Temtem’s early access release doesn’t wrap up with a nice, warm hug offering clarity and closure. Instead it leaves you on a literal cliffhanger, hook-slinging your way from precipice to precipice on the way to the sweltering savannahs of Kisiwa, a to-be-released island apparently teeming with political unrest and Earth Temtems.
I’m not frustrated that the game doesn’t currently have a more concrete conclusion. Temtem signs off with carefully selected vignettes designed to show what the game has to offer in the long run: a vivid, vibrant world that will keep expanding.
There are only a few quests you can’t finish in the early access alpha, all of which bleed into Kisiwa, the third island due to be added in a future update. The core experience of the alpha remains satisfying and feels surprisingly complete for an early access game.
That’s partly because of the arc it takes your protagonist on. Like with Pokémon, Temtem casts you as a small town nobody from a bucolic background who everybody underestimates, but by the end of the alpha you’ve already started earning the respect of Dojo Masters scattered all over the Airborne Archipelago. Unlike Pokémon, however, you don’t do this by silently lording your victories over every sorry bug catcher you beat. Instead, you’re a cheeky little git who climbs the ladder as much through slagging off eejits as battling.
By the end of the alpha, you’ve also accrued a few mates. My favourite is probably Adia Turay, captain of the Narwhal and that pal who will never, ever praise you, but will give you a knowing look that says, “alright, fair play, but don’t get cocky or you’re donezo.” On the whole, the writing reminds me of the sort of three-dimensional characters present way back in Pokémon Gen 2. (It’s also very clever in its references to other previous Pokémon stories – for example, there’s even some lovely meta acknowledgement of the Pokémon Blue Mew truck.)
Beyond that, the post-ending content is pretty good. You can take on a wild cult who worship Crystal Temtems – seriously, they won’t even look you in the eye unless you approach with a full party of “pure” Crystal Temtems (although they’ll gladly use hybrids, hypocrites) – and you can revisit old areas with your newfound knowledge, allowing you to access previously inaccessible places to catch new Temtems and get better items. One such area even houses untamed Oceara, aka Suicune with cloud wings, the best Temtem in the game.
Considering it’s an early access alpha, Temtem is armed to the teeth with radiant things to do. In fact, because matchmaking isn’t live yet, it’s in your best interest to spend this limbo time before the developers expand the game breeding stronger Temtems worthy of sporting a big Superman S on their chest. By the time online tussles versus other players become a thing, you’ll be way ahead of the curve, managing a team of absolute legends with A1 stats and stupid nicknames. Be warned, however, that in true MMO fashion, training in Temtem sometimes feels like it’s taking centuries to gain a single level – unless you find the secret Crystal Sanctuary, which has lots of big, beefy Zenoreths to beat up, anyway.
It’s not all grind, at least. Unlike the other collect ’em all, if you happen upon a shiny – special, rare versions of particular Temtem, called Luma – they’ve got more than personality on their side. Lumas have at least three perfect stats, meaning they’re straight-up better than normal Temtem while also rocking a big, sparkly, one-in-6000 skin. Shiny hunting is consequently much more compelling. And what’s more, if you get two of these, you have a one-in-60 chance of breeding a baby Luma with perfect stats all around, like those people who are good at everything but you can’t hate them because they’re actually really nice. Plus you can have your favourite Luma follow you around in the overworld, meaning you can go back to the first town in the game and show off in front of all the new players with their ‘starters’ and ‘ability to enjoy the game you consumed far too quickly for the first time.’
Although the future of Temtem is unclear at the moment, the game’s ending is, above all, promising. I can’t wait for the day when I can death-defyingly hop across that last horrifying chasm to Kisiwa, and continue the journey the alpha has started so well.