than a game-breaking problem.
It can feel a little strange if one goes in expecting a different experience, and these changes definitely make the game a far cry from what one would expect from a typical Pokémon-style adventure RPG. Overall though, these slight deviations go a long way in propping the game up as something new and fresh, establishing it as its own experience players will want to open themselves up to.
Topping all of this off is the game’s art and music. Both are bright, bubbly, and energetic, lending the whole experience a sense of child-like wonder and excitement without ever being overbearing. It helps to keep the game feeling light-hearted even in more intense moments and leaves everything in a more positive light as a result.
Particular kudos has to go to the creature design. Whereas other Pokémon clones carry at least a hint of elements aping the series’ titular monsters, Temtem’s feel the most original. They run a decent gamut from cute to intimidating, and there’s a clear throughline linking them all together as part of the same universe.
When all is said and done, Temtem is far more than its inspirations. Though it stumbles occasionally, the game offers an experience that even the most grizzled Pokémon fan will enjoy while also building up a new world for fresh players to marvel at. It’s a must-play and a strong showing of what could be a major series moving forward.
- Turn-based combat is the right kind of challenging
- Clever dialogue and tongue-in-cheek jokes done right
- Art and sound design lend the experience positive energy
- Always Online approach can cause some issues
- The story setup can be a little corny