If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em.
Temtem owes much to Pokémon. Without the enormously popular, long-running Nintendo franchise, it wouldn’t have existed in the form it currently does, if at all. The “gotta catch ’em all” inspiration runs deep throughout every facet of Temtem’s design and is its main selling point – if you like Pokémon, you’ll probably like this too.
But while the similarities are impossible to deny, Temtem also does some things differently to its spiritual predecessor. Differently, and dare I say it, better. Here are all of the ways in which Temtem is an improvement on Pokémon.
It’s truly multiplayer
Here’s an obvious difference straight out of the gate. Pokémon Sword and Shield let you socialise with other players but very much on their own terms – you can access battles through the VS menu, likewise with trades, and if you’re lucky you may be joined by other players in Dynamax raids.
Temtem, on the other hand, embraces playing with other trainers. Walk anywhere in its world and you’ll find other players you can trade with, battle or even play co-op with. Whether you want to flex your Tems and battle prowess to others or play through the whole game with a friend, Temtem is happy to accommodate a more sociable experience.
It’s being developed through Early Access
To say that some aspects of Pokémon Sword and Shield were met with outrage – by at least a vocal minority of the community – would be an understatement. From #Dexit to missing features and complaints about the visuals, some of Pokémon’s long-time fans were not happy. While these problems evidently didn’t stop the games from being a roaring success with 16 million sold to date, it begs the question of whether expectations could have been better managed.
This is where another of Temtem’s advantages comes in: its Early Access development. By giving the community a chance to have their say and potentially help shape the final release of the game, I’d like to think that fans will feel less disappointed with how it’ll end up. It’s impossible to please everyone, but this more collaborative approach may cause less rage and controversy. We can only hope, eh?
This is merely a practical point, but an important one nonetheless: if you don’t own a Nintendo console, Temtem is the next best thing to being able to experience Pokémon. Thanks to it successfully reaching its stretch goals on Kickstarter, CremaGames have promised that Temtem will be heading to all major consoles after its stint on PC Early Access.
This is a pretty significant advantage of Temtem – that it’s accessible to millions of more players. While there’s never a guarantee that devs will follow through with everything planned during a Kickstarter and Early Access campaign, the success of the game so far bodes well for its future. What’s more, in the short time it’s been available, Temtem has already received frequent updates, and CremaGames are being as communicative as you could hope for on social channels.
It’s got new battle ideas
Anyone who’s ever taken a passing glance at a Pokémon game will find Temtem’s battles instantly familiar. Turn-based affairs pitting monster against monster with the option to use one of four attacks, an item, or simply make a run for it, it apes the iconic franchise’s mechanics to a T. But that’s not to say it doesn’t mix things up and bring a few new ideas of its own.
One of the more notable differences is that almost every battle is 2v2. Not only does this facilitate Temtem’s co-op feature, but it arguably also makes fights more interesting. Rather than a straight 1v1 in which one creature likely has an elemental advantage over the other, it allows for more varied match-ups. It also provides extra factors to consider like synergy bonuses, and moves such as Chain Lightning which damages three Temtem in a row – including one of your own!
Another compelling departure is how Temtem replaces move PP (Power Points) with a stamina system. Pokémon’s PP system gives a limited number of uses per move, but in practice doesn’t significantly affect how often you can use an attack in battle. Its persistent effect is the more annoying consequence, cutting a grinding session short if your Pokémon run out of moves after a few battles.
Temtem’s stamina system, in contrast, gives you a small pool of power to use per match, with all moves drawing from that single pool. It forces you to be more sparing with your most powerful moves rather than letting you spam them, else your Temtem will hurt itself from overexertion and need to take a rest. It’s a more strategic approach that makes battles less one-dimensional.
That’s not all, either, with a few other creative mix-ups of the Pokémon battle formula. Further limiting the exploitation of powerful moves, some aren’t available on your first turn, so you have to pace yourself. A move’s priority score is another thing to take into account other than just your Temtem’s speed stat. And Temtem’s battles are also less RNG-dependent, with more predictable damage and status effects that last a set number of turns.
It’s more challenging
Balance and difficulty are aspects of a game that are often tweaked heavily through Early Access development, but as it stands, Temtem currently offers far more challenge to players than Pokémon. While earlier Pokémon games were unforgiving in places, more recent entries have been very accessible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but people looking to test their mettle will be better served by CremaGames’ offering.
Right from the get-go, you can tell that Temtem means business. Your first battle ends in failure, against your rival of all people – they’re usually a complete pushover! It doesn’t get much easier from there, with you regularly facing Temtem above the level of your own. And while Pokémon trainers usually only had a couple of ‘mons with them, especially earlier in the game, Temtem trainers come a little better prepared.
The gym leaders, in particular, are in stark contrast to Pokémon’s. Even the early ones come equipped with a full roster of Tems in comparison to Sword and Shield’s easy first few gym battles which only have a few each.
Finally, grinding is also not as easy. Wild Temtem are usually a few levels below that of the trainers you’ll battle, and experience gained scales back dependent on how much higher levelled your Tems are, so farming XP has diminishing returns. All of this means you actually have to pay more attention to Temtem’s mechanics – rather than try and lazily steamroll your opponents with more fighters or being at a much higher level; you’ll have to pay attention to elemental strengths and weaknesses, synergies and anything else that can give you an upper hand in battle.
It’s got attitude
While always family-friendly, Pokémon has perhaps become more sickly-sweet with every passing generation. With the exception of the occasional jerk like Bede, Sword and Shield take their friendliness to the next level. Every character you meet seems to be cheering you on and taking everything a little too seriously. Even your’ rival,’ Hop, is laughably amiable compared to a douchebag like Gary. It’s all a little boring.
Temtem, on the other hand, lack’s Nintendo’s fierce commitment to congeniality. You’ll meet a bunch of good folks on your travels, but also a fair few who aren’t afraid to trash talk. Its writing is weirder, funnier, edgier and just more fun. NPCs make references, dumb jokes and even break the fourth wall a little. Sometimes it gets a bit too silly for its own good, but chatting to characters in Temtem is overall a more rewarding prospect.
It’s still very early days for this indie answer to Pokémon, but so far Temtem is a very promising alternative. Rather than merely being a clone, Temtem justifies its existence with some exciting revisions to the Pokémon formula. Competition is never a bad thing, so hopefully Temtem lights a fire under Game Freak and who knows – maybe we’ll see Pokémon borrowing ideas itself in the future.
James loves a deep action-adventure game, RPG or Metroidvania. He can often be found in The Indie Game Website’s review section casting his critical eye over the latest indie games.