In my first post on the topic of Diablo's storytelling quality, I gave a rough introduction on how the story of Diablo II worked, letting the blank player character chase behind the Dark Wanderer(tm) and his companion Marius, a notorious disciple of the Stockholm Syndrome. In the end Diablo, whose mortal form had been destroyed once already, was beaten again and his spirit form crushed with it, too. Now, would you have seriously anticipated that the story's finished with that? Me neither. I didn't expect the continuation to be so sloppy, though. It starts easily enough, I grant you, with the star falling on Tristram, you arriving in New Tristram and engaging in some meet and greet with various monsters and NPC. The first Act of Diablo III is very neatly built, full of rich details and interesting. You can pick up lore about the monsters you slay, you can find additional quests, and the surroundings support the overall ambience. Gameplay elements like destroyable walls and falling chandeliers are carefully set and fit in.
|Seriously, do you expect someone to live here?|
There are also some elements in it that don't fit so well. You find Tyrael, for example, who is a mysterious guy who lost his memory. He has a badass sword, though. In the end of Act I, you battle the Butcher - why he was resurrected from Diablo I (!) is never explained, but it's a nice nod to nostalgia. In between, we rescue a Templar from devious worshippers of evil and slay several boss monsters that even have some kind of backstory. Especially notable is the Skeleton King, the first big quest we have, because he is the most fleshed out of these and his segment is the most detailled. This is where the problems really start. After Act I, and slightly even after the Skeleton King, things begin to fall apart. In the desert city (not Lut Gholein, some different steretype desert city) we uncover a conspiracy that is so fucking obvious it hurts to hear you character go on his "You! I would never have thought..." routine.
|Not quite as impressive as Prince Arthas, but close.|
But the plot of Act II is still Shakespeare compared to what comes next. Act III offers us a barbarian fortress under siege (wow, innovative) by a demon horde. We battle through the fortress, over the wide plains into a vulcano where we finally slay the enemy commander. The problem is not the story itself here, that one's pretty basic and coherent - defeat enemy horde, repeat, slay general, celebrate victory. What goes out of the window in Act III is any sense of a coherent world. The barbarian fortress is so ridiculously large that it puts Dros Delnoch to shame, which was somewhat overexaggerated already. Heck, the fortress easily dwarves the Wall of "A Song of Ice and Fire". It's barbarians we're talking about, right? And against what foe was the fortress built? It is mentioned several times that it is too weak to hold the enemy. Yeah, surprise man, since you'd need about a million men to hold it. Act III blows the dimensions of the game simply out of proportion.
|Look at the court in the background, the fortress has hundreds of these uselessly framed by huge walls.|
Diablo III simply doesn't even try to connect gameplay and story. The latter is just an excuse to tie the several acts together, but you can never actually immerse with the story in anyway. The franchise never made this easy, granted, but the designers seem to have lost faith that obviously in case of Diablo III it's almost painful. Act I starts well enough, many details, nice elements, playful. In Act II, many details are already dropped (for example, the interaction with the surroundings), just as if it had been introduced for the demo only. In Act III, all becomes immensly repetetive. Every level looks and feels just the same, there is almost no variety. And then the disaster that's called Act IV happens.
|Starting with a rather nice plot twist, interestingly enough.|
In the first three acts, the game told us repeatedly that we were up against the remaining lesser evils. Thad made kind of sense, since the three prime evils had been killed in Diablo II. They made it a finite number for the game, which reached zero in the end of the third act. Now, you can of course pretend that a game called "Diablo III" doesn't pit you against Diablo, but you won't be succesful. Diablo II knew that and created a story that left no doubt from the first intro on that you would be pitched against that prime evil, and the journey there made painfully clear that you would be too late and that Diablo was a big, bad evil. "Titanic" did the same trick, never pretending that the ship or Leo were going to survive and instead derive their drama from the knowledge of the audience. Now, that's a simpler trick from the book, but the writers of Diablo III were illiterates and just "SURPRISE! DIABLO'S BACK!" you for Act IV. At this point, I don't know anything about Diablo. He wasn't even really mentioned before.
|Compare to the foreboding of Diablo II. See the difference?|
Instead, the game required your character to collect all the souls of all prime and secondary evils into one magical soulstone. When the NPCs first told me, I was going all "what the fuck", until I stopped caring. The soulstones failed to do anything good in Diablo I and II, instead twice triggering demonic invasions. But this time, we have a black soulstone to do better. I spell it out. A - black - soulstone. Black. As in, very dark. Because, ominous ramble, only when all souls are in there we can finally destroy it in Mount Doom, I mean, whereever the game says. Gee, I hope nobody betrays...a, fuck it. Really, that's the point where the game lost me. After all souls were in the soulstone, you get betrayed by Adria the Witch of all people, in a shocking revelation that she slept with Diablo and produced Leah as his vessel. Did I say shocking? I meant utterly moronic. Why the fuck, Adria? Did you even gain something, like command of Australia, Lex-Luthor-style? Nope, there is no coherent reason Adria does it aside from "the game's named Diablo, so he needs to show up". This is just so fucked up, I am really angry at the moment. You might be able to tell.
|ANGRY! HULK, SMASH!|
Now you're running entirely un-inspired through heaven turning hell, facing ramblings of your enemies as you go along. And these are the most mind-numbing stuff you've ever seen in Diablo. Before being able to face Diablo, you need to close two gates in what might have been a cool story element. Demons are coming in through said gates, and you need to find them and close them by...doing something, doesn't matter what, you close them. To do this, you need to go into hell for a short period of time, slaying the guards and then click on the portal. Before you do that, however, Diablo talks to you (he does all the time, but this time the rambling gets more specific), telling you in a "Hahahaha I`m a prime evil and you're a worm"-tone that you are dead now since if you attempt to close the gate it will kill you in the process. Fat chance, hero! When you close it, nothing happens. It's closed, and Diablo goes on like "Noooooo", Luke-Skywalker-style. This is fucking pathetic, but it gets worse because when you close the second portal, Diablo tells you AGAIN that you will die in the attempt, with the same fucking audio. It's Satuarday-Morning-Diablo, allright, a cartoon evil, but certainly nothing remotely prime. He's a pathetic, laughable mess, and when you finally encounter him, he's one of the easiest final bosses you had to defeat so far. In the end-game sequence, he just falls from the heavens and desintegrates, and for some reason I'm expected to believe that he will be dead for good this time.
|This McDonalds-addict was more terrifying than you, Lord of Terror!|
Fuck you, Blizzard. You used to tell really good stories with your games. I can still quote parts of Diablo II over twelve years after it came out. I know how I tried to reach Norad II, and how I hated Mengsk for leaving Kerrigan behind. There`s nothing of that in your games anymore. And it's not like you cut some corners here, Diablo III actually has more story and way more narrated audio-dialogue than Diablo I and II combined. It's that it sucks. You're selling under worth. Please hire someone who can actually write, like you did in the past. Do what you can do best and make the game, and let some expert help you along with the story. It really doesn't need to be literature or anything. I want to be entertained, that's all. But constantly hearing brain cells scream and die in agony while playing the game is unsufferable. Please wake the fuck up.