Temtem: Xbox gets the Pokémon MMO fans always wanted

Luke Albigés - October 1st 2022

Temtem, the hit monster-training RPG and Pokémon-esque MMO, recently left early access, launching onto Xbox at the same time. It wants to be the very best, and it doesn't fall far short based on what we've played so far...

Temtem has been a long time coming for Xbox players. Crema's monster taming MMO started life in mid-2018 as a Kickstarter campaign and launched in early access on PC in early 2020, followed shortly after by news that it would be also coming to consoles. PlayStation got in on the early access party later that year, but Xbox and Switch owners would have to wait until the game reached full release, which finally happened earlier this month. Having now tamed my way into the endgame and filled up the Tempedia, I'm about ready to share some thoughts on why Temtem is one of the best games like Pokémon out there, and comfortably the best on Xbox — I'm not about to slap a score on an MMO that only just hit full release and has changed considerably on its journey to 1.0 (and will continue to do so), but I can at least explain what makes Temtem a super effective alternative to Nintendo's pocket monster.

Temtem is a massively multiplayer creature-collection adventure. Journey across the lovely Airborne Archipelago alongside your Temtem squad. Catch every Temtem, battle other tamers, customize your house, join a friend's adventure or explore the dynamic online world.

Temtem is basically Pokémon for Xbox

Crema doesn't try to hide its inspiration for Temtem. Exploring in and around the game, you'll find Pokémon references galore, from an achievement for catching 151 creatures to an NPC who insists on having spotted a rare monster under a suspicious truck (a callback to the urban legends about catching Mew in the original Pokémon games). It even has its own monster with several different elemental evolutions just like Eevee, its own imitator and breeding must-have in Ditto counterpart, Mimit, and my personal favourite nod, and early critter that is a scrappy little duck who fights using a sai — a sai-duck, if you will. Seasoned trainers will spot plenty of other similar systems here too, such as creature types having varying effectiveness against others, stats influenced by both natural capabilities and targeted training, a four-move pool for each Tem to carry into battle, and a world in which all altercations are handled via having creatures battle on your behalf.

For all the similarities to Pokémon, though, Temtem brings a lot of its own unique twists. For one, the entire game is based around 2v2 battles, seldom seen in the Nintendo games outside the odd double trainer battle and the competitive scene. There's also a significant difference in the battles themselves, moving away from Pokémon's PP system that governs how many times each move can be used to instead use a stamina gauge. This adds a whole new layer to combat strategy, making tactical switches and moves that can block or dodge attacks all the more important and potentially able to wear an opponent out almost instantly if you can get them to put a powerful move into a dud slot. Tired Tems can still use their attacks at the cost of spending HP to cover any stamina shortfall, or you can have them rest up or retreat to get their energy back. It's a superb system and one that works just as well in exploration as competitive battling, since starting with a fresh stamina bar each fight negates the need to trudge back to a healing station just to get your moves back, like in Pokémon. There's also a reusable healing item to help with this side of things, a full heal for your entire party that can only be used out of battle and recharges whenever you heal your team at a proper facility. Most useful.

Temtem is built for competitive play

If you've played pretty much any mainline Pokémon game, especially the more recent ones, you'll know just how easy to series is for most players. If you go into Temtem expecting a similar cakewalk, you are going to get absolutely bullied by even the regular tamers who hang out on each route. It's not enough to have one or two big bodies carry your team — you need a diverse squad all at around the same level as the encounter in order to have switch-ins for key threats and the coverage to deal with whatever your opponent might throw out. Even just getting through the key story fights can be challenging, but when you get into the endgame and most big fights start using the competitive ruleset, Temtem kicks things up a few gears. Competitive is really interesting in that it utilises a MOBA-style pick/ban system. You bring a team of eight, from which you'll eventually end up with a five-Tem party for the fight after you and your opponent go through the process of picking one or two in turn while preventing the enemy from bringing two of their Tems into battle. This makes having a varied team with as much coverage as possible vital — building a team around a single Tem falls down the second the opponent bans it with their first pick, and even if they miss it, you're effectively forced into putting it up front if you don't want to risk it catching the second ban. It takes some getting used to, particularly if you're well versed in competitive Pokémon, but it's a neat system nonetheless, and one that really makes team-building the most important part of the process.

It doesn't stop there, either. One common complaint about competitive Pokémon is how much luck there is in so many of its systems, whether it be winning or losing a tight game off the back of a 10% crit, choking with a miss on a 95% accurate attack, or losing back-to-back speed ties that cost you dearly. You'll find no such variance in Temtem. All moves are 100% accurate, all damage is fixed, all status conditions have set durations, and even speed ties alternate so as to not screw over any one player. This lends battles a much more strategic flow — no fishing for flinches with a Serene Grace user, no winning games based on whether or not confusion or paralysis decide to not let someone play the game, and no falling at the last hurdle when a low damage roll lets an opponent live on a few HP then proceed to sweep your team. In Pokémon, the story and competitive scene couldn't be further apart. In Temtem, you're being prepared for endgame from the start, conditioned to think differently and not rely on luck to swing fights. Being able to burn an opponent out of stamina with just a few smart switches is a great way to neutralise a key threat, forcing opponents to either switch out or sack powerful Tems which may just buy you enough time to swing the momentum in your favour. Most people will likely struggle with how hard Temtem can be, but honestly, that's largely due to how the biggest game in the genre has been coddling us for so long. It might take some learning, but trust me, it feels great when you get there and start posting those big Ws.

Temtem is surprisingly balanced

Pokémon stat distribution is wild, and the power creep that has come from eight generations of evolution has only made this all the more clear. Even just going back to the first generation, Dragonite has a base stat total (BST) of 600, while something like Onix has well under 400, with almost half of that being its monstrous Defense stat. This kind of disparity leads to only select species being truly viable, with the odd exception for gimmick creatures whose abilities offer something unique, such as Smeargle or Shedinja. In the world of Temtem, there's a much better sense of equality. Pretty much every final form of an evolution line has a BST in the mid-400s, meaning that any Tem you want to use can likely be made to work in endgame content and competitive play, save for maybe a handful whose poor typings or move pools make them a little harder to justify over similar options — even the two mythical Tems currently in the game have pretty middling BSTs, if offset by great abilities and/or typings. It's refreshing to see such a wide pool of potential team members, especially coming from a Pokémon background where seeing the likes of Landorus-T, Xerneas, or Dracovish on almost every team (depending on the meta) made team selection extremely boring and predictable.

This balance extends to attacks as well. Move pools are typically quite shallow in Temtem, so you don't have to worry about every single creature somehow having an answer for everything as coverage beyond a creature's natural type is typically fairly rare. There are exceptions, but usually at a price, perhaps with a move that works off a Tem's weaker secondary attack stat or one that has a drawback that needs to be played around. The interplay between combatants and their typings is the primary concern here, not the need to chase constant full coverage that led to Game Freak removing Hidden Power from Pokémon altogether. It works, too. Neutral attacks can chunk pretty damn hard, and while super effective attacks aren't always a death sentence, they need to be respected, so a clearer playing field in terms of what attacks an opponent is likely carrying again lends itself well to Temtem's more strategic approach.

Temtem actually has an endgame

Pokémon fans have been crying out for decent endgame content for ages, and while the last couple of games have offered some neat stuff, we haven't really seen a proper suite of post-game activities since Pokémon Emerald gave us the Battle Frontier almost 20 years ago. Temtem's Tamer's Paradise plays into this in that it is basically Battle Frontier 2.0 — an endless gauntlet with either trained or rental teams, a survival mode, several roguelite-style modes, a boss rush mode... if you want to get serious without getting sweaty in competitive, you have plenty of ways to do so here, and with decent rewards, too. Lairs are perhaps the most interesting, and this is where the game's mythical creatures dwell. You party up with up to four other players, grab some random rental Tems at the start, then all push forward on your own paths, collecting group-wide buffs, building and tweaking your team on the fly, and hopefully amassing enough MacGuffins along the way that anyone who survives can challenge the powerful boss, walking away with a mythical egg once per week if they manage to best the trial. It's a really entertaining and satisfying metagame that requires no investment beyond the price of entry, and worth diving into each week on the 1/7,500 off-chance that your mythical egg hatches into a Luma variant... or just for better stats and abilities, but who doesn't want a shiny?

What are Lumas, you ask? Simple — they're Temtem's equivalent of Pokémon's shiny forms, and they themselves serve as an endgame of sorts. The odds of just stumbling upon or hatching one are crazy low, but there are ways of boosting this, whether it be using Radars to chain encounters in the hope of finding one with increased odds, using Safari Zone analogue Saipark when it offers better chances, or running Digilairs ('simpler' versions of the mythical ones). As an MMO, Temtem is built around an economy, so if you're looking to make money, shiny Tems and the gear that might help one improve them are the things to be selling. Even just Luma eggs, which improve the chance tenfold per Luma parent for the hatchling to be shiny, sell for a small fortune, with many players clearly happy to gamble on that 1/75 chance at a rare version of any given Tem. It's just another thing to chase, and shinies here haven't been so horribly devalued as in Pokémon (Pokémon Go hands them out like candy) so seeing someone wandering around in the world with a rare Luma is still a 'wow' moment, and I'm not gonna lie, I want in on that.

If you were waiting on the 'but,' here it is. Temtem commands a considerable price tag, up there with what you would expect to pay for a mainline Pokémon game. The quality and content is absolutely there to justify this, but it's still going to be a tricky hurdle to get over for those who can't see past this being Ditto pretending to be a Pokémon game — as I've explained, it's very much its own beast and a game worth your time and attention if monster-taming RPGs are your scene, and I'm closing in on 250 hours (and the completion... just one tournament to go!) with no regrets about picking it up. Yes, there is also a battle pass, but it's an indie MMO and the devs have to make the game long-term sustainable somehow (it's all cosmetic junk and pays for itself à la Fortnite's pass, for what it's worth), so I can't be mad at it. I actually bought it, in fact, and will finish it later this evening some two months early... that's just how invested I've been in this game and this world, and I'm really looking forward to properly getting into the competitive scene, although that may take some doing as old habits die hard.

Fancy yourself as a Temtem tamer? Glad to see a Pokémon-style game that actually has an endgame for once? Let us know below, and come join us in the TA club if you do get involved!

Track My Progress in Temtem