Temtem Review (Switch) | Nintendo Life

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

At the beginning of our Temtem adventure, we had every intention to review the Pokémon-inspired massively multiplayer game based on its own merit, steering clear of comparisons between the two as best we could. Developer Crema never shied away from where Temtem’s blueprints came from during its successful Kickstarter campaign and lengthy Early Access period, yet with its 1.0 release and debut on the Nintendo Switch, we naively hoped we could divorce Temtem from its muse. It only took a few hours in the Airborne Archipelago to realise how futile this would be. Of the massive mansion that Pikachu and pals built, Temtem exists as both praise and criticism, innovating, refining, and referencing a two-and-a-half-decade-old formula without shame.

Temtem’s world is made up of the six floating islands of the colourful Airborne Archipelago. Here, a professor let us choose one of three starting Temtem. Then an annoying rival picked a fight with us. Afterward, we caught more Temtem, foiled a criminal organisation’s plans, and challenged Dojo Masters. Each Temtem we caught or fought against had one or two types and abilities, and most could evolve after a certain amount of levels. If a wild Bulbasaur appeared while we were exploring the islets of Omninesia, it would’ve taken us a moment to remember which game we were playing.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Yes, Temtem blatantly copied Pokémon’s homework, yet it surprised us with how well it modified the formula, more often than not for the better. Foremost, tamer battles are two-on-two affairs, which means a type advantage does not equal an automatic win. Everyday tamers don’t pose a significant threat, but if taken lightly they can decimate half of your team, leaving you vulnerable midway through one of the many labyrinthine locales. Dojo Masters, the rival, and the heads of the villainous Clan Belsoto will wipe you again and again if you don’t pay acute attention to type matchups.

Each move also costs stamina, which is the most original – and significant – addition to Temtem’s battle system, replacing the likes of accuracy and power points. High damage moves or powerful status-inflicting techniques drain stamina quickly; if it runs out, your Temtem might KO itself from overexertion or have to skip a turn to recover. Together with a steep difficulty curve, managing stamina makes for an engaging, deep battle system. Indeed, the first Dojo Master wrecked us again and again, quickly teaching us that Temtem battles aren’t cakewalks. Later battles left us sweating as we made it through with only a sliver of health on our last Tem.

We could continue to wax on about how Crema copped and altered just about every one of Temtem’s mechanics from Pokémon, from advanced stats to breeding techniques, but we’d breach a reasonable word count quite fast. In short, not once does Temtem borrow a concept from Pokémon without making it more challenging or streamlining the esoteric.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Even the always-online, massively multiplayer elements seem like a critique of link cables and the inconvenience of friend codes. In the Airborne Archipelago, other players traverse the lush islands at the same time as you do. Anyone, at almost any time, can offer their Paharo for your Swali or challenge you to a fight. You can even team up to clear quests with friends or randoms. We tried tackling a Dojo with a random tamer, each of us bringing our own Temtem into battle, though we had to back out once our partner proved more hindrance than help. But if you have friends, co-op seems like a great way to experience this meaty adventure.

The MMO functionality encapsulates the socialness of creature collection better than ever before. However, there are a couple of caveats. Other players often flood the screen with their lead Temtem following behind. In populated areas, this caused the Switch to struggle to maintain any semblance of a healthy frame rate amidst so much clutter. The game also crashed every few hours, whether or not we played docked with a wired connection or handheld over Wi-Fi. Luckily, we could reload right back where we left off whenever this happened, though we hope for a patch or two sooner rather than later.

Most detrimental is the inherent grind of an MMO. Frequent backtracking adds bloat to the main quest, an abundance of sidequests provides mediocre rewards, and, as much as we love battling, opposing tamers and wild Temtem halt progress to the next town or Dojo a little too often, making the journey to the endgame feel about a dozen hours too lengthy. Crema sprinkles plenty of charm into the story and its characters, but somewhere a little over halfway through, our motivation to finish the adventure dropped off a floating islet.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

For those that do stick it out, a wealth of endgame content (of which we’ve barely scratched the surface) unlocks. Catching the 164 available Temtem is the least intensive of these tasks. While competitive battles between players require an absurd time investment to properly prepare for, the island of Tamer’s Paradise promises challenging activities for those who would rather play alone or cooperatively. Then there’s collecting stickers, decorating houses, and hunting for ultra-rare Luma Temtem, packing in enough content to keep a monster-battling fan happy for months – or years, given Crema’s promise of more updates to come.

Conclusion

Even without the endgame content, Temtem is worth a look for anyone who has enjoyed a Pokémon game in the last two-and-a-half decades, especially those who have wanted a steeper challenge to go along with their critter collecting. It’s a familiar, imitative experience in so many ways, yet we came away satisfied with just about every tweak made to the well-established formula. Sure, the main quest becomes a bit of a slog, and yes, the Nintendo Switch does struggle to keep up at times. Despite these qualms, Temtem’s engaging battles enshrine it as one of the most innovative additions to the genre in recent memory.

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