The actual launch for Temtem, the closest PC players have had to an official Pokemon MMO, was not great. But as the lag started to vanish and the disconnects became less frequent, I was able to enjoy what Temtem has to offer - and it's off to a great start.
I've spent an afternoon and a night mucking around with Temtem so far. That's nowhere near long enough to get a sense of the game's MMO ambitions, but it's more than plenty to get to grips with the soul and spirit of the game, the basics of its battle system, and just how goddamn charming it all is.
Something that's clear immediately from the off is just how slick all the animations are. Here, for instance, is the basic act of calling a tem - think Pokemon - into battle.
Everything about it is slick, polished and just an utter treat to look at. Sure, none of the character designs have latched onto me so far in the way Pikachu or Psyduck have - although there is a bogan Psyduck - but developers Crema have done a smashing job blending that whimsical, childlike charm into the game's look.
There's so many great little details. When the Temtem cards are thrown into the air, the Temtems are still animated. There's few loading screens, and Temtem is super clever about disguising them with a set of screen wipes that would fit right at home in Pokemon.
Here's the transition into a random battle. It's very oldschool Pokemon, wandering through long grass, then getting a few flashes on the screen before a large transition into black and the thickets of grass.
The evolution animation is super satisfying too, although the early access bugs still reared its head when my evolved tem disappeared from my roster:
Even just accessing the UI is so, so well done. You can change the order of your team by dragging and re-arranging the icons in the bottom right of the screen, which neatly swaps out the Tem following you.
You access your backpack and other UI functions by hitting the TAB key - gamepad controls are implemented, but there's a few issues with it so I've been sticking to mouse and keyboard - and then scrolling through to what you want.
It's clean. It's crisp. It's smooth as silk. It's exactly the kind of quality of life improvements people have always wanted from the Pokemon series, but everything loads and snaps with the speed that you'd expect from a game built for PC.
There's still plenty of explore with Temtem. There's the breeding centre, which is essential for raising Temtem with traits and stats that aren't available in the wild, which is essential for the two-team based combat that Temtem is based around. The endgame of Temtem will feature more Luma versions of Temtem - the game's equivalent of shiny Pokemon - and new Temtem every week to catch.
The game's a bit harder than Pokemon from the off too. Stamina management plays a part in that, but the battles and the general strength of Temtem you find in the wild are tougher out of the game than Pokemon games generally. The distance between the healing stations/not-Pokemon Centres is quite far, too, but after the second town you'll get access to a Temessence Vial, a one-use potion that restores the health of all your Tem to full. The vial can be refilled at HealTem Stations and by certain NPCs.
So is Temtem worth $49.95 - or $40.96, if you use the UPCOMING18 checkout code at Green Man Gaming. I'm not far enough in to answer that question, but I know for sure that I'm keen as hell to keep playing, and that's all you can ask for from any game, especially an early access title that's only a day old.