Temtem PS5 early access first look - Pokemon gets a legit rival

There has been no lack of Pokemon derivatives throughout the years, but few of them have managed to really stick. There's Digimon, I suppose, but that's always had a reputation of being the poor man's Pokemon whether it actually deserves that title or not. These days, we've got a new competitor brewing in Temtem, and while the game isn't finished yet, it shows a lot of promise in its current early access state.Temtem early access arrives on PlayStation 5 today, which is something of a surprise. Originally, developer Crema Games said that Temtem would only come to consoles when version 1.0 releases at some point in 2021. Then, in the lead up to the PlayStation 5's reveal, it was confirmed that early access would be a PlayStation 5 console exclusive. Therefore, if you're looking to play Temtem and you don't have a PC, PlayStation 5 is your only option until launch.

I've spent several hours playing the PS5 version of Temtem, and while this won't be a review because the game is still in early access and hasn't officially launched, I did want to share some impressions of the game. While I was excited to check out Temtem when it launched on Steam earlier this year, I actually resolved to hold off until version 1.0 lands because I've been burned one too many times by early access games, which means that I went into the PlayStation 5 version relatively fresh and unspoiled.

So far, I have to say that I'm pretty impressed by the game, though it is performing a delicate balancing act by recognizing and implementing the core gameplay loop that makes Pokemon so popular while at the same time blazing its own trail in the name of shaking things up. I think the end result will be a fair bit more distinct from Pokemon, but for now, there are a lot of similarities between the two games.

For instance, the opening stages of the game seem to follow the opening beats of a Pokemon game very closely – you play as a child who is starting a Temtem adventure, you and your rival get your first Temtem from the local professor, and then you're off, battling and catching weak bird and bug-looking Temtem to pad out your team in the early game. The routes in between cities and towns have a very familiar feel, with areas of tall grass in which Temtem lurk and other Temtem trainers waiting for you to enter their line of sight so they can challenge you to a battle, just as the trainers in Pokemon do.

It isn't a carbon copy of Pokemon, despite the long list of similarities. For instance, your character can actually have a conversation with Temtem trainers who stop you as you walk by, though the end result always seems to be a Temtem battle. The routes also feel a little more varied from a game design standpoint than the routes in recent Pokemon games, as some of them offer multiple paths to a destination or little off-shoots to explore. You can also see and interact with other players as you explore the in-game world, which is a huge addition that I really love. It makes Temtem's world feel so much more alive than something like Galar region in Pokemon Sword and Shield.

That's true even when you consider the Wild Area in Sword and Shield, which is where you'll see the avatars of other players running around. You can't easily interact with those other players, though, and the fact that Temtem approaches monster collecting from an MMO perspective really drives the notion home that Game Freak could have done more with Sword and Shield.

In any case, the real difference between Pokemon and Temtem in is the battles. In each battle, you send two Temtem in to fight side-by-side, and while Pokemon does use double battles by default in competitive leagues, throughout a Pokemon game's story mode, most of the battles you'll participate in are one-on-one. Just like in Pokemon, Temtem are limited to knowing four moves at a time and there are type disadvantages and advantages to consider, but in Temtem, there's also a stamina system in play and that changes a lot.

The stamina system is essentially in place to prevent you from spamming your Temtem's most powerful attack over and over again and button mashing your way through battles. Each move costs a certain amount of stamina, and if your Temtem's stamina gauge is running on empty, they'll take HP damage from overexertion. Stamina regenerates a little bit between rounds too. Battles become a tense exercise in decision making where you have to determine when and where to use your most powerful attacks and when you should rein in your assault so your Temtem can restore some stamina.

I love Temtem's battle system, and I was surprised by how challenging battles can be. I've been playing Pokemon since the days of Red and Blue so by this point I'm used to more or less breezing through these games, which made the challenge in the early stages of Temtem catch me off guard. If you don't take the time to consider your options in battle, there's certainly the potential to walk away defeated rather than victorious, while in Pokemon it often feels like you have to impose handicaps on how you play if you want a challenge.

I like a lot of things about Temtem, in fact. There are a lot of similarities between it and Pokemon but I think with features like player housing, an auction house, clan PvP, and a hardcore Nuzlocke game mode baked into the game itself – some of which are already in the game – Temtem will stand out from Pokemon enough by the time it launches into version 1.0. It arguably already stands out enough, thanks to the fact that it's an actual MMO where you can partner with or battle other players you meet in the in-game world.

There are some blemishes, of course, because this is an early access game. There are buildings that are cordoned off by "Work in Progress" signs, which can be immersion-breaking as you're playing, and of course everyone playing should expect to encounter bugs. At this point, there aren't very many differences between the PC and PS5 versions from what I can tell. The game runs fine on PS5, but it doesn't take advantage of any of the DualSense's features yet, and there isn't any trophy support yet either. There is support for PlayStation Activities for main quests, which is nice to see, but for the moment, you don't really get to tap into the PS5 features that would make choosing PS5 over PC worth it.

It's worth noting that there is crossplay between the PS5 and PC versions of Temtem here at launch, so if you have friends playing on a different platform, you'll still be able to find them in-game. With that said, it doesn't feature cross-progression yet, so you can't transfer progress over from PC. It seems like Crema wants to add support for that in the future, so we'll look out for that. The game runs at 4K60 by default (and it looks fantastic at that resolution), but Crema has also said that it will look at adding a performance mode that drops the resolution and boosts framerate to 120fps in the future.

Even though I like Temtem more than I thought I would, I'm probably going to put the game down until we get closer to release. I don't like playing early access games at length before their version 1.0 updates land, because generally I find that I get burned out on them while they're in early access and don't actually come back to see them in their finished state. I will say, however, that I will have a review of Temtem 1.0 whenever that lands sometime next year, and at that point, we should have a much clearer picture not only how Temtem stacks up to Pokemon, but also how the console versions compare to the PC version (Temtem version 1.0 will be available on Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch in addition to PlayStation 5).

As for whether or not you should buy while Temtem is in early access, I would say only do so if you're a big fan of Pokemon-type games and you have an itch to play something in the genre right now that would otherwise go unscratched. Assuming Crema can pack all the features it's currently planning into version 1.0, it sounds like it will be a great experience, and I'm willing to shelf the game for now so I can take it in all at once later instead of playing through it piece by piece over time. Temtem early access is out on PS5 today.