Temtem is a marriage between two types of games that sounds better than it actually plays. It is a monster-catching RPG much like Pokémon, where you collect monsters called Temtem while exploring a vast world. It is also a MMORPG, one where you can journey alongside other players by chatting and battling them. Were it not for the MMO elements hampering the experience, Temtem would be enjoyable. Instead, it struggles to hold my interest for long.
If you’ve played Pokémon, you know how this goes. You play a child/teen who leaves their hometown to go on an adventure alongside your chosen starting monster. Do I need to say that there you can choose between three Temtem at the start, that there are different types of Temtem, that there is a rival character who tries to best you, and that there is an unsavoury organization who you must fight at several intervals?
The formula is well understood at this point, and while there are a handful of Pokémon games whose story truly shines, Temtem does not reach that calibre. It is fine, and sometimes the writing and characterization feel good. But, by and large, the plot is not something worth writing more words on.
Fortunately, the battle system is. Fights are always conducted with two Temtem on each side, mirroring the dual battle system in Pokémon. Each Temtem has four moves to choose from that require stamina to use. If you run out of stamina, you can sacrifice your health in order to unleash a particular move. Due to dual battles being the norm, Temtem places a greater emphasis on team synergy and support moves. Outside of random trainers and wild battles, preparation is key to victory. While most battles will not be taxing, fights in Dojos (the equivalent to Pokémon’s Gyms) are tense, memorable experiences because they force you to push your team and their abilities to the limit.
“Due to dual battles being the norm, Temtem places a greater emphasis on team synergy and support moves.”
Sadly, these types of fights are few and far between until you reach endgame content. Speaking of which, the endgame is rich in things to do. In addition to rematches against Dojo Masters, there are numerous challenging battles to fight, a tower where you fight randomized opponents with a new team of Temtem, and a brand-new island for you to explore.
As strong as the end of Temtem is, the path to it is a slog. Temtem’s Airborne Archipelago is large and beautiful to look at, composed of multiple islands that each contain their own biomes and Temtem to catch. The sheer size of the world is enticing, at first. But it becomes readily apparent that being big isn’t always a good thing. Namely, the number of Temtem available to catch currently sits at 164. Their designs are nowhere near as memorable as those found in Pokémon, though there is a bit of charm to be found amidst the creatures. Yet, each new area you explore in a given island may only have two or three new Temtem to catch and fight against in the field.
Battles get repetitive quickly, as there are so few Temtem that you’ll be seeing the same ones over and over again for long periods of time. Either more monsters needed to be included, or the world itself needs to be smaller in scale. Exploring should not be tedious, yet that’s exactly what it feels like no matter what island you are on.
“…Temtem is at its best when there’s a lot of people playing…”
This is exacerbated by some of the elements that are a direct result of Temtem’s status as an MMO. While Temtem themselves level up at a decent rate, obtaining currency is much slower. I frequently had to grind in order to obtain basic items, let alone purchasing any clothing or other high-priced items. And the quests that are available in each location, of which there are many, frequently require you to backtrack to previous areas you’ve visited. Worse, these quests often have you deliver messages or items back and forth, making them feel like chores.
The multiplayer itself is fine. You’ll be able to see players running around in the wild, catching Temtem and battling against NPC trainers. You can chat with them, propose trades, take part in auctions for Temtem, and of course challenge them to battles. There were only negligible technical issues with all the players on screen, and it is genuinely satisfying to see so many people running about and catching Temtem. Watching other players use abilities and items that you don’t have access to encouraged me to keep exploring. But Temtem is at its best when there’s a lot of people playing, and I have my doubts that things will be as active in the months ahead.
I enjoyed parts of my time with Temtem. I liked its battle system, and the game’s presentation is strong throughout. Yet its languid pacing, with its repetitive battles and bland exploration, holds Temtem back from being something truly interesting. For those who have grown tired of Pokémon you may find it worth playing. As for me, I don’t think I will return to the Airborne Archipelago anytime soon.