Let’s get this out of the way: it’s Pokémon, but with a highly competitive massively-multiplayer twist where every battle is 2v2 and RNG has no influence over damage or accuracy. It’s Pokémon, but with a solo story campaign, ranked PVP, co-op, and extensive character customization. It’s Pokémon, in the style that I feel like we’ve all been waiting for… but it’s actually called TemTem and I keep calling it Pokémon by accident. This is the truth and you will likely have the same problem.
TemTem was released on Steam Early Access back in January and hit PlayStation 5 Early Access on Tuesday. The TemTem community is expecting a flood of new players who love(d) Pokémon, like me, over the course of the next month with the same question on all their minds: “Is TemTem worth getting into?” Because once you start learning the ropes of TemTem, you quickly realize that this isn’t your father’s creature-capture game.
The stats, the types, the “synergy,” the stamina, the priority, the “must refrain from naming him Metapod” — combined with so much Pokémon muscle memory — means you’re simultaneously un-learning everything you know as the game continues to introduce increasingly complicated concepts to your 1999-stuck brain. It’s hard not to avoid Pokémon comparisons and the inevitable fact that it remains front of mind as you play TemTem.
But after only playing a short while, I think it’s will be. A MMO is only as good as its community. I might still be playing World of Warcraft today if my guild wasn’t filled with greedy drama queens, but that’s a story for another time. Thankfully, TemTem seems to have an exceptionally kind one. I decided to stream my first hours in the game on Twitch, and after an hour, about half a dozen TemTem Tamers from the PC community had joined me in the chat; some with literally thousands of those aforementioned hours.
And instead of bullying me for forgetting which type my TemTem is every five minutes (which I deserved), they gently reminded me. They offered me tips and tricks, warned me about my early choices, and helped me name my TemTems. When I was lost, they helped me find my way… which usually was some version of “look at the mini-map, you have a mini-map”. For the rest of the stream, folks were encouraging, patient, and incredibly generous with their time and TemTems, some even going out of their way to find me in-game just to gift a TemTem to help me on my journey. It was a genuinely refreshing experience for my first hours in a new MMO and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was touched by it all.
When I asked the more experienced players why they were willing to hang around with a noob for so long, they said it was because they wanted to make sure my first experience with the game was a positive one. They knew how complicated TemTem could be for new players and they really wanted to make sure the game didn’t scare me off. They even told me that it was no big deal because they were already preparing a bunch of welcome gifts for new players on release day. How nice is that?
They wanted me to like TemTem and continue to play it because when I do, I’m contributing to the community, which in turn affects the longevity of the game. They don’t want to see TemTem fail like so many other online games do. Not every MMO can be World of Warcraft. They want to make sure they have the opportunity to invest thousands of hours more. That tells me it’s at least worthwhile to start.
A great community can only get you so far, but TemTem appears to be a rock-solid game at its core. It doesn’t ignore decades of foundational games in the genre and have built upon that bedrock to give people what they’ve been asking for. TemTem is the epitome of “as advertised” in the nicest way possible. It promises a creature-capture game with a lot more depth, and it delivers. It promises to remove all the “randomness” we’ve seen in Pokemon games, and it delivers. It promises interaction with other players around the world in a meaningful way, and it delivers.
TemTem mechanically reveals its hand pretty quickly and either you’re into or not. But honestly, if you’re reading this, you’re probably into it. Other than a few bugs here and there that are easily remedied — and commonplace in an early access title — there are few complaints to be found. Some might say that TemTem is really “grindy” and all I can say in response is “duh”. Like, what did you expect? These Tems ain’t gonna level themselves.
The artistic design in TemTem is well done, albeit a little safe, and the world is vast and populated. There are currently 86 known TemTem that mostly trend toward cute so far, but they each seem to be uniquely purposed and generally feel balanced. The music exceeded my expectations a bit, which I’m glad wasn’t as glossed over as it could have been. It’s nowhere near as melodic as something you’d find in Pokémon, but it managed to stick out in a good way a handful of times.
Most everything is as you would expect it to be, especially in the “superfluous” areas of the game that don’t affect the gameplay. The jury is still out about TemTem’s potential to catch on from a merchandising perspective. Then again, I’m probably not their intended audience for TemTem: The First Movie anyway. One of the NPC’s actually said “hell yeah,” however, so perhaps that’s one area where I did misread things.
The biggest surprise here really was the immediate welcome of the TemTem community. TemTem is good, it’s fun, and I think it’s going to be worth investing your time because to get the full picture of any MMO, you really have to give it a while and grind it out. Hour 1 and hour 1000 are very different things, but in the early hours it does seem like TemTem has delivered on all of its initial promises, and then some. It’s an ambitious title, but it has a fantastic framework for long-term competitive players and introducing new content. And lastly, it has a great community with players who have invested their time and spirit because they want the game to thrive. That community is counting on you, a community that now includes me imploring you to give us Tamers an enthusiastic “hell yeah” and try it for yourself.