Temtem Review (PS5) – Catch ‘Em All on PlayStation Brandon Stephenson Rating: 3.0 out of 5
Title: Temtem – PlayStation 5
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Genre: MMO Creature Collector
Release Date: December 8, 2020
Available On: PC, PS5
Tested On: PS5
As a long-time fan of Pokemon, I couldn’t help but get excited about the prospects of Temtem. When the game was released last year for Early Access on PC, I fantasized about how this MMO take on the classic formula would shake-up two-and-a-half decades of monster catching and gym battling. While I skipped the initial PC release, my eyes widened when developer Crema announced a PlayStation 5 port featuring all the new content they’ve released since last year. Now, after nearly 30 hours of playtime, I can say Temtem has the bones of being a competent Pokemon competitor but poor pacing and being unfinished hold it back for now.
A Familiar Feeling
If you’ve ever played a Pokemon game, you’ll feel at home with Temtem. After your created character wakes up on the morning of their big day, they set out to be a Temtem tamer. After a discussion with your mom and the professor, you set out alongside your rival to catch new Temtem, battle other tamers, and fight in Dojo battles (gym leaders, essentially) on your way to becoming the greatest tamer of them all. Again, this is all familiar territory to Pokemon fans, but Temtem is striving to differentiate itself by including always-online elements, co-op, and focusing on double battles.
When we reviewed Temtem last year on PC, we said:
As it stands, Temtem is a solid Pokémon alternative with some online functionality. You can probably expect 25-60 hours of gameplay, depending on how quickly you power through the content and whether you spend time grinding for rare Temtem and breeding. But once you’ve finished the part of the campaign that’s ready, there isn’t much to do. You can keep catching and breeding, but it’s challenging to fund that endeavor, and it doesn’t feel very worthwhile, so it’s hard to call Temtem a proper MMO at this point. There’s more content and ostensibly a proper endgame coming over the next year. Whether it’s a good buy for you right now depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.”
My feelings on Temtem don’t deviate much after experiencing what’s available in Early Access. While Crema has added new content — including more story, Temtem, and another island — it turns out playing the game more caused me to like the game less.
A Long Journey
For starters, Temtem is challenging, particularly in the opening parts of the game. My Temtem died more often than I’d like to admit, and I wiped out more times in the early game than I have in the last decade of playing Pokemon. I appreciated the challenge, Pokemon titles have become notoriously easy, but the early game has a balance issue. I didn’t have many type advantages with my Temtem, I was under-leveled compared to the random tamers, and I had a severe lack of resources (money, potions, status healing, etc.), causing me to be in a constant state of panic. Don’t be shy and look up a guide, at least for the early portions.
Then we get to the pacing issue, something compounded by the difficulty curve. As we mentioned in our review from last year, Temtem LOVES to throw NPC tamers at you while you walk along the route to your destination. I’d encounter two, three, and sometimes four tamers back to back. Add in walking through tall grass or cave paths that spawn random Temtem, which also has a random spawn rate. There’d be stretches of my journey I’d go without running into random Temtem, only to get inundated with multiple encounters every two steps.
It’s a recipe for a slog of a journey. I’m sure I was spending no more than half an hour walking a route, but it felt over an hour. It doesn’t help that I had to constantly run back to a healing station since I didn’t have, or didn’t want to waste, potions or other healing items. The pacing was frustrating for numerous reasons, but I quickly grew exhausted and tried to avoid many encounters the longer I played. All this is even before mentioning you can’t turn battle animations off currently, making battles feel longer.
Speaking of battles, I fell more in love with the battle system the more I played it (one of the few things that didn’t sour on me), though it’s not without its issues. Having played Pokemon since the beginning, I’ve memorized every type, strength, weakness, and various strategies. Temtem features some similar types and strategies, but the addition of a few different types and making every battle a double battle added a new layer of depth, strategy, and learning.
It was exhilarating to learn the different types and uncover new strategies while battling — only after getting over the initial difficulty bump. Making every fight a double battle, something Pokemon has only featured as an additional feature, helps separate Temtem from its inspiration. Having two Temtem in battle forces you to deliberately choose the placement of your team. Do you want to send out two Water types? Or what about a Grass and Fire? There’s plenty of opportunities to experiment.
In addition to playing around with different types, your Temtem might know a synergy attack, an attack that uses a partner Temtem to boost the attack. For instance, one of my Temtem knows Tsunami, a water attack that damages both members on the opposing team. If I have a wind type Temtem in battle, Tsunami will gain a boost in power, and pick up freezing capabilities.
It’s a shame, though, that Temtem doesn’t have the randomness featured in Pokemon battles. What I mean by that is, expect every attack to hit. Since I knew every attack would hit, battles did grow boring at times. Praying to the RNG gods made Pokemon battles feel tense, especially during Gym battles or the Elite Four. There are stat changing attacks that cause Temtem to miss an attack, but I didn’t run into too many instances when tamers used those attacks. It’s almost like every Temtem tamer is more focused on attacking rather than defending. It also means your Temtem will rarely come out of a battle unscathed. So you better get used to buying healing items with any money you gather.
Different, But Similar
Temtem’s other prominent feature, the MMO-like functionality, seems to be nothing more than a bullet point on the back of the box in my experience. It was cool seeing other player tamers run around, but I never really interacted with them. A chat box placed at the bottom of the screen gives you the option to talk or trade with other players, but players selling “perfect” Temtem for sky-high prices run rampant. Now that I’m at the current end game, I’m definitely going to play around with breeding and trading in a more profound way, but I wish this functionality would benefit newer players.
Temtem‘s main focus is the story, and truthfully, it’s similar to early Pokemon games. You study under a professor, set off on a journey with a rival (who is actually rude to you, a throwback to early Pokemon titles), and you’ll come across a sinister team hellbent on ruling the world. There were times I laughed while reading the text, but Temtem’s story didn’t add much to my enjoyment. During your journey, you’ll find plenty of simple side-quests tasking you with getting from point A to B. You’ll get rewarded for your time, but in my experience, most are items you can buy at the shop. I did find an instance of getting a free, high-powered Temtem, however.
After reaching the end, you’ll still be able to explore the world, finish side-quests, and bust out spreadsheets to optimize breeding. Unfortunately, If you aren’t interested in breeding or training, there isn’t much left. Crema plans on adding an endgame island, but who knows when that’s coming.
The PlayStation Difference
Temtem has the distinction of being one of the handful of titles released in Early Access on PlayStation 5, but don’t expect many of the console’s features to be utilized. While the game runs well on PlayStation 5, Temtem doesn’t feature PlayStation Trophy support, Haptic Feedback support, or Adaptive Trigger support, and color me disappointed. Playing without focusing on trophies is a breath of fresh air on the console (which is more of a me problem than an issue with the feature), but I want to take advantage of my new console’s features. While Crema has discussed support for Trophies, the developer has been mum about taking advantage of the PlayStation 5’s most unique peripheral, the DualSense Controller.
Temtem unfortunately, doesn’t seem to take much advantage of the card or hint system built into the PlayStation 5’s UI. Yes, there are cards, but they only take you where you left off while playing the story or to a multiplayer battle. Games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales shows the true power of this system — the ability to boot directly to a mission or collectible. Again, Temtem is in Early Access, I’d expect these features to get implemented in the full release, but the timing of this game’s release feels hollow. Why launch near a new console when you aren’t going to take advantage of the best features?
Verdict: Temtem on the PlayStation 5 is a great take on the Pokemon formula. Some of the changes Crema made to the battling while implementing their own types help differentiate Temtem enough. Pokemon fans will still feel at home but will also get to spend time learning something new. While the game is in Early Access, there’s plenty of content to see and more reasons to return once you’ve reached the end. I know I will, despite the game’s pacing issues.
Temtem is a Pokemon-like MMO game coming from Crema. Capture, train, and battle other tamers to become the best tamer in the Airborne Archipelago.
- Still a fun take on Pokemon
- Plenty of content, even in Early Access
- Runs well on PlayStation
- Major pacing issues throughout
- Battles can get tedious
- Doesn’t take advantage of the PlayStation 5