I first learned about Temtem — “a massively multiplayer creature collecting game” — just earlier this week. But in that short time, it’s skyrocketed up my list of most-anticipated games of 2020. That’s because Temtem (which is heavily inspired by Pokemon, if that wasn’t clear), seems ambitious as hell. Even if its big promises don’t pay off, you can bet your ass I want to know how close it gets to delivering.
Despite what seems like a relative lack of press, Temtem should appeal to a lot of people — at least on paper. It’s a Pokemon-esque MMO with cooperative play, PVP, a single-player narrative, proper side quests, and tons of quality-of-life improvements that the Nintendo-centric franchise still continues to avoid. Speaking of Nintendo: Temtem also has player housing and interior decorating in the vein of Animal Crossing. That’s quite a lot of checks to cash.
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What immediately struck me about Temtem, though, was its style. The game is cel-shaded and appears to sport all kinds of costume options. That makes sense. It is a massively multiplayer game. You want to look your best in front of people. I certainly want to look my best, anyway.
Just a few months ago, I conned myself into buying Pokemon Sword for the Switch, purely because I wanted to post cute in-game selfies of my character on social media. But I quickly lost interest with the slow pace and mindless ease of the latest Pokemon. I liked Sun and Moon quite a lot, even after a long gap between them and the last Pokemon game I played, but Sword and Shield was just too much of the same thing.
Temtem sounds a tiny bit more complex, while also less opaque. It includes concepts like two-on-two battles (which I’m told are a mainstay of competitive Pokemon), but simply shows you stats that are typically hidden in the other creature collecting sim. These “TVs” are an obvious homage to “EVs” and “IVs” in Pokemon. Yet knowing what I have at all times could be a godsend. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good grind in the right kind of RPG. I just want to know if the grind is producing the sorts of results I want and need.
There’s some similar stuff going on with breeding. Yes, you can encourage two temtems to hook up and make stronger babies. There’s still an element of randomness to this. Temtem offspring only have a 40 percent chance of winding up with the strongest stats of either parent.
Even the fact that I can tell you that specific number, though, is a huge improvement on the arcane bullshit of breeding in Pokemon games. That’s because Temtem employs honest-to-god tutorial pop-ups that simply explain basic game functionality as you unlock features. Sure, it might not feel as organic as the world of Game Freak’s pocket monsters, but nobody running their own animal factory for hyper-charged killing machines is after that anyway.
Picking a Winner
For those same players, Temtem has a pick and ban phase before competitive battles — another concept I’ve heard some high-level Pokemon fans request. For those unfamiliar with the concept, you basically get the option to veto certain creatures’ inclusion at the beginning of a battle. It’s meant to counteract cheesy strategies and add some variety in team makeup. I’m mostly familiar with picks and bans from my days spent playing Dota 2. The fact that the Temtem devs are treating the game as seriously as that nightmare says a lot.
That being said, I’ll likely focus on the story myself. Temtem features a Team Rocket analogue called Clan Belsoto. There are also eight Dojos (i.e. Gyms). If anything, this is the part that has me most worried about the game. I’m afraid it will hew too closely to established Pokemon tropes, and mostly only focus on approachability and quality-of-life. I’d honestly like it to stake its own claim on the “genre” as well.
Structure aside, not many games have taken such a direct shot at the king of “creature collecting” games. And I’m fascinated by the audacity of it. Temtem was kickstarted in 2018, and sounds like one of those overambitious crowdfunding projects you hear about falling apart every other month. Yet here we are, just a couple weeks out from its Jan. 21, 2020 early access launch (on PC anyway). At this point I need to know if it sticks the landing — especially as Pokemon itself joins the 21st century with promised expansions and free updates. Temtem has a lot to live up to.