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Temtem Presents a Challenge in a Cute Package

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Temtem officially came out in early September 2022 and it is, as of the time of writing, in Version 1.1. While its creature collecting and combat feel polished, there are some aspects that make it clear this game still has plenty of room to grow. A good example of this is in the general aesthetic of the game. Art is subjective, of course. But I personally find the combination of low contrast colors, lack of textures, and pastel palette make Temtem look like it’s in beta. However, its music and battle animations are of very good quality. They almost feel like something from a modern JRPG.

I did not want to compare this to Pokémon that much. It would not be fair, I thought. However, it was pretty difficult to mentally divorce the two properties. Temtem starts in a way that is incredibly similar to the Pokémon anime. Your mom wakes you up, and then scolds you for sleeping in because you have to go meet the professor. At the professor’s house, you meet your snotty and arrogant rival Max. Afterwards, you choose your starter Temtem from a collection of three. Max then wipes the floor with you with his Temtem, and then off you go on your merry adventure. Your goal is to go around fighting in all the Dojos, which will then turn into weekly bosses. Beating each Dojo grants you an item to help you in exploring. It’s so familiar an opening that it almost explicitly invites comparison.

Something that does make Temtem stand out is in how Temtems evolve. There is no set level like in Pokémon. If you catch a Poliwag at level 30, for example, it will immediately evolve into a Poliwhirl in the next battle. This is because a Poliwag normally evolves at level 25. However, in Temtem, they evolve based on how many levels they gain after you catch them. No matter what level a Kaku is when you catch it, you still have to level it up 11 times for it to turn into a Saku. That is not a bad mechanic, since it gives more time with each evolutionary stage. But I hope they implement a way to check when you first meet a Temtem. I have no idea how many more levels certain Temtems need to level up.

temtem status screen

Temtem is a surprisingly challenging game. Even as a Pokémon veteran, I found myself pushed to the limit several times (though this could be due to my stinginess when it comes to buying and using healing items). Wild Temtems on the field aren’t so bad, but tamers and long dungeons can get pretty dicey. Instead of PP, you have Stamina, which recovers at the end of each battle. Overexerting your Temtem will cause it to take damage, which means that it limits how many powerful skills you can let your Temtem learn. It also prevents you from simply using one Temtem’s most powerful skill every turn.

Even with over-leveled Temtems, I had to really use status ailments and take advantage of type weaknesses in order to keep my best Temtems relatively healthy through long dungeons. This is in contrast to Pokémon where a Vulpix could still wipe the floor with a Squirtle given there is a significant level difference. Depending on what set of Temtems you have, some moves may get a power-up due to affinities. This adds an extra layer to how you organize your party, as well as what moves you keep. Pokémon players who’ve grown bored of some of the series’ more simplistic implementations may find pleasure in exploring and discovering the depths of Temtem‘s elemental combat.

That being said, there are some quality-of-life features I hope the developers patch into the game eventually. One of them is a handy type chart to use in combat. It can be difficult to remember what type a Temtem is, as well as elemental weaknesses and strengths. Another is adding more necessary information to your Temtem’s status screen. I would like to know my Temtem’s species instead of having to scour the Tempedia, as well as what level they were when they joined (to calculate when they will evolve). The map is probably the biggest issue. While the game does have a navigation system for quests, there is no arrow on your mini-map indicating what direction you should head towards. It is also difficult to tell what each section of the map is, since there are no names for the locations.

temtem map

From an MMORPG standpoint, this game does not actually require you to do much talking to anybody. I only saw one conversation in all my hours playing, and it was a very friendly exchange between strangers. The connection is really good, with minimal lag and no stuttering. You can play the entire story solo, or co-op with a friend if you have one. I do not have any friends who play Temtem. However, I never feel like I’m missing out on some fun experience. The end-game does have co-op dungeons, but I have not gotten that far yet. There are also more competitive online options, which I have not tried yet.

Temtem does not feel like it is shying away from its Pokémon clone status, with how similar they are in both aesthetics and narratives. Nonetheless, it never makes me want to drop it in order to play Pokémon instead. Its inherently strategic combat system means that you cannot always brute force your way through encounters, keeping it a challenge for players like myself who consistently over-level their monsters. However, it lacks some basic quality-of-life options such as a better navigation system that will hopefully appear later on.

Temtem is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, PS5, and Windows PC.

Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a Canadian writer, translator, anime fan, and gamer. She only exhibits her true power at night.