Let's get the obvious out of the way first — Temtem is blatantly inspired by Pokémon. In fact, the game doesn't even try to pretend to be anything but a redressed Pokémon game. Many of the core mechanics present in Temtem are identical to those that form the basis in over two decades' worth of mainline Pokémon games; the world is filled with mysterious creatures possessing incredible abilities; the people of this world capture and tame these creatures to improve life and society; Temtem Tamers love to test their skills against other Tamers in intense Temtem battles.
If you believe that playing a Pokémon game without the Pokémon themselves — which elicit visceral, overwhelming feelings of nostalgia and sentimental attachment in millions of people — sounds dreadfully droll, you'd be easily understood. However, Temtem isn't just a Pokémon clone — it's a cross-platform, massively multiplayer online (MMO), modernized reimagining of that legendary franchise. As of Sept. 6, 2022, it's officially available as a full-fledged video game on Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. I spent some time with Temtem on Xbox to decide whether it's worth playing, especially for Pokémon fans, and I firmly believe it is.
Doomed to be compared to a beloved franchise
Temtem wears its inspirations on its sleeve, and boldly attempts to accomplish what many have failed to do in the past — break into the unique monster-catching RPG genre that Pokémon has dominated since its creation over two decades ago. Because of this, the game is predictably doomed to be constantly compared to the behemoth with which it's competing, but that doesn't mean success is impossible for Temtem.
Temtem is set in a world populated by a diverse ecosystem of Temtems, powerful creatures that possess unbelievable abilities. These Temtems are an integral part of society, living alongside humans. Temtem Tamers, those who capture wild Temtems and assist with researching these still-mysterious creatures, often enjoy engaging in friendly battles with other Tamers. These battles pit Temtem against Temtem, with a massive arsenal of Abilities, Techniques, Types, and Statuses affecting the outcome of every encounter. Sound familiar so far?
You play as an ambitious Temtem Tamer just starting out in a small, little-known village. You happen to know a friendly, knowledgeable Temtem professor that gifts you your first starter Temtem, and you have an aggressive rival that refuses to let you pull ahead. You'll explore the world of Temtem, known as the Airborne Archipelago, to discover and capture new Temtems, strengthen and improve your squad of adorable critters, and tackle challenging Dojos to prove your skills and knowledge. I know what you're thinking, and you're right — apart from tweaked terms and different names, this sounds identical to practically every flagship Pokémon game since the beginning of the series.
That being said, it's not fair to completely write off Temtem solely because of these similarities. Temtem keeps a lot of what doesn't need to be updated in the genre, but tweaks a lot of other aspects of the experience to make Temtem more appealing to those who grew up with Pokémon and may be interested in a game that grows up with them. Shortly after Temtem entered early access, our own Rebecca Spear wrote that "Temtem comes closer to the real world than Pokémon ever has."
The world of Temtem feels more mature, and isn't afraid to introduce more "adult" subjects such as references to drugs and alcohol, mild swearing, LGBTQIA+ identities, and mundane conflicts and frustrations; the relationship between people and Temtems isn't always perfect and flawless as is suggested in Pokémon. Temtem also encourages players to be whomever they want, with plenty of customization options to personalize your character (including being able to choose your preferred pronouns). Pokémon makes a point of avoiding or dragging its feet on improved inclusivity, and remains to this day decidedly "child-like" despite its hardcore endgame loop.
Temtem further separates itself from constant comparisons to Pokémon by delivering a modern and exciting experience that feels thorough and cleverly designed. Pokémon's core systems, especially battling, hardly feel "fresh" after years with little more than throwaway "gimmicks" that only last for a generation as updates, but Temtem makes its greatest competitor feel even more outdated in comparison.
A modern experience and an evolved battle system
I was genuinely caught off guard by the depth of battling in Temtem, which doesn't copy directly from Pokémon and makes several seemingly minor updates that result in massive changes to the experience. Yes, your Temtems still possess Types, which are more or less effective against other Types. Yes, your Temtems are characterized by Abilities and stats that notate their effectiveness in battle. Yes, your Temtems can learn up to four Techniques, with each Technique divided by Type, power, damage type, and more. Yes, battles are turn-based, relying on speed stats and Technique priority to decide which Temtems move first. All of this is true, but Temtem makes two colossal changes that force players to approach these battles differently.
For one, double battles are the default in Temtem. This means you'll always send out your first two Temtem instead of just one, and you'll often be up against two Temtem at once. This forces you to think carefully about how your Temtems pair with each other. Temtems have Synergy, which can relate to having two Temtems of similar Type on the field for increased damage, specific Techniques gaining power or even additional effects depending on your Temtem's partner, and certain Abilities only working or having a greater effect when paired with a Temtem of a certain Type. Considering how effective each Temtem in your squad is when paired with another Temtem can make the difference between a resounding victory and a crippling loss.
Secondly, Temtem dramatically alters the flow of battle with the introduction of Stamina and tiered moves. The former replaces the "PP" of moves in Pokémon, with each Temtem having a specific amount of Stamina that slowly replenishes over time. Every Technique requires Stamina to pull off, with more powerful moves typically requiring more. If your Temtem exhausts its Stamina, it'll become damaged from overexertion and will be unable to move for a turn while it recovers. Players have to monitor the Stamina of their Temtem carefully, and may even decide to have their Temtems rest for a turn to recover instead of risking damage from overexertion.
On top of this, some Techniques need to be "charged up" and can't be used immediately in a battle. Techniques can take anywhere from one to four turns to be ready to use, with the most powerful Techniques often requiring players to wait. With this mechanic and Stamina, players are unable to spam the most powerful Techniques in battle constantly, and must instead strategize when and how to use their Temtems to the greatest effect.
There are plenty of other tweaks as well, such as more nuanced and predictable Status effects, reduced reliance on luck-based "RNG," and alterations to Temtem's version of IVs and EVs from Pokémon (called SVs and TVs). It's the two changes above, however, that make battling in Temtem more strategic and challenging than Pokémon, and result in a nearly limitless number of possibilities for combinations and strategies beyond simply setting up the most powerful creatures and moves you can.
It's easy to focus on the core gameplay mechanic of Temtem — the intense double battles — but Temtem does plenty else to draw players in and keep them hooked. For one, this is an MMO. That means that, while you're exploring the Airborne Archipelago, you're doing so alongside hundreds of other players in real-time. You can see their favorite Temtems, interact with them through Emotes and more, and communicate through several text chat channels that are always available. Temtem is always-online and can even be played entirely with friends in co-op.
Cross-platform, cross-progression multiplayer is vital in Temtem — take advantage of the robust trading system and a fluctuating in-game economy; build friendships and seek help from other players, and even invite players to their own customized houses (and visit other players' houses in turn); team up with fellow players in social Clubs and engage in intense Dojo Wars for exclusive rewards. Temtem is also a "Game-as-a-Service," with three-month Seasons that provide unique in-game rewards, weekly challenges, and more to appeal to long-term players.
Temtem boasts a full-length campaign that can be played solo or in online co-op, as well as a bustling endgame loop that caters to hardcore and competitive players with a plethora of game modes and replayable content. Everything that appeals to the most invested Pokémon players — such as a well-rounded breeding system to create the perfect Temtem and the allure of rare, alternatively-colored Luma Temtems — is all here, but with an improved battling system that relies more on meticulous strategy than luck and brute force.
A worthwhile addition to a near-monopolized genre
There is so much to discuss in Temtem, and it all culminates in a monster-collection RPG adventure that feels more modern and mature than the franchise from which it draws inspiration. I was certainly excited to check out Temtem when it finally exited early access and arrived on more platforms, but I wasn't prepared to be so completely sucked into everything it offers. Temtem is decidedly addictive, and I hope it continues to evolve and grow over time as it becomes available to all-new pools of potential players.
I have yet to finish Temtem (and it will, unfortunately, have to wait until I have more free time), but I'm already sold on what it delivers and the ways in which it sets itself apart from Pokémon. I wish we could see Temtems exist in the world similar to more recent Pokémon games rather than simply your primary Temtem companion loyally following you around, and I wish battles felt more like a dynamic part of the in-game world similar to Legends: Arceus, but these are minor complaints when I finally have a proper, complete, and thoughtful "not-a-Pokémon" game on Xbox.
The Temtems I've encountered are well designed and memorable, the game looks amazing, and the animations are beautiful and accompanied by full-sounding audio. Not being limited to a single platform feels amazing, and it's great to see how many players fill the world around me while I play. I'm even enjoying Temtem enough that I haven't found myself missing the hundreds of classic Pokémon that are instantly recognizable by millions across the world — if that doesn't sell you on Temtem, I'm not sure what will. It'll be interesting to see how Temtem compares to the Switch-exclusive Pokémon Scarlet and Violet releasing later this year, but players on other platforms are left without that option.
Temtem was officially released on Sept. 6, 2022, for Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. For those wanting a more mature, challenging, and modern cross-platform addition to the genre historically dominated by Pokémon, Temtem is absolutely one of the best games on Xbox.
Zachary Boddy is the Minecraft Expert and a News Writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been freelancing for Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019, with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.
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