Pokémon has become a timeless franchise over the past two decades, between video games, card games, anime, media, and toys. It’s transcended and become nearly god-tier, being the highest-grossing media franchise in the world. With such street cred, it’s no wonder that some game developers want to mimic that success. They want to bring a nostalgic vibe to their games over the years. While no one really has the potential to reach Pokémon’s level of success, none have made a better attempt than Temtem. Temtem is a recently-released MMORPG that developer Crema hopes hits all the right chords of fans of the Pokémon franchise.
This is not a review. This game is an indie game in Early Access and ripping into the seams of it this early would be unfair and unjust for such a cool and unique title. This is, instead, a comparison. They’ve really made their name with an elevator pitch saying “It’s a Pokémon MMO”. So, let’s treat it as such. Let’s put Temtem as it currently is (and what it has the potential to be) against the biggest, most well-known franchise in the world. Let’s sit down and critique it as a real compare and contrast. Don’t worry; they do some things really right, even with the game being brand new on Early Access.
Blatant Pokémon Inspirations
I can honestly say that Temtem, for everything it claims to be, really does give a look and feel of classic Pokémon titles. We’re not talking about the modern games that give a little more hand-holding, the-entire-game-is-a-tutorial feel. We’re talking about the first few generations of Pokémon here. You know the ones I mean, with those meaty challenges. The hard-as-nails, ruthless battles from twenty years ago still ring in my head. They don’t hide their inspirations in Pokémon and, in fact, lean into them so hard that (if it were real life) I’d call it a shoulder check.
Ok, let’s put it plain and simple. The game honestly starts out with the player in their bedroom, talking to their mother, then having to meet up at the local Professor’s lab. There, they see their rival (who is totally a jerk) and get their first creature to start their journey. If you’ve played any classic Pokémon game, this sounds really familiar. Although the premise of the tutorial is a copy and paste scenario, some incredibly important details do change.
For instance, fans of the Pokémon games are generally treated to the early rock-paper-scissors of Fire, Water, and Grass. While Fire, Water, and Nature (a combination of Grass and Bug) do exist in the game, the starters offer three different choices instead: Melee (their version of Fighting), Mental (their version of Psychic), and Crystal (a new one that seems to be a little bit of Steel, Ice, and Dark combined into one).
Hit The Pokémon Nail on the Head
Instead of your “friend”-slash-rival, Max, taking another Temtem (you know, like that jerk Blue), you’re told he already had obtained one, which happens to be the rare “Digital” type, Oree. Oree has no direct analog to Pokémon but is clearly a nod to the 90s Pokémon rival series, Digimon. You battle him and really just don’t have a lot of chance at winning this fight. It doesn’t matter because the Professor gives you a second Tem, Tuwai, either way afterward.
They did learn from the modern games a tad bit and implement them in some minor details. For instance, a Temporium can be found in each town (with half centers in less populated areas). Temporiums are basically derived from modern Pokémon Centers. You can heal your Tem team, utilize the storage boxes, and buy supplies. Old Pokémon games kept the Pokémon Center and Pokémart separate. I’m glad they opted to combine them here for convenience.
One thing that Temtem does nearly identical to Pokémon is their Dojos, which work exactly like Gyms. It starts with a puzzle and Dojo tamers (the Temtem word used for “trainers”). This ends in a fight with the Dojo master (you know, the Gym leader). It’s pretty cut and dry, just like Gyms. The difference is that Pokémon Gyms all follow a theme, often basing their gym and puzzles on the specific type, such as Water or Grass. Temtem doesn’t have any notable Dojo themes that are immediately obvious (and if they are, they’re easy to miss).
The Temtems (or Tems For Short)
The great thing about Pokémon is the feeling that an entire team of designers sat down and really hashed out unique and iconic creatures. Looking at most Pokémon, players can easily memorize them and they notoriously stick out. This is where the modern formula for Pokémon and Temtem diverge a bit, as Crem is a much smaller indie developer.
Temtem has a similar mentality to old school Pokémon, which at times was just a real animal with a color splash and a new name (I’m looking at you, Rattata and Pidgey). Most Temtem don’t feel like they could hold the same iconic candle as, let’s say, Pikachu, Eevee, or even recent additions like Sobble. But, with later Pokémon like Toucannon (literally just an angry toucan) and Ducklett (a blue cartoon duck), many of the Temtem could fit right into the picture without anyone really batting an eye.
Some of the Tems were created by well known Fakemon artists, such as 50 Shades of Heliolisk’s adorable Platypet and its evolutionary line. Some were not, which shows the immaturity of the game yet, with plenty of room to grow. To be perfectly fair, Pokémon has had 20 years to come up with nearly 1000 creatures and Temtem is still working itself out of Kickstarter and Early Access.
Right For Your Right To Battle
As mentioned earlier, this game wears its classic Pokémon feel on its sleeve. But, it totally changes the game and how tactics work within actual Temtem battles. The battles are still turn-based like Pokémon but focus on Stamina instead of how many times a move can be used. For instance, in Pokémon, a specific move could have 5 or 35 times it can be used without filling back up (in a Pokémon Center or via specific items).
However, in Temtem, Stamina is based entirely on an individual fight. Each technique (their term for “attack”) has a number next to it, which uses up a Tem’s personal stamina. As they level up, they get more stamina. But, it’s a slow progression (especially early on). When it depletes, your Tems can’t attack until they rest up or use special items to gain Stamina back. In fact, if you go over your allotted Stamina, it overexerts itself, damaging the Temtem and forcing it to rest the next turn. This makes tactical decisions heavier, especially when hard-hitting moves can demolish a Temtem’s stamina in a single blow. Stamina refills after each battle, though. So, use that to your advantage!
Pokémon-like, But Still Different Enough
Type advantages, weaknesses, and resistances do make a return in this game from its inspiration. One thing that Temtem does super well here is being upfront about the advantages and disadvantages both in and out of battle.
Early on in the game, they offer some pretty good resources in the Accademia (a school you attend to learn about being a Tem Tamer). This is to help new players understand they’re not in the Pokémon world anymore and to learn all of the new weaknesses and strengths. In battles, the UI informs you that something will be effective, super effective, or less effective with colors. Once a move has been done, you may even see a little 2x, 4x, 1/2x, or 1/4x above the defending Tem.
Battles are done as two vs two (2v2) most of the time, similar to the Double Battles within Pokémon. This allows strategy in the normal game. But, it really amps up the strategy when it comes to co-op. I’ll talk more on co-op later when I talk about the multiplayer aspects of the game.
One thing that didn’t carry over from modern Pokémon games is the minor quality of life conveniences like pressing a single-button to throw a Pokéball/ TemCard in battle. You have to go hunting for the particular item in your inventory. It brings back the slow slog memories of old Pokémon games, breaking the pacing of battles.
Stats Play a Big Part
Temtem has nearly duplicated the stat system that Pokémon has popularized, with Speed, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, as well as HP. In addition, Temtem added Stamina too (as mentioned earlier), which is affected by leveling up and other means.
Instead of the EV and IV stat systems of Pokémon, they’re instead called Single Value (SV) for base stats and Training Value (TV) for trainable stats, which go from 1 to 50 and 1 to 500, respectively. Training can bring TV up to 1000 each. This is treated, for better or worse, exactly like Pokémon.
Pokémon Breeders Will Be Happy
Breeding in Pokémon is an international pastime. Players will spend dozens to hundreds of hours perfecting their competitive teams with perfect stats, specific abilities, egg moves, shiny options, and more. Temtem takes that another step in their breeding process.
Five things can be inherited here: Fertility, Techniques, Single Values, Traits, and Luma. Luma is just Temtem’s version of “Shiny”, which is an incredibly rare chance that you’ll get a special color version of a particular Tem. In fact, it’s a much lower chance than Pokémon’s Shinies. So, good luck with the Luma hunt!
Instead of dealing with egg groups where a Wailord and a Skitty can breed with each other, the compatibility boils down to typing, opposite sex, and fertility. Yea, I said fertility. The fertility of a particular Temtem can be found in the Tempedia with a little flower icon and will be affected by the number of times the Tem has been bred, resulting in the offspring to inherit the lowest fertility of the parents. A Fertility Essence can be used to raise the stat, but it’s an extra step in the usual process. Type plays a part with compatibility, meaning Tamers need to make sure they share at least one Type, as well as be opposite genders. The eggs can learn Egg Techniques from their parents just like Pokémon, but items can be used to ensure stats are inherited as well.
Don’t Forget About Items!
Pokémon fans will be familiar with the basis of many of the items available in Temtem, with some slight tweaks. Balms work just like Potions, except they heal 25 HP instead of 20. Scent works just like the classic Repel. Instead of using an Escape Rope in Pokémon, one may throw a Smoke Bomb down to get out of a building or cave. Since Tems are not kept in spherical Pokéballs, they’re instead kept in flat electronic cards, aptly named TemCards. Those are kept a nice stack, known as a TemDeck, which can only consist of 6 cards. This all might feel pretty familiar to most fans of Pokémon, if not with some light inspiration from the Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Franchises as well.
In addition to riffs on the classics, many items will help with Stamina (such as Ether), with many helping heal both HP and Stamina at the same time. However, one major item that Pokémon doesn’t have is called the Temessence Vial. This vial is a one-time use item that heals an entire party. It’s refilled each time you heal up at a Temporium, but it’s an out-of-battle last-ditch effort if you’re stuck in the middle of some ruins or in the middle of a field hanging on for dear life.
Multiplayer and MMORPG
Where the most recent Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield have added roving trainers and team-ups in the form of Max Raid Battles, this game takes a more MMORPG approach to other people in the world. Multiplayer, as players will find out quickly, is pretty MMO standard. It includes (or at least will include in future updates) all of the things one comes to expect from an MMORPG. While playing, you’re likely to see tons of other Tamers traversing the land. When you look up a Tamer and hit “Inspect”, however, a really nice menu pops up with a ton of options.
The first thing you’re likely to notice is the battle options, which include both a “Competitive” and “Casual” option, which is great for those looking to battle with friends or randos alike. Since this is a Poké-like game, trading is also available between Tems. You can also add them as a friend. These all feel more natural than the boring menus and long alphanumeric codes that Pokémon fans are used to.
When you go into inspect the player, you can learn everything there is to know about them, down to the outfit and hair they have, stats and wins, when they were last online, and (a function not yet available in the game) their club. Since this is an MMO, it’s only normal to include a guild or clan option. So, clubs will be a feature in the game.
Since this is an MMO, there’s a chat box in the bottom corner of the screen with different options. But, when inspecting a Tamer, you can Whisper directly to them. This is a great way to set up battles, trades, or anything else.
Unlike Pokémon, Co-op play is an actual option in Temtem. You can team up with a friend in the game, working together on quests and battles in real-time. Since the game utilizes double battles at all times in either case, double battles consist of the first three Tems in each of your teams, even though you can still carry six total on you. Strategy is key, so don’t be afraid to utilize your communication channels.
One thing that really feels lacking this early on in Temtem is the feeling of accomplishment. Sure, you can breed and create a perfect killer team, but there’s no real Battle Tower to take them too, or tournament areas, or anything like that. If you want to battle, it’s generally just against random players. Sure, this kind of content may be added in later updates. But, it just doesn’t scratch the competitive itch that Pokémon has perfected.
In the newest Pokémon games, Sword and Shield, players could go into the Wild Area early on and easily waste 10 hours or more doing Max Raid Battles and exploring before making it to their first gym. But, you still feel accomplished by the time you get that far. You don’t feel like you just used that amount of time for nothing. The story keeps you going and pushing to concepts and keeps the flow the entire time. In Temtem, the pacing isn’t nearly as cut and dry. You could go 10 hours before your first Dojo, but you could still be sitting at relatively low-level Tems that might not stand a chance against an onslaught of Dojo tamers and not enough money to get a ton of Balms.
There’s no feeling that you’re actually getting where you need to be. It, unfortunately, takes this feeling from much older Pokémon games that focused pretty hard on the grind. Do you need to level up a Pokémon? Well, go grab a drink. You’re going to be in the patch of grass for a while. This could change later on in balancing and quality of life adjustments, but it’s super noticeable right now.
So, now that we’ve laid out all of the information, we have to ask the harder questions. Is Temtem really like Pokémon and is it the “Pokémon Killer”?
These are easy questions to answer. Temtem has definitely got all the proper notes to make Pokémon fans happy and keep them playing over time. The game is still in Early Access. So, it’s hard to determine exactly how much more they plan to do with the game. They plan to add things into the game that are clearly marked as coming soon or “Work in Progress”. But, solving the quality of life issues and getting their various bugs taken care of immediately come to mind.
We live in a world where everything out there is compared to something. This is why we have roguelikes (games that are compared to the old game, Rogue), Souls-likes (compared to Dark Souls), and so on. I don’t believe Temtem is a “Pokémon Killer”. However, I’d like to propose we consider it a true Poké-like. It has enough similarities that it’s clearly meant to mimic Pokémon. But, it’s got enough differences that it’s not just a straight-up Pokémon clone. I’d recommend anyone that likes the concept and values of Pokémon to give it a solid try.
Additionally, they recently released a great road map of their future plans starting Spring 2020 and going all the way into Summer 2012, which they intend to add a ton of features, fixes, and quality of life additions. Adding things like a Nuzlocke mode, Achievements, Housing, and much more is going to really flesh out the game. They are showing that Spring 2021 will be the “1.0 Launch” which will pull it out of Early Access as well. It may not be “there” just yet, but it’s going to head that way.
Here’s a look at the complete content roadmap, in tidy and neat fashion
We would love to hear what features you’re the most excited for!
And again, remember the full info is only available here: https://t.co/jSxLbhMyeX
Temtem up! pic.twitter.com/TdjsF5d63j
— Temtem (@PlayTemtem) February 26, 2020