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Considering how popular Pokemon is more than two decades after its debut, you’d think more games would have tried to capture a bit of that monster-catching action. Sure, there were plenty of also-rans in the years immediately following the series’ debut, but North America just hasn’t seen that many attempts in modern times. As Nintendo’s hit continues to simplify things for each new generation, there’s room for a game with a bit more going on, something that learns from what came before and trusts players to make strategic battle decisions. This is what Crema and Humble Bundle seem to be attempting with Temtem, an MMO version of Pokemon’s monster battling that plays like an alternate universe Switch exclusive.
What are the first hours of Temtem like?
If you’ve played Pokemon before, you know how Temtem‘s opening act plays out. You’re a worryingly young child venturing off from home with an elemental monster by your side. With the help of some TemCards (this universe’s Poke Ball equivalent), you eventually build out a team of creatures and train them to do battle against other tamers. There are still trainers waiting to force you into battles at the worst time. There’s still tall grass filled with random battles, bugs transform quickly into butterflies, there are even “dojo” leaders to take down. In every sense of the word, this is a Pokemon game. Thankfully, that’s not all it is.
Instead of simply copying over mechanics and adding an MMO layer, Temtem tries to add a layer of complexity that Pokemon sorely lacks. By default, battles are 2v2, meaning that there are always more options in play. Certain attacks gain power or special attributes when you pair the right monsters together, and there are plenty of stat-boosting moves that can target friendlies. In addition to all that, each creature has a stamina meter to keep track of during battle. Attack too frequently with big moves and your monster might just end up killing itself in the middle of a fight. It gives meaning to all the filler attacks that litter Pokemon games, making even the simplest battles somewhat more interesting.
How does Temtem add complexity to Pokemon?
This is really the draw of Temtem. If you’re someone who quickly tired of Pokemon Sword and Shield after growing up with the series, there’s a lot to unpack here that seem like smart additions to the formula. For example, there are sidequests you get from talking to town residents, and they’re similar to the trades and item fetching you got back on the Game Boy. The difference is that Temtem adds these quests to a running log like a modern RPG, so you always know who you need to show your new fire pig to in order to get free items. There are dozens of small tweaks like that which make Temtem feel like a well-considered reboot a-la Assassin’s Creed: Origins rather than a shameless ripoff.
Of course, Crema is not Nintendo, and Temtem is a new property rather than a media goliath. That means that there are considerably fewer monsters to deal with and animations to enjoy. This might be a positive thing if the prospect of memorizing 800-900 Pokemon sounds overwhelming, but series diehards may bulk at the scaled-down scope of the Tempedia when compared to the Pokedex. For me, the idea that the game still obscures information about monster evolution and moves is rather silly. I know it’s part of the discovery process, but I’ve been in “collector” mode for so long that the discovery seems more like a chore than a joy.
Is Temtem a true Pokemon MMO?
All this doesn’t even go into the MMO aspect, which was honestly hard to judge in my limited time with the game so far. There were definitely players roaming around alongside me, and you could challenge them to battles, but nothing in the first towns forced me to interact with strangers or use its online nature to an interesting degree. Of course, the prospect of playing alongside friends at all times is tempting, and the game does support a full co-op experience if that’s what you’re into. Still, that pales in comparison to the true potential of an online pocket monster experience.
When I imagine a Pokemon MMO, I envision huge World of Warcraft towns with player-run gyms and merchants. I see hundreds of items to hunt for in caves and dungeons, and a marketplace to sell and trade them. New types of evolution and other special promotional Pokemon roll out regularly, and breeders can set up shop and sell Pokemon to players like they’re running a pet shop. I don’t expect this level of complexity out of Temtem, but I hope things do open up somewhat once you complete the main story.
We all live in a Temtem world
In my few hours with Temtem, I didn’t get the itch to dive in to catch monsters like I did when I was ten, but that was probably never going to happen. I do want to see things through in the full releases anyway, as I can recognize the gameplay differences that make Temtem an interesting prospect. If Crema is truly dedicated to expanding the game regularly with new creatures and in-game events, it really could have something. If the studio’s thinking at a smaller scale, Temtem will be a fun novelty for fans of monster collecting, but it’s not going to set the world on fire. Honestly, I’m just happy someone is finally trying their hand at a Pokemon MMO. Maybe now, every Gen 1 player out there like me can get it out of their system.
GameRevolution previewed Temtem on PC via Steam in a closed alpha weekend with a code provided by the publisher.