Interview: Plus Ultra: Legado Map Is Real Locations In Labyrinthine Design

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Plus Ultra Legado - via Pontica

If you pay keen interest in hand-drawn visuals, you should definitely wishlist Plus Ultra: Legado. As an Action-Adventure platformer video game from Pontica, the game embarks on the journey of different characters from Mexico during the 16th Century. With aspects from Metroidvania, the game promises world exploration and a unique combat style to deliver an optimal experience. 

Developers have also worked hard to improve the storytelling and movement mechanics to make the fast-paced combat more enjoyable. As per the latest announcements, the developers explored several ideas with the game to bring something unique to Metroidvania. We discussed these details with Diego Ponga, CEO at Póntica, the developer behind Plus Ultra: Legado, over an email interview.

Plus Ultra Legado - via Pontica
Plus Ultra Legado – via Pontica

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Plus Ultra: Legado.

Diego: I’m Diego Ponga, CEO at Póntica, the developer behind Plus Ultra: Legado. My job is to ensure everything works: production, workflow, team management, level design, game mechanics, who and when will finish each task, etc.

Plus Ultra: Legado emphasizes an open storytelling approach. How does this work in practice, and what benefits does it bring to player immersion?

Diego: We coined the term open storytelling to describe a specific kind of gameplay that allows us to know about history with no interruptions. In many games, you need intrusive text boxes that make you unable to move or cutscenes. However, some other games tell you a story without these, but rather while you play.

Think about this: many games have to decide between making a narrative-oriented experience or a fast-paced gameplay one. If you take the former, you’re having lots of play interruptions. If you take the latter, you’ll have an easy-to-tell story (i.e., the bad guy kidnapped a princess, who cares about why).

However, in games like Half-Life or Portal, you have quite an interesting approach: everything is told without the need for interruption, so you get the best of two worlds. Plus Ultra: Legado‘s open storytelling is a way to do so in a Metroidvania game.

Plus Ultra Legado - via Pontica
Plus Ultra Legado – via Pontica

Can you provide examples of how players can interact with and influence the storytelling through their actions?

Diego: Each video game genre has its codes and its ways of interacting with elements. a Metroidvania is essentially an action-platformer, so your way of interacting is smashing and jumping. And this is exactly what you do.

Do you want to read a textbox? Remain there. Do you want to pass the text and read the next line? Hit that prompt. Do you want to skip the dialogue? Just leave

Metroidvania games rely heavily on exploration and combat. How does Plus Ultra: Legado innovate in these areas?

Diego: Exploration is the key to a Metroidvania game, and that is very true. In Plus Ultra: Legado, you have the typical Metroid-like labyrinthine map, with backtracking, lots of connections, different areas, and all.

However, it has a twist: many of these zones are actually real locations. Therefore, not only do they need to make sense from the level design point of view, but from the geographical coherence as well.

Plus Ultra Legado - via Pontica
Plus Ultra Legado – via Pontica

What inspired you to set Plus Ultra: Legado in the 16th century during the encounter between Europe and the Americas?

Diego: The first arrival of the Spaniards to the American continent is one of the most relevant moments in history. Both worlds (the Americas and Afro-Eurasia) had been isolated from one another for some 15,000 years. My family and I are Spanish, but as many of us Hispanics, we have ties on both sides of the Ocean. My brother Alfonso, with whom I’ve founded Póntica, is a Mexican citizen.

Apart from my personal background, there is yet another reason. There is a huge manipulation about what really happened in those years in Mesoamerica. Sometimes, a dark legend against the Spaniards (“they enslaved Indigenous tribes!”) or a pink legend in favor of them (“Europeans had to civilize those cannibals”).

Both narratives are incorrect, and both have the same consequence: the overshadowing of the Indigenous peoples that built a transoceanic, multi-racial empire that lasted three centuries. In fact, this is one of the very few games that is being translated into Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico that was official during Viceroyal Mexico.

You describe Plus Ultra: Legado as a comicvania. Can you explain what this term means and how it differs from traditional Metroidvania games?

Diego: It was actually an accident. We wanted to make a video game with a comic art style but never thought about comic-style interactions with gameplay until we went deeper into designing and programming the game. A comicvania is, therefore, not only a game that has a comic-like aesthetic but rather a game in which comic elements (dog ears, panels, speech bubbles, onomatopeias…) have an impact on gameplay.

This makes it quite interesting for gamers since you are in a world in which even signals and notifications can be part of gameplay.

Plus Ultra Legado - via Pontica
Plus Ultra Legado – via Pontica

Can you discuss the process behind creating the game's original soundtrack? What kind of musical influences or instruments were used to evoke the 16th-century setting?

Diego: When we thought about this, we made a huge effort to research music from both the Renaissance and the Baroque. However, this would only work for a few areas of the game that have a subtle European flavor. For other places, we reimagined how Indigenous music would sound before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Additionally, we added some mixtures of both sides since the game is ultimately an ode to ethnic blending and cultural exchange. We have several songs with choirs in Nahuatl and even Medieval Portuguese.

How do you balance historical accuracy with creative freedom in the game's narrative and design?

Diego: Even though we’re trying to get an accurate historical product, it’s not always easy. After all, it is a story. And above all, it’s a video game. Rule No. 1 is that it has to be fun. You might find some inaccuracies, but this does not mean you’ll find historical manipulation here. For instance, the color some enemies wear might not be historically accurate, but they have to look threatening to our eyes!

And of course, a Spanish guy could not jump 3 times his height in the 16th century, but Don Juan, the character you play, actually can. However, these are not oriented to changing what actually happens, just to ensure you all enjoy when playing Plus Ultra: Legado.

Are there any specific historical events or figures that players will encounter or influence during their adventure?

Diego: Of course. You might think about iconical characters, such as Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma, who were the leaders of the Spanish expedition and the Emperor of the Mexica, respectively.

However, we also managed to include some historical characters that were unbeknownst to most people, such as Juan Garrido (a black male who is Cortés’s right hand and probably the first African who arrived in current-day USA territory), María de Estrada (a Spanish female soldier) and Maxixcatzin (king of the Tlaxcaltecs, one of the many Indigenous people who joined Cortés).

And of course, several events are shown, such as the Battle of Cempoala or the death of Emperor Moctezuma.

Plus Ultra: Legado is a Mesoamerican Metroidvania platformer game, developed by Pontica. The game is planned for release early in 2025 for PC. 

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