I remember when the creature collecting and battling genre really hit the big time. I was in Year 5 and Pokémon had just landed on our shores. You couldn’t take a step into the playground without noticing kids trade and battle with their Pokémon cards right up until our headteacher put a stop to it because some kids were stealing other people’s cards. Eventually, the cards were replaced with Game Boys. Pokémon has dominated for decades, but new competitors are entering the marketing and offering upgraded experiences. One of those is TemTem.
At first glance, TemTem is a carbon copy of Pokémon. Your character is a kid who wants to be a TemTem tamer, they pick a starter TemTem, get a Tempedia to record TemTem encountered and then go on a journey to learn more and fight in regional dojos. However, unlike official Pokémon games TemTem is an MMORPG and the world is populated with other players going around capturing their own TemTem.
There are different classes of TemTem and the three starter ones represent some of those classes. Houchic, the starter I chose, is a Mental type with melee and psychic abilities. Houchic is strong against melee and neutral types while weak against Crystal types. The second starter is a Crystal type called Crystle, which is strong against Mental and Electric but weak against Fire and Earth types. The final starter is the Melee type Smazee, which is strong against Earth and Crystal, but weak against Mental. Other types mentioned include Wind and Water types, with many TemTem also being a mix of two different types.
In addition to type strength and weaknesses, TemTem also have traits and synergies. Traits are essentially bonuses that give TemTem advantages in battle. These include gaining health from certain attacks or having status effects last longer for enemies.
Synergies play into the Duo battle system found in TemTem. Instead of sending one TemTem into battle you will send two at a time, and some TemTem work well with others. The affect of synergies differs between pairs and not all pairs will have synergies. The bonuses are similar to TemTem traits, be it extra damage or making status effects last longer. Battles can be over in seconds if your TemTem are good enough, or get drawn out if both sides are evenly matched.
The battle system is nice and simple to use with each TemTem having four moves to choose from. There is some depth when it comes to stamina management, so some rests are required if you do not want to overexert and damage your creatures, otherwise using a powerful move could knock both the enemy and your TemTem out at the same time.
TemTem’s release on PS5 as an early access game already features a good variety of biomes. The first island, Deniz, is mainly home to wind, water, electric, and neutral TemTem, and the range of TemTem you meat really showcase the game’s basics nicely. Deniz also provides the opening part of the story with different threads opening up as you start different quest lines, some of which are short and easy while others will require you to traverse the world to complete.
It is a very colourful world and will be instantly familiar in design to anyone who has played a Pokémon game before. There are random encounters with TemTem in the long grass, in water, and in dungeons. You can use items to reduce encounters if you wish, but it won’t protect you for very long. Across the world are stations where you can heal your TemTem, buy TemCards to capture new TemTem, and swap your squad around to have the best group available in each area. Some areas only become accessible after completing certain quests, including beating the Dojo Master.
Dojos are essential this game’s equivalent to gyms, with Masters who specialise in certain TemTem types. Before you get to the master you will need to fight their dojo members, and these provide a tough challenge if you are not prepared, though stocking up on plenty of Balms to heal TemTem and finding some electric types will help.
Of course, this is meant to be an MMORPG, so where does that aspect come in outside of seeing other players? Well, in early access that is through battling. In TemTem you can have your main squad for the PvE experience, and a competitive squads for PvP. The competitive squads can include eight TemTem compared to six in PvE, but the playing field is levelled by auto-scaling so you won’t have your level 10 TemTem crushed by a level 50 opponent.
You do not just jump straight into a battle, with some tactical play taking place before matches. In the set up players can choose two TemTem to ban from their opponent’s squad. You have to put some thought into this, trying to remove enemy TemTem that can exploit your own squad’s weaknesses. It is a good system, taking a leaf out of some competitive esports with pick & ban systems, but it adds to the waiting before battle, especially if your opponent is unresponsive. A shorter the timer would help so you aren’t just watching the clock tick down for quite so long.
Having played through the opening island and just landed on the second, I’m excited to see what else TemTem has in store. I’ve just discovered the Breeding Centre and left my Saipat and Fomu to get know each other better, as it were. So far TemTem has captured similar feelings to what I felt when playing Pokémon originally on the Game Boy, but with the MMO layer on top of that, TemTem has a chance to become many people’s obsession for years to come.