Temtem's mere existence is a victory. Developed by the Spanish studio Crema, the ‘Pokémon indie’ represents the triumph of all mod and fangame creators of the classic RPG series who have been trying to design their own version of pocket monster fever since the early 2000s. Promoted as an MMO, Temtem is shy when it comes to online – the multiplayer experience is still quite limited – but already shows great competence in recreating the feeling of a Pokémon RPG even though it is more than a mere copy, and even though it is only available in early access format.
The game takes place in a region of the world called the Airbone Archipelago, which is taken by little monsters called Temtem. In control of novice tamers for small creatures, players must set out on an adventure to defeat the authoritarian villains of Clan Belsoto, who want to take control of the Archipelago by force.
Whoever played Pokémon knows exactly what to expect: when you enter the tall grass, you can be attacked by a wild Temtem. Such monsters can be captured and used in battles. As they collect experience points, they learn new attacks and evolve, changing their shape.
The big difference is that all battles are fought between Temtem pairs (in Pokémon, most battles are between solitary monsters). Tamers should think of ideal Temtem combinations, using, for example, two creatures of the same type to make their attacks stronger; or using specific movements that become more efficient depending on the type of Temtem partner.
The focus on team battles is ideal for Temtem's multiplayer aspect: you can tackle the entire campaign of the game alongside a friend, with each of the tamers controlling 3 Temtem per battle.
The game's foundation is excellent in many ways. The cartoonish visual presentation is very charismatic, and the combat animations surprisingly fluid. The interface and the fast pace of battles work so well that they should serve as inspiration for the next Game Freak RPGs.
Even so, Temtem still suffers from many execution problems. In an effort to create their own identity for the world, the developers created very talking NPCs. But the dialogues are tedious and strangely aggressive, and they tire mainly in multiplayer mode, which forces players to wait until their partners finish each conversation.
In terms of comparisons with Pokémon, Temtem takes the worst in the quality of monster designs. Even the worst Pokémon are more striking than most Temtem, who find it difficult to convey aspects such as personality and function. The fact that their names are not very descriptive and similar to each other does not help.
For an early game, however, Temtem is already an impressive effort. The adventure is dozens of hours long and has a scenario with countless promises of unfinished content that will be added to the game in the future. Hopefully, the game will not only serve to expand the range of options for fans of Pokémon games, but also to make Game Freak implement improvements to their own titles. After all, although small, they now have competition.
Temtem is now available for PC, and will have versions for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch still in 2020.