Tom's Guide Verdict
Temtem is a fun monster-catching game that offers plenty of twists on the well-worn Pokémon formula.
Challenging and complex combat
Vast and intriguing world
Plenty of ways to interact with other players
Lacks some quality-of-life features
Server timeouts and lag
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Temtem is a strong challenger against Pokémon in the monster-catching genre. The game manages to separate itself by implementing its own twists on a familiar formula, especially in its battle system. There are still similarities between Temtem and Pokémon that veterans will recognize, which might help ease them into the new game.
If you’re looking for a challenging alternative to Pokémon, Temtem is a fine choice. In some ways, it’s the perfect Pokémon game that some players have always wanted. But in other ways, it could have stuck to some tried-and-true traditions instead. Read on for our full Temtem review.
Temtem review: Gameplay
The exploration and gameplay in Temtem are where the game most resembles Pokémon, but with plenty of aspects to differentiate itself. As in Pokémon, Temtem lets you choose one of three starting Tems, the game’s lovable creatures. From there, your journey is to navigate the six areas in the Airborne Archipelago to become the best Tem Tamer you can be. It’s all reminiscent of Nintendo's monster-catching series.
Temtem’s world is filled with vast areas, and these make a striking impression. Recent Pokémon games have had relatively short routes between towns — just straight lines with short divergent paths leading to optional items. In Temtem, the routes between towns are not only lengthy, but also filled with life. Since the game is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) one, there are tons of other players across the world, running around along with you and doing their own tasks.
The Airborne Archipelago instills a sense of wonder and exploration that I had experienced when playing the older Pokémon games. There are plenty of mountains, rivers, lakes and caves to explore throughout the world. Temtem also lets you trade and battle with Tems with other players, which lends to the overall liveliness of the game.
Temtem’s writing is surprisingly funny as well. When I came across a non-playable character Tem Tamer, he asked me if I wanted a tutorial on how to catch Tems. I declined, but he said, “too bad,” and proceeded to tell me anyway before challenging me to a battle. Temtem is filled with these sorts of NPC interactions, and more often than not, I got a hearty chuckle out of them.
Temtem review: Combat
Temtem innovates the most in its combat system, and it's where the game stands out compared to Pokémon. Outside of a few occasions, every battle in the game consists of a double battle, where you send out two Tems at a time and face opponents in a 2v2 fight.
It’s worth noting that Temtem is much, much more challenging and complex than the most recent Pokémon games. The battle dynamics are dramatically different due to Temtem's mandatory double battles. In a singles match, you would have to consider only if your opponent’s creature has a type-based advantage over yours. While that’s still the case here in double battles, you also have to worry about your opponent focusing both of their Tems on one of your own. Even if both Tems aren't super-effective against yours individually, their combined power might just be enough to take your Tem out, and vice versa.
Another big change from Pokémon is that you have a Stamina bar in addition to the standard Health bar. Instead of combat moves having a limited number of uses, each ability in Temtem costs a certain amount of Stamina. The Stamina bar adds a whole new layer of complexity to the battle system, with an interesting risk/reward system. Is it worth overextending your Stamina limit to unleash a powerful final attack — even if you hurt yourself, lose health, have to recover for a turn and turn into a sitting duck? Or should you take the next turn to rest, recover some Stamina and hope that the opponent’s next attack won’t take your Tem out?
The Stamina bar opens up more battle strategies than in a typical Pokémon game, in which "might makes right" almost all of the time. In Temtem, there were plenty of battles that I won by the skin of my teeth because my opponent decided to overexert their Tems. Don’t expect to breeze through Temtem It’s not uncommon to just fight one battle and see that half of your party is already down to 60% of their health afterward. The constant double battles will wear your Tems down significantly.
Temtem review: Quality of life
The strange absence of some of Pokémon's quality-of-life features is where Temtem falls short for me. The most annoying example is the Tempedia, which is Temtem's version of the Pokédex. In the Pokémon franchise, simply encountering a creature would partially fill out its entry, and provide you with some baseline information. The Tempedia doesn’t fill out any information about a Tem, aside from its name, until you actually catch one for the first time.
This is a huge issue, as you’ll often come across Tamers with Tems that you won’t be able to catch until later in the story. This leaves you guessing when it comes to battle strategies. Without a full entry in the Tempedia, it's difficult to pinpoint a given Tem's weaknesses. It feels artificially difficult, and I should be able to look up this information in-game, rather than having to consult Google.
Furthermore, Dojo battles (Temtem’s version of Pokémon Gyms) are challenging because the leader will typically have a Tem that doesn’t fit with the Dojo’s usual type. You’ll have to bring along multiple Tems with the same type advantage in order to win, because it's almost certain that one of them will get knocked out during the battle. This requires you to train a variety of different Tems, which keeps your team from becoming stale.
However, at a certain point, you run out of Tamers to fight in your current area, and you can’t have a rematch with any of them. That means you’ll have to settle for fighting wild Tems, which don’t offer nearly as many experience points. Having some sort of rematch mechanic would have helped cut down on the level grinding.
Additionally, as an MMO game, Temtem is reliant on a constant internet connection. Playing on both my gaming PC and my Steam Deck, I experienced lag and frame drops when I entered or exited buildings. Furthermore, there were also instances where I’d pick up an item, only for my own character to freeze while everyone else was running around. The server apparently didn’t register my action, which means I had to close the game and boot it up again.
In some cases, I couldn’t even access Temtem because the servers were under maintenance at the most random times, or wouldn't let me connect for unspecified reasons. I wish the game had some sort of offline mode so that I wouldn’t have had to deal with these issues.
Temtem review: Verdict
Temtem is a good alternative for Pokémon players who have grown tired of the typical formula, and want an adventure that will challenge them. The game felt fresh yet familiar, and while it may not dethrone Pokémon anytime soon, it’s still worth checking out.
Temtem ultimately stands out in terms of gameplay, and that's what matters most. However, while the game wants to differentiate itself from Pokémon, it should have also implemented some quality-of-life features from Nintendo's iconic monster-catching franchise Pokémon has managed to keep trucking along for decades, with no signs of slowing down; Temtem still has to prove itself.