First Impressions: Temtem

Note – This first impression has light spoilers for the first few sections of the game, up to and including the first Dojo (think Gyms from Pokémon)

I’ll always have a special place in my memory for Pokémon. Ever since I got a Game Boy with Pokémon Red and Blue for what I think was probably Christmas ’99, I’ve loved the games and the creatures that inhabit them. As the generations pass by though I find it harder and harder to stay invested. A lot of it stems from the difficulty – the games are definitely getting easier and easier and they were never particularly hard anyway. Catching them all has never felt more like a to-do list as well with over 900 Pokémon in total, potentially even passing the 1,000 mark as we head into Scarlet and Violet. Despite some new additions over the years the games never really feel like they are evolving as much as they could or maybe even should. Recent entries like Let’s Go and Arceus are experimenting and Sword and Shield along with Scarlet and Violet are starting to expand the online elements as well, but its so easy to feel like the series is holding itself back at this point.

While other series like Digimon, Monster Rancher, Nexomon etc. have all filled the monster collecting RPG genre in their own way, none of them have reached the same kinds of heights or ambition as Pokémon. A few days ago on September 6th, another new entry to the genre released in the form of Temtem, made by Spanish developer Crema. With clear inspirations aplenty taken from Pokémon, can it separate itself enough to stand alone? Time to find out.

Of Course I Know Him! He’s Me!

I’ve had an experience with Temtem already that is both likely unique and also entirely my own fault! I’m primarily an Xbox gamer so when Temtem released I happily got the Xbox version. I start the game up, make myself a character, type my name in aaaaaand “That character name is already in use”. I have a fairly unique gamertag and I’ve never seen my name taken before. Thinking about it a bit and I quickly realised I did a dumb. You see, I bought the game on PC when it entered early access in 2020 as there was lots of news about it and I wanted to check it out. I had forgotten about this until now and now had to spend a while just sat on the Xbox character creation screen whilst redownloading the game to get my name back from… Uh… Me. The situations I get into sometimes!

Whoops!

A bit of messing around later and I successfully reclaimed my name from myself. Time to give this a real go!

The Second First Impression

While I might have played an earlier version of Temtem a couple of years ago, I didn’t play it for long as I just wanted to check it out and I don’t remember it at all so I consider this a rare chance of being a first impression after already having one. From the second I start the game properly everything feels good. The art style is gorgeous, colourful and vibrant, making the world feel alive and something I want to stay in and explore. The music is fitting and adds greatly to the mood, not really anything catchy that I’d find myself humming away from playing the game but just right for the vibe I think the game is going for. Both the music and art style continued to be this way throughout my time with it so far and I’m greatly looking forward to playing more.

As is tradition for these kinds of games you are very quickly given some Temtem to choose from – the Crystal type Crystle, the Melee type Smazee and the Mental type Houchic. Green is my favourite colour and Crystle looks adorable so I pick them.

Also as is tradition you get forced into a fight with your rival, Max and the game instantly sets up what you can expect as his Digital type Oree wipes the floor with me. I’m unsure if this fight is winnable but it doesn’t seem likely. At this point you are given the wind type Tuwai regardless of your initial choice as your second Temtem and this sets you up for the journey ahead as battles in this game are largely 2v2 affairs.

Prepare For Trouble, And Make It Double!

Having the default for fights being 2v2 is a major departure from Pokémon which does have 2v2 battles but definitely isn’t the standard for that series. This change has big implications for strategy, team composition and overall difficulty.

An example of a 2v2 battle

The most interesting thing to me so far has been move synergy. Certain moves become powered up if you use them while the correct type of Temtem is also out on your side of the field. For example, Toxic type move Urushiol becomes Urushiol + if a your other Temtem is Toxic type, while Crystal type move Crystal Dust gets a noticeable power bump if a Wind type is also on the field etc. This greatly increases focus on team composition if you really want to get the most out of your squad.

Team composition and placement is also being shown to be important with some moves even at this early stage. One of the fights in the first Dojo has a Temtem with the Electric type move Chain Lightning, which hits the target for full damage then rotates around to the next two targets doing weaker damage as it goes. Keep in mind that battles are 2v2, guaranteeing that Chain Lightning will hit at least one of your Temtem depending on which target you attacked. I’ve avoided using this move as damaging my own team is counter-productive, but in this instance this Temtem has a trait that lets it absorb Electric damage, enabling it to do damage to my team while healing itself. This is very interesting to me and I’m very interested to see what other clever strategies can be employed.

Knowledge of the battle system and how to get the most out of your team is very important as Temtem is much harder than I ever remember any of the Pokémon games being. Even random battles against wild Temtem would cripple a lot of my team if the type matchups weren’t in my favour, even when my team were a few levels above them and trainers. Some fights, particularly in the area just before you can challenge the Dojo, were regularly wiping large sections of my team out. I like this because the game is constantly forcing me to interact with how it works and truly understand it to avoid wasting trip after trip to a healing station.

I feel like the game acknowledges the difficulty as well. Very early on you are given a Temessence Phial, an inventory item that can instantly revive and heal your entire team outside of battle. It can only be used once before it needs refilling, which happens automatically when using a Temporium (think Pokémon Center) or the smaller healing stations in the world. I didn’t need this much early on but when in the area mentioned above I was using this more regularly than I’d like to admit!

This is useful!

Without spoiling too much, the Dojo was also very tricky. I’m so used to how Pokémon is set up I absolutely wasn’t ready for the leader to have a full team of 6 ready to go, something I don’t think the Pokémon Gyms ever do in those games. The Dojo focuses on two types instead of one as well which makes planning a team out so much more important. I got so used to playing the Pokémon games and destroying most gyms just by having one Pokémon of the right type, but that absolutely doesn’t work here. Even having a full team of Temtem that are effective against the Dojo leader that were around their levels only just got me the win.

What impresses me most about Temtem so far is the amount of confidence it has. The game is considerably harder than the game it is inspired by but I don’t find it unfair or overly difficult. The challenge can be steep, especially for the unprepared, but the game is very fair so far and rewards those willing to take the time to understand the systems and the Temtem themselves. Anyway, enough of the focus on fighting for now – time to focus on the stars of the show!

It’s Temtem Time!

As of version 1.0, the current version at time of writing, there are 164 Temtem and while Crema have confirmed they will keep developing the game (it is an MMO after all), there are currently no plans to add more. I’ve seen some disappointment from this news, particularly from those that have been playing since early access and want more new additions to the roster, but for the time being at least I don’t think it is a problem. I’d be happy to see more someday, kind of like a Pokémon style second generation, but my understanding is Crema is a small studio and it takes a lot to add new playable characters to a game like this. Hopefully the game takes off enough where they can consider it when the game has aged a bit more.

Right now though I’m quite happy with how many Temtem are in the game and that has a lot to do with all of the various parts of the battle system. Because typing, moves, pairing and sometimes placement are so important, I find myself paying much closer attention to them. I’ve only got up the the first Dojo so far but I already feel like I understand Crystle, Saipat, Pigepic and the rest far more than I ever did Bulbasuar, Pidgey, Pikachu and so on in the original generation Pokémon by the first Gym and beyond, something still true even in the current generation. Not counting evolved forms, I have 12 different Temtem currently and they all feel very unique and different. Even at this early stage I’ve experimented enough with them that I feel I have a grasp of them as characters, not just another monster for the Pokédex, known as the Tempedia here.

Certain things like breeding Temtem aren’t available to me yet as far as I’m aware so I can’t investigate that, but I was able to evolve some Temtem on my travels and the system for doing so is different and interesting. In Pokémon, Bulbasaur will always evolve once it hits level 16. In Temtem, there are no hard levels for this. Instead a Temtem must level up so many times before it can evolve – Wind type Paharo for example will always evolve after 7 levels. If I catch one at level 5 it would evolve at level 12, or if I catch one at level 10 it will evolve at level 17. They can even evolve during battle! I really like this system as you have to spend time with every Temtem form and helps with having that connection with them. Assuming breeding works similar to Pokémon and new Temtem start at level 1, I can also see this being important for competitive players as they can get a Temtem they like, start it at a level much lower than a wild one and spend more time getting evolved stats.

Again the art style contributes greatly as well. All the Temtem I’ve encountered so far have all been cute and adorable in their own ways. Even the later game Temtem I’ve seen other players journeying with that are fierce looking still manage to have a cute edge to them just because of the art style and I can’t wait to see more of the full roster. I also want to draw attention to Platypet, because Platypet is adorable and I want a real life one so bad. Look! Gaze upon the cuteness!

So cute!

Ahem, anyway… Moving swiftly on to the world of Temtem, and what a world it is!

Welcome to the World of Temorrow!

Temtem takes place in the Airborne Archipelago, a collection of islands floating around the “Pan-Sun”. My adventures so far have kept me to only one of these islands, Deniz, but so far I’ve been very impressed! The adventure begins in the player’s hometown of Zadar, a small sea-side village that begins a journey through coastal paths, cliffsides, a couple of more towns and more besides. I was blown away by just how much you could see before you even take on the first Dojo, being able to see about half the island (which is bigger than I initially thought!), going through a variety of different places. I’m so used to Pokémon routes that are quite short and easy to breeze through, but I think here by the time you conquer the first Dojo I can easily see it taking 5-10 hours if you take your time to explore everything, do the side quests on offer etc. I can definitely see the potential for some grinding if you end up at the Dojo with a rough party composition or are just under levelled, but I play these kinds of games in quite a grindy way anyway so I didn’t notice personally.

I wanna see it all!

The world is full of trainers that will challenge you as soon as they see you, but many won’t engage unless you talk to them first which is a good way to do it for anyone more interested in exploration than combat. These and many of the other characters populating the worlds are quite expressive, most feeling like actual characters and not just exposition delivery systems. Its always a delight to come across someone that knows your character or someone else you’ve interacted with – this is an island after all and it makes sense that other people around it would know of you or your town. It helps the player character to feel like an actual person and also makes the world generally feel more alive. It turns it into a world that I feel like I’m taking part in and want to stick around and explore more.

Speaking of exploring, the routes so far have had water and climbing walls in certain parts that need equipment that you just can’t traverse on your first time through. I like this because it feels like the world will warrant further exploration when I have the gear to do so. The many side quests also evoke this – some can be completed quite quickly after you find them, but I still have some in my quest list that will require me to come back later to complete. I really like this as many games of this type will have bunches of side quests you complete in that visit and you never need to return, each town a checklist and nothing more. The world feels so much more connected here and it feels refreshing.

It is also worth noting that unlike Pokémon where routes tend to have the same Pokémon throughout, in Temtem most grass patches don’t share the same wild Temtem. This makes exploring potentially more rewarding as you never know if the next patch of grass will have something new, but equally if you are after a specific Temtem this might become a bit of a Wiki game while trying to track down new additions for the team.

Early on you also get given a sticker book, full of Temtem, places and specific people from certain areas. Stickers spawn in set places in the world and they seem to refresh every so often (I think anyway, only happened to me once?), also encouraging exploration and going back to old areas to see if you can find them. Only good quality stickers can go in the album which makes it frustrating when you get damaged ones, but apparently they have a use later as well. You get to place the stickers in the book yourself as well, which feels more personal and is also fun, kind of like working “Who is that Pokémon?” into game format. It is a really fun addition!

Who’s that Temtemmon?

The only time I felt the story and character was lacking was a section involving a traditional Pokémon Team Rocket equivalent. I’ve seen these kinds of groups done to death in games like this at this point and while I understand why they are here, it just doesn’t work for me. The world so far has been very intriguing all on its own, I just don’t feel like it needs the usual bad group trying to cause chaos routine. Ironically for a game based so heavily off of Pokémon, this was the one thing that reminded me heavily of that influence. I’m open to this group changing my opinion as the game goes on, but I can’t help see this as a misstep.

Of course, this isn’t all there is to the game. It is an MMO after all…

So Many People!

In a way it is funny that Pokémon, a series that started right from the first entry with trading with other people as an important part of the game if you wanted to get every Pokémon is only recently starting to tinker with online play in the world with other players. Out of seemingly nowhere Temtem arrives and it is very difficult not to see the online shine through, full of potential.

From as early as the opening moments, it is impossible to not notice all the other players being followed by their Temtem. So many other players living out the same kinds of experiences you are. I find it fun exploring the starting town of Zadar, seeing all the new players, knowing what they have to look forward to.

All the usual MMO type interactions are present – you can offer to battle them either casually or with competitive rules, speak and trade with them directly, recruit them to your Club if you have one (I wanted to try this, but it costs way more in game currency than I have!). The most interesting aspect is the co-op feature. I haven’t had chance to try this myself yet so I can only go off of what I know, but as far as I’m aware it is possible to play most of if not the whole game in co-operative play. Both players get one of the two slots on the field and can use their top three Temtem in their team. It sounds really fun and I’m hoping to be able to try it at some point.

Seeing so many players is great, but I found it to be a bit problematic in the inside section just before you can access the Dojo. On the one hand it is cool seeing other people trying to navigate all the spaces you are, but on the other hand it created some issues for me. I missed some item boxes because they would be obstructed by players, and I got into a lot of trainer fights I didn’t see coming because even though players get an icon above their head in battle, it isn’t always obvious if they are fighting another trainer. I walked into far too many trainer fights I just didn’t see coming as there was just too many moving things on screen to process. Not a huge annoyance, but worth noting.

The game is both cross-play and cross-progression between PC, PS5 and Series S/X consoles. I really wish there were versions for PS4 and Xbox One as well since some of my friends haven’t upgraded to current gen hardware and I really would have liked to have been able to play with them, but I also understand the studio is small and likely didn’t have the resources for this.

One final little feature I really like is that just like your own Temtem, you can walk up to Temtem owned by other players and interact with them. If you don’t already have that Temtem in your collection, it will add that you’ve seen that Temtem to the Tempedia. I’m really liking this feature and even though it is only a small detail, it makes sense for it to work this way in the world.

So far this post has been glowing with praise for Temtem, but sadly I have to talk about the one thing that brings it down slightly for me – the monetisation and the Tamer Pass.

You Shall Not (Tamer) Pass!

As is common for games these days, Temtem has a shop where you can buy in game items using real money. I’m not a massive fan of this kind of thing generally as many games have cosmetic items that cost a fortune and unfortunately this game is no exception – currently for example there is a “Pigepic Carrier” which I think is some kind of mount, but I’m not sure for certain. The cost of this is essentially £11.98. For reference, the cost of the game as a whole is £39.99.

Notice I said “essentially”. Unfortunately Temtem falls down the style of monetisation where you use money to buy currency, in this case Novas. These Novas can then be spent in the shop for cosmetic items. The Pigepic Carrier costs 1,600 Novas, equivalent to buying the 1,000+100 bonus Novas pack for £7.99, then also the 500 with no bonus for £3.99.

The Tamer’s Pass, essentially a battle pass, also costs 750 Novas. You can’t buy 750 Novas separately so you have to buy either the £3.99 pack twice or the £7.99 pack and have 350 Novas left over, which is unfortunately becoming standard practice. Including the free and premium tiers you do get 1,000 Novas if you complete the pass which is something but it still doesn’t feel good.

Eww

What I find incredibly confusing is that like most battle passes there are weekly challenges you can do in order to progress the pass. You can get pass experience just for catching Temtem and fighting, but the return for this is very poor forcing you to do challenges. Unfortunately you cannot see these challenges until you’ve basically beaten the campaign as far as I can see.

The given reason for this is that they want players to focus on the story but I find this absolutely baffling. Just to confirm it for myself I did get the Tamer Pass to see if buying it would bypass this requirement and let me see the challenges, but no. I’m still required to basically beat the game to get there and as I’ve highlighted already, this is not a short game as far as I can tell. In my opinion they should change this immediately to show the challenges for at least the people who have bought the pass (but preferably everyone!) as effectively right now everyone who has bought the pass but not finished the main story effectively owns a useless pass.

I’ve played for about 15 hours at this point and I’m not even halfway to level 2 on the pass and that is terrible. I can see instances of people buying the pass, missing weeks worth of challenges especially if they can’t play regularly and essentially wasting their money. This absolutely must change and I can’t imagine why they thought this was a good idea – it is perfectly possible to have weekly challenges and still play and focus on the story. Many games do that and especially in an MMO this could work as a way to get the community into certain types of activities etc. I really want to understand the logic here but I’m just not seeing it. Given how well crafted the rest of the experience is, it feels off to see the monetisation handled this way, the game deserves better I think.

Despite this, overall I’m really enjoying Temtem and would happily recommend it to anyone who likes Pokémon style games and especially for anyone who wants to see what kind of game Pokémon could have become with more effort to develop the core features. The world is fantastic, the Temtem themselves are adorable and the challenge has me invested in a way many games of this type haven’t in a long time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s