A fresh take on the monster collector genre
This Review contains spoilers for Temtem’s 3rd Island
I had been following Temtem for a while now, and I unfortunately missed the Kickstarter for it, but nevertheless I kept my eyes out for it and I purchased it to get into the early access on the 21st of January. I had heard some exciting things and I went into Temtem with an open mind. After delving into the game’s early access with over 30 hours of gameplay I can safely say that Temtem is one of the best monster collection games I’ve played in recent memory. The formula has been changed enough to where move choices and team composition matter more than ever before.
This game is not without its share of controversy. There are people out there who are slamming the game for being a rip-off or an easy cash grab of Pokémon. After pouring as much of my time into it as I have, I can say with certainty that this is not the case for reasons I’ll delve more in depth later on in this review. The way Temtem approaches the genre shows that the team at Crema clearly love the genre and have gone to great lengths to differentiate their game from the competition, and it shows in the end results thus far. It’s a real shame that people are focusing on things that are subjective and irrelevant, rather than being objective and looking at a game for what it is.
The biggest problem with the game has already been fixed, and that was its launch into early access. The wait queues were insanely long, the lag was intense, and the constant reconnects were almost unbearable. The reconnects were also so bad that when I had finally found a creature that was rare and I wanted to capture it, a disconnect from the server kicked me out of that battle and I had to hunt for a new one because the old one was lost. To Crema’s credit, they worked diligently to fix the issues and offered people full refunds to those who were unable to handle the problems. This is extremely commendable and shows that this team cares about their product and their players.
One aspect of Temtem is that it’s always online. There’s no saving in Temtem, nor is there an offline mode or setting. In this day and age where we’re connected to the internet most of the time this isn’t an issue. However, there are only so many people that can be supported by servers and if you lose your internet connection you won’t be able to play. Despite this, I feel as though not being able to save is a huge plus. Decisions made and items used are much more critical. The inability to save adds a sense of tension that victory isn’t exactly assured nor a mere reload away if you want to run through the game without losing.
An important part of any creature collection game is the creatures themselves. How do the creatures in Temtem stand out? The designs of all the creatures currently in Temtem are actually really unique, which was a concern of mine that they may not be. There’s only so much you can do with a creature designed after a horse or caterpillar. As the currently implemented creatures go, it’s nice to see some original designs. As is usual, the player will get to choose one of three starters. Each of these starters has an interesting type that changes things up. Instead of fire, water, and grass types to choose from there’s crystal, melee, and mental. While this is great, I felt little to no real connection to this starter, as he popped into my team and I was on my way. After your first battle you’ll receive a flying type creature.
One of the main features of Temtem that makes it stand out from the crowd is that every battle is designed to be a double battle. This opens up a lot of different mechanics and strategies, such as certain moves becoming enhanced when the creature being used is paired with another creature that has a certain element type. This means that team composition, and who will need to be swapped in as a replacement if need be, will have an additional layer of strategy involved that goes a long way in how the player will make decisions. In addition, while I have personal experience with this, the game does allow you to go co-op with another trainer, and double battles let you each control one creature, letting players finally be able to experience a game like this together.
Following along in terms of combat is the stamina and move charging system. This system is my personal favorite aspect of Temtem’s combat. Essentially, each move has a stamina cost associated with it and each creature has a certain amount of maximum stamina, as well as how much stamina will be recovered each turn. Some moves will require the creature to be on the battlefield for a specific amount of turns before certain moves are usable. Weaker moves will cost less stamina than stronger moves and stronger moves may also have additional turn restrictions. This encourages more than just using the strongest move over and over again and adds additional depth into how you build each creature’s move pool, as having only strong abilities may leave your creature unable to fight for several rounds. Having a balance of low cost and high cost moves will be more important in the end. It is incredibly nice to go into combat and not be able to just hit one move repeatedly.
The general difficulty of Temtem is harder than most creature collection games. This is once again a great change of pace as most of these games are extremely easy. Sure, I had my main creature that I had out for the majority of my playthrough, but I had to swap him out a lot as the type advantages played a heavy role in battles. Moves generally don’t do as much damage percentage wise as other games in the genre. A move that is effective against a creature doesn’t guarantee a one hit knock out, and may actually take two or even three shots depending on levels. I found myself on many occasions using my entire team of six to achieve a win.
In these games the story isn’t always the best, and Temtem takes an interesting approach. The world itself has characters referencing booze and bars, and there are some more adult themes that appear in certain areas including relationships between characters. The writing when tamers approach you to fight when they spot you actually have curse words and, in most cases, you can just tell them to shove it and start the fight immediately. The main villains are a group called Clan Belosto, and they’re nothing to really mention here and are mostly a pretty generic bad guy to fight.
Your rival character in this game is another one if its strong points. You have a light-blue haired rival named Max. This guy is someone you’re designed to hate from the get go and is greater for it. You should be driven to beat your rival and you’re given a lot of reasons. He’s mean, rude, and he causes the player a lot of problems later on in the story. The best part is he actually beats you in your first duel fairly easily and is all high and mighty about it. In later fights against him he’s not exactly a pushover either, as he along with a lot of other main tamers are fairly difficult.
Up until the third island you visit, you may have a favorite creature or two, have some upgrades, items, and be pretty well off for cash too. This game goes above and beyond as soon as you travel to the third island. Upon getting there, you’re stripped of your upgrades so you can no longer surf or skate on slippery surfaces. After a small area, you’re then branded a fugitive, and are robbed of all your items and creatures. You’re then given a team of four creatures as well as minimal items. This to me was the moment I knew I would love this game. If the player had gone out of his way to get over powered with a certain creature, they get reduced back to a level playing field where the game becomes challenging again. Later on you get your stuff and original team back, but this moment was something that really stood out to me and solidified me as someone who will be invested in Temtem up to its release and beyond.
As is the case with early access, there are buildings with “work in progress” signs on them, and not all areas are accessible yet, but for what content there is in the early access, there’s a lot here to work with. It’s impossible to score a game in this state as it’s not a finished product. Considering how the game is in its current state, Crema’s handling of unhappy customers at launch, and the clear innovation and care poured into this game, I would give it a very positive recommendation. I’ll be returning to write a more updated review when Temtem leaves early access and hits its full release!