Alwa's Legacy

A game by Elden Pixels for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, and PS4, originally released in 2020.
Alwa’s Legacy is the follow-up to Alwa’s Awakening, and both are retro-style open-world metroidvania adventures. In the first game, Zoe is summoned from another world to help save the land of Alwa from the evil Vicar and his four agents. She begins the game passed out and face down outside of a tall structure where she is greeted by an elderly woman named Saga, the one who summoned her. Zoe climbs the tower to retrieve a magical staff, and then sets out on her grand quest. After she defeats the final boss, she enters a chamber and walks up to an altar. A light comes down from above and envelops her, knocking her unconscious. While passed out, she appears to grow in age, and she is returned to the entrance of the tower where Saga once again greets her and tells her about her quest.
Alwa’s Legacy begins with Saga walking through a grand library and picking up a large book. She speaks to a man, saying “Yes, she’s about to wake up. I want her to have it as soon as she’s here,” and then she follows this statement with a more mysterious one: “This time around, let’s hope she makes the right choices.” Zoe is, of course, lying unconscious outside the tower, just as she was at the end of the previous game, only now she is somewhat older. She has lost her memory once more, and the only thing she can recall is standing in front of an altar and a light coming down from above. The opening sequence seems to suggest that Zoe somehow failed her prior mission and that she is cursed to repeat it until she gets it right.
At the start of the game, Zoe already has her magical staff, which she uses to break crates and fight enemies. She climbs the tower again, this time encountering Vicar at the top. Vicar mentions their previous encounter, but Zoe does not remember meeting him. He knocks the wand out of her hand and breaks the bridge beneath her feet, causing her to fall down to the area below. She recovers her staff quickly and eventually makes her way to Saga, who hands her a book with blank pages, telling her that they will fill themselves in during her adventure. Saga marks the location of the first boss on the map and sends her away.
This early part of the game is the only place where you are actively guided toward your goals. You meet plenty of NPC’s and encounter side paths that are inaccessible with your default abilities, so you are limited to venturing into a single dungeon and facing its boss. You begin the game with a 1.5x variable jump and the ability to attack while moving or jumping. You can also duck, but you cannot crawl or attack while ducking, and strangely you cannot attack while pressing UP. Your movements are somewhat slow and methodical, as you can’t interrupt a swing of your staff by jumping, and your attack range is quite short.
In the first game, the player was slowly introduced to three magical spells, but here you acquire them all quite quickly. These spells include summoning a green block that you can push and use as a platform, or it can be used to hold down switches. Summoning a blue bubble lets you hop on top of it and ride it for a short distance before it pops, allowing you to reach higher platforms. Finally, a lightning blast allows you to strike enemies and switches from a distance and burn wooden objects. These powers are often used in conjunction to reach new areas and solve environmental puzzles, such as activating multiple switches simultaneously. Only one of each spell can be active at a time, and a magic meter limits the speed at which you can cast spells, but the meter refills quickly.
In the previous game, a secondary objective included collecting 99 orbs spread throughout the game world, and doing so weakened each of the bosses. Here, you can still collect 99 orbs, but now they can be equipped as spell upgrades by visiting a wizard in the first village. Early upgrades aren’t terribly useful and include the ability to add spikes to one side of your green block, the ability to drop through a blue bubble to change the color of your robes, or a better chance of a health drop when killing enemies with a lightning blast. The functions of higher upgrades are hidden until you unlock the lower ones – and you are free to redistribute orbs as needed – but some of the higher-level upgrades can completely change how you engage with the world.
One upgrade lets you strike your green block to send it flying across the screen, allowing you to attack enemies at a distance. Another upgrade causes your bubble to send out spikes when it pops, allowing you to attack enemies above you. And you can eventually fire off a pair of lightning projectiles, or upgrade to add homing shots and increased damage.
One of the higher-level upgrades for your green block causes it to float along the surface of water, allowing you to cross huge bodies of water that might otherwise be impassable until later in the game. And you can upgrade your bubble so that it never pops, allowing you to ride it as high as you like, thereby bypassing some obstacles and allowing you to reach almost any point in the environment (though there are some traps that suck in your bubble, preventing you from using it in certain situations). With enough orbs collected, you can eventually unlock all of these upgrades at once, empowering you to explore every corner of the world.
Not only do you unlock spells, you also gain new abilities by thoroughly exploring the world, and abilities include temporary invulnerability to spikes, an air dash (which also works underwater), and the ability to slow down time. Annoyingly, you have to recharge these skill to re-use them within a room – which is a lengthy process – but they recharge automatically when moving from one room to the next.
Acquiring new abilities further aids and encourages environmental exploration and allows players to revisit previous areas to access new paths... even leading to new abilities that are entirely optional. Some abilities are active all the time, such as the air dash, while others must be equipped, and the player may only equip one such ability at a time. That said, there’s a quick-select ring that lets the player change his equipped skills as the situation demands.
The player’s first mission is challenging given his default abilities, but more so is the first boss. The player may find himself surprised to face a fast-moving boss that fires a lot of projectiles after having completed a number of slower and more methodical challenges to reach him. This is one of the few places where the challenge level jumps suddenly, as the difficulty curve remains fairly steady throughout the rest of the adventure.
In fact, challenges in later areas are built more around platforming and environmental puzzle solving than facing enemies or bosses. If anything, late game bosses become easier by merit of the player’s increased toolset, and most bosses aren’t terribly mobile. Throughout the game, exploration and puzzle solving remain the key focus, rather than fighting enemies, and most enemies can be avoided if they aren’t actively attacking or blocking the path forward.
After completing the first mission, the player is given the locations of the next three bosses and essentially turned loose on the world to explore and complete objectives however he likes. There is virtually no handholding and very few hints as to where you should go to complete tasks, but key destinations are sometimes marked on the world map, as are save points once they have been discovered. Per metroidvania conventions, the map shows rooms that have been entered and which directions have exits, allowing the player to quickly see which areas remain to be explored (a menu option allows the player to opt for collectibles to be shown on the map as well).
Save points are spread around the world, and these also double as warp points, but the player must use gemstones to activate them. In addition to the 99 blue orbs hidden around the world, the player will also find green gemstones and red rose petals. Gemstones allow the player to transform any save point into a warp for easier travel around the world. Rose petals may be traded to an NPC in groups of four to increase the player’s health, which starts at three units and can eventually be upgraded to six. Collectibles are tucked around the world, often visible to the player from a distance, requiring that he determine how to reach them by way of his magic spells, abilities, or passage through false walls. The player retains any collected items even if he is killed and returned to a save point.
The world is large, and there’s nowhere that’s off limits once you have the necessary skills to move forward, and you're often allowed to move into areas that are very dangerous – but not impossible – to explore. For instance, moving underwater is extremely perilous in the early going, as the player cannot swim and will drown in seconds, but there’s nothing stopping him from diving in, seeing what’s down there, and maybe even grabbing some collectibles. There’s also a maze of darkened ruins that is extremely difficult to navigate, and it’s filled with pitfalls and enemies, some of whom can fire projectiles through walls. But there’s nothing stopping you from plumbing its depths early on, so long as you have the skills to do so.
The player’s primary goal is to find each of the dungeon entrances, unlock them, and complete the self-contained challenges within, before facing the dungeon boss. One area is a water temple where you slowly move forward by raising and lowering the water levels… but there are also lots of pickups in this temple that can only be accessed by very specific uses of certain abilities, encouraging players to return to the temple even after it has been solved. Another area sees the player activating devices that present two different versions of a temple, each with slight differences. Puzzle solutions grow steadily more complex as the game goes on, with late game puzzles requiring some pretty clever uses of magic and skills in order to overcome.
The player’s limited moveset, short attack range, and small array of spells ensures that it’s generally clear which abilities may be used in any given situation, ensuring that the player isn't beating his head against an impossible solution… except perhaps to see if he can get to an area that he’s not obviously meant to reach. Puzzle solutions within dungeons require more thought as the player triggers objects with effects outside of his immediate view.
One of the most noticeable differences between Alwa’s Legacy and the original game is that the visuals have been given a substantial upgrade. Alwa's Awakening was presented with an 8-bit aesthetic, offering simple yet charming enemies and environments. In Alwa’s Legacy, not only has Zoe grown up, but so have the visuals, offering something more in line with 16-bit consoles, while retaining the artistic design of the original. Everything is more detailed, from the environment to the enemies to the bosses, with some background art that is absolutely spectacular, and this is all supported by a lively retro-style soundtrack. The game offers little in the way of narrative, but there are a few humorous nods here and there, with the occasional talking animal, a few quirky characters, and a nice Tucker and Dale reference.

Alwa’s Legacy is a sequel to Alwa's Awakening and was developed by Elden Pixels, a studio based in Gothenburg, Sweden and founded in 2016. Mikael Forslind was the game’s designer, Alexander Berggren was the lead artist, and Isac Degerborg was the lead programmer, with additional support by Robert Kreese. Music for the game was composed by Tadd Nuznov, a.k.a. RushJet1, who previously composed for PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator and provided audio for Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes. The game was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign.