Updated Fri, Feb 17, 2012 by Saia
Lore is the backbone of many a game and Blizzard’s mythologies are particularly complex and compelling and Diablo III is no exception. The world of Sanctuary is as wild and dangerous as Azeroth and yet the story is totally different to any found in WoW. Today we’re going to look at what makes this universe so compelling.
Previous games in the series established that Sanctuary was created as a literal sanctuary for angels and demons who didn’t want to engage in the endless war between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. This was the bright idea of Inarius, a former member of the angels’ ruling council, and he hid the world from both sides by stealing the Worldstone. Angels and demons - including Inarius and the demoness Lilith - then did what always happens in this kind of story and the result was a powerful race known as the Nephalem who surpassed their parents in power.
There’s an obvious parallel here to monotheistic religions on our own planet with angels and demons, good and evil, life and death and apocalypses and prophecies. The concept of angels with Hebrewesque names, Anu, for example, is a sky deity in Sumerian myth while Baal, the Lord of Destruction, takes his name from a Semetic deity and, in the modern era, a demon. All these things blended together help make Diablo popular as a series. It mixes a rich, enduring lore with dark dungeons, amazing boss encounters and epic loot. Oh and let’s not forget the replayability modes either.
But back to the lore: Inarius might’ve created Sanctuary as a refuge but Lilith had a sneakier plan; she wanted an army of Nephalem which led to her murdering all the angels and demons on Sanctuary except Inarius. Obviously he wasn’t happy about this and so used the power of the Worldstone to see that the power of the Nephalem’s blood weakened with each new generation, scuppering Lilith’s plan. Sanctuary itself was eventually revealed to both sides and has become a pawn in the Great Conflict, indeed it’s highly likely that the final showdown between both sides will come during the end of Diablo III.
Last year’s Book of Cain, published by Insight Editions, offered up previously unknown lore, in the form of Deckard Cain’s notes. This covered everything he knows about the demons and angels, the history of Sanctuary and his own involvement with the events explored in Diablo and Diablo II. It also revealed previous unknown lore including how the Diablo universe was created. At BlizzCon, Chris Metzen had mentioned the creator deity Anu but the Book of Cain went into much more detail. It explained it was the demise of Anu and the Beast, Tathamet tht led to the creation of the High Heavens and the Burning Hells as well as the births of the Angels and the Prime and Lesser Evils.
In previous games and their expansions, players took on the role of Aidan, the Dark Wanderer, and various Heroes from all over Sanctuary (depending on what class you play) and encountered the Prime Evils: Baal, Mephisto and the titular Diablo as well as some of the Lesser ones. We’ve been to Hell, found the Cow Level and seen Tyrael destroy the Worldstone. What does Diablo III herald?
Well the world of Sanctuary didn’t end with Tyrael’s cataclysmic decision or with the expected invasion and the game picks up twenty years later. The opening cinematic reveals that Deckard Cain is researching with the help of his adopted niece, Leah, when a meteor falls from the heavens and lands on the Tristram Cathedral. Deckard is pulled into the flaming ruins, leaving Leah looking for him. One of the major quests adventurers undertake in the beta is to travel to the Cathedral, find Leah and then return to recover her uncle. Deckard will then accompany you into another part of the dungeon where you must face the risen Skeleton King.
The beta, while only allowing invitees to sample one act, has already been datamined to death and there are hints at what is to come. The Black Soulstone cinematic revealed Azmodan’s plans to take his place as a Prime Evil but there are other questions to be answered. Prime among them is Leah: whose child is she? Why does she have visions? What is her role in Sanctuary’s End of Days? Perhaps, now we’ve seen something of Hell, we’ll get a glimpse of the High Heavens, the Silver City and the mythic Crystal Arch where angels are sung into existence. Hopefully we might also see more of the Burning Hells, after all there are more Evils to defeat and depths of Hell to explore. One thing’s for sure though, with the game due to be released during Q2, which means some time between May and the end of August, we’re a heartbeat away from having all these questions and more answered.
Let us know which parts of Diablo III - whether it be the lore, the dungeons or the NPCs - excite you the most in the comments below.