SPOILER ALERT: While D3 is not a new game, there are a couple of big elements of the game that are discussed here that are part of the game play experience. If you haven't played Diablo III and plan to, it's best to back away slowly right now.
You have been warned!
Blizzard is pretty cagey when it comes to the release of information about its games but we managed to corner the team behind Diablo III to find out a few interesting tidbits of information about the game's lore and the recently released Kanai's Cube.
There is an element of the ARPG community that believes that this type of game has no actual lore, a fact with which I differ. After all, Diablo III had a good bit of lore behind it that included historical information about what had happened to Tristram since its fall years before during the events of Diablo I. We learned what had happened to some of the town's most famous residents and ran into the likes of Adria (I still hate her....) and Deckard Cain along with lesser-known folk like poor Farnham the drunk.
We also were treated to learning much more about the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, the connections between the two and about the fact that bad isn't always bad any more than good always means good. Angels were cast in a new light as being much more ambiguous in their purity than once believed. We learned that Angels and Demons can form alliances and can even find love as in the case of Inarius and Lilith, a bond that foreshadows potential story elements in future games.
What it comes down to is that lore is as important to Diablo III as it is to any RPG, so much so that it was no small feat for the team to kill off Deckard Cain in the very first act of the game. To say that I sat there stunned after the events unraveled before me is to understate the situation dramatically. Ever since, I'd wondered how someone so integral to the story behind the entire series could be so summarily removed.
MMORPG: Why was the decision made to kill off Cain, clearly one of the IP's most iconic characters?
D3 Team: We went back and forth about whether Cain needed to die as part of the Diablo III story, and while we believe we could have executed it (and him) better, we felt that his demise was inevitable, considering how much he had done throughout the series to thwart the demons’ plans. Ultimately, the Diablo series chronicles the rise of humanity. Angels and Demons fought in the Eternal Conflict and so often humans were caught in the middle. In Diablo III and Reaper of Souls, in no small part due to the actions of the player, humanity finds its place. However, many people died so that humanity could make that final breakthrough. Cain gave his life in pursuit of this cause. Your hero avenged his death and ultimately defeated Diablo, saving Sanctuary in the process. We believe Deckard would have been proud.
While there is a part of me that absolutely sees the reasoning behind Cain's death, the shock of it still echoes in my head every time I play. Let's not forget too that Cain's death was not the only tragic one in the game. While Leah came on in D3 as a new character, she quickly became part of the overall lore, a human caught in monstrous circumstances, betrayed by her mother, Adria, who seemed genuinely concerned for her throughout the game until the catastrophic moments during the intermission between Acts III and IV. While we eventually avenged the treachery in Reaper of Souls, the innocent in all of these catastrophic events, Leah, becomes another character about whom I wonder. Why her? Is it really the end of her story?
Covetous Shen, the game's Jeweler, reveals some thought-provoking information on this score:
Covetous Shen: Do you think that Leah is lost forever?
Player: Diablo consumed her. She is gone.
Covetous Shen: Do you not think Leah's soul is stronger than that? But, oh, but then sometimes I-I forget that you have not seen everything that I have seen.
When asked about Leah's potential return to the story, Blizzard devs chose to keep that answer to themselves but based on the above, it seems very possible that we will learn much more about Leah's ultimate fate in the future -- after all, she is the only one uniquely qualified to step into the shoes of her uncle, Deckard Cain.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls also brought in two pieces of lore that are firmly trenched in past games, one a location from the past, the other a part of lore updated for a new age.
In the latest D3: RoS update, Sescheron, the Barbarian city crushed by Baal in Diablo II, was added to the game as a new playable location complete with new monsters and lore. Is it possible that, like Tristram and Sescheron, we'll see even more locations from the past brought back in future games or expansions?
MMORPG: You brought back the D2 Barbarian story of Kanai and the fall of Sescheron. Any further plans to revisit other locations from the first two games?
D3 Team: Sescheron came out of a love of the first two games and a desire to find angles to explore unanswered questions that we and other players have about the Diablo series’ rich history. We don’t have any announcements to make regarding new zones today, but that desire to explore answers to more questions is always with us.
Lastly, a magical cube re-entered Diablo 3 with the most recent update, Kanai's Cube, a clear if not more powerful update to the Horadric Cube from Diablo 3. With it, players can extract useful passives from legendary items, recreate set items from others not needed and much more. While all recipes appear to be known at this time, the potential is there for more.
MMORPG: Will you be adding more Cube recipes over time?
D3 Team: Kanai’s Cube is very popular and we are always looking for ways to improve our features. If a good opportunity to add a recipe comes up and it’s something that players want and will use, we will look at it for sure.
What do all of these seemingly random things mean for the future of the series? Each represents the fact that the Diablo series is allive and well. The team is clearly looking ahead to providing even more for players and fans. Let's hope Blizzcon reveals something fantastic.
Where would you like the series to go? Expansion or new game? What more would you like to know from a lore perspective? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Editor's Note: After the writing of this article, Blizzard's site has been updated with an advertisement seeking an Art Director for an as-yet unnamed Diablo project. Whether it means expansion or D4 remains to be seen, but it definitely makes Blizzcon much more interesting for franchise fans!