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  1. #1

    [Spoilers] Deconstructing the Story of Diablo III (Part Two - Antagonists)

    Hello there everyone! There's been a lot of discussion of the issues the Diablo III story faces since it came out, and being amongst the group who weren't overly impressed I thought I'd take the time to sit down and carefully discuss exactly what it is that contributes to these problems.
    To preface it all with my credentials, I'm someone with a degree in the creative arts (mainly writing and story structure, but also including game design), and currently working through a second degree in English literature and creative writing. That's not to say all my views are all true and perfect, or that you're not allowed to disagree with me (please do! As politely and constructively as you can, I'd love to discuss the topic further), but just so that you know I'm grounding all of this in critical, academic understanding of story construction with a touch of game design. I'm not just pulling all of this stuff out of nowhere. ^^

    Also to disclaim a few things:
    - I'm going to try and be as honest and balanced as I can here. It's mainly an examination of the issues with the Diablo III story, but I'll also be commenting on things that worked to its advantage as well.
    - This is a discussion primarily of Diablo III in and of itself. I'll probably draw reference to the previous games from time to time, but if there's some critical story point covered in a novel or web series then I'm not likely to discuss it. If it was that important it should've been included in the central narrative in the first place, not as a peripheral.
    - This is currently only a discussion of one element of the story as a whole, so please take it in that context! For now I'm explicitly focusing on main characters; if I have the time I'll be expanding on this to examine things like antagonists, pacing, methods of narrative delivery, and gameplay mechanics influencing storytelling. If there's something related to one of these areas that makes you thing “Hang on, what about the...” while you're reading the first section then chances are I'm probably waiting to cover it in a later part. I don't, for example, go very far into the reasons for the main characters coming across the way they do, as that's something more related to the style of narrative delivery, which I'm not focusing on just yet.
    - Finally, please don't take any of my discussion here too personally.
    I know people can get very attached to franchises they're fans of, and I'm certainly not trying to criticise anyone for enjoying the Diablo storyline. We're all allowed to like what we like, I even watch trashy soap operas myself. This is just a critical examination of the technical issues in the storytelling that have contributed to the mixed response it's been getting.

    ---

    Okey dokey, so! Let's get into some of the problems the Diablo III story faces.
    The whole thing was a bit slow to start but showed some promise around the early-mid way point, and there were some pretty cool ideas and a few supporting characters in there that enriched the adventure, but overall things were just too messy and disconnected from a clear central narrative to make the experience a universally enjoyable one.
    I've heard the Diablo III story described as being similar to the first draft of a movie script, and I think that hits the nail on the head. There's certainly an idea of the story they want to tell, and there's lots of cool minor things worked in here and there, but there's no cohesion to any of it. Things are set up that don't pay off, those that do pay off are predictable and unsatisfying, the pacing is wonky, and many characters don't have a clear place and purpose within the narrative.

    So first off, let's start with looking into the most important aspect of any story:


    The Characters

    Funnily enough, a lot of the main characters are set up pretty darn well in Diablo III. The problem with all of them however is their arcs; where the narrative leads them and what resolution it provides for their individual stories.

    The most obvious example of this is Leah. I didn't mind Leah. Sure she was a bit flat and uninteresting, but she was ultimately a good person trying to do the right thing. She starts off looking after her elderly uncle, sceptical of his wacky theories on the end of the world and just trying to live a normal life, before being thrust into an epic conflict between heaven and hell. She has to rise to the challenge, discovering things about herself and her past, tapping into and learning to control a mysterious power within her, and ultimately becoming something greater than her simple roots ever had in store for her.
    And then she dies for the purpose of fulfilling a plot device.

    And we never hear from her again. Leah is very clearly the protagonist of Diablo III, her arc builds slowly, steadily, and promisingly, only to be cut off and left completely hanging at the last moment. Nothing has been learned, nothing has been gained, she just went through a bunch of stuff only to be snuffed out like a candle and tossed aside at the most poignant moment.
    It's not even a case of falling at the last hurdle; Leah's character literally stops, looks around in confusion, and walks off the track, never to be seen again. It's one of the worst cases of jarring, immersion-shattering, bizarre storytelling I've ever seen. I can only guess (although I think I'm being generous) that they might have been trying to heighten the tension and instil a sense of fear and hatred towards Diablo, given that he was the one "responsible" for Leah's death. The problem with this however is that his manner of "killing" Leah is completely disconnected from reality, to the extent that it's not even clear whether he's murdered her or not. We're not sure whether Diablo's killed Leah, trapped her, or if he is her.

    This entire sequence is just baffling to me and I have no idea what I was supposed to be feeling or what emotional context it was supposed to evoke. Was it supposed to be sad? Frightening? Frustrating? Epic?
    When I was playing through Act IV for the first time I was honestly just confused. I didn't know what had happened to Leah, whether we were going to save her, what the point of her arc had been, or how I was supposed to be feeling about Diablo's sudden return.
    There's definitely something to be said for the ambiguous fate of a character in the right context, but was the epic climax of a straightforward fantasy adventure really the right time to be so vague?



    Leah isn't the only character that faces this problem however, the second most obvious example is Tyrael, our faithful fallen angel sidekick.
    Once again, I enjoyed Tyrael's early segments quite a lot. He was actually my favourite character at the end of Act I, I thought his fall from grace was both symbolically and thematically fitting, and it added a lot of depth and potential to a character that had been notably lacking in both those qualities prior to this game.

    The problem Tyrael encounters however is not that his arc ends prematurely or confusingly, more that he just... well, he doesn't really have a fleshed out arc at all. For a character so ripe with potential to explore the human condition, he ends up doing little more than standing around advancing the plot, killing demons, and generally being stoic and uninteresting. To Blizzard's credit they do try to add in a touch of progression for him in the final act, but it's so brief and fleeting that it barely has time to register, and at this point the tone of the entire game is so confused that it's too little and too late to change much of anything.

    The arc of this character is so obvious that it's almost mind-boggling how it wasn't able to be conveyed effectively. An angel becomes disillusioned with his people and their methods, forsakes his divinity to become mortal, experiences firsthand the plight and strength of man, and is ultimately able to return to Heaven and enlighten his detached brethren to this newly uncovered truth.
    Sound familiar? I don't have to pull out a copy of the New Testament here do I?

    And the problem is; that's sort of what Tyrael does, but we never see any of that learning and resolution for ourselves. It's just sort of assumed that he learned somehow somewhere along the line about the strength of humanity, but there are never any clear and meaningful scenes to illustrate this in an organic way. Furthermore at the end of the game the other angels barely even acknowledge what he's been through. Imperius, the embodiment of Heaven's aloof detachment, even spouts off his racism against mortals again in the midst of the final battle, and during the ending cutscene Tyrael just sort of settles back down on his throne and monologues about how mortality is important to Heaven in some way.

    Really Tyrael? Because you give a speech about it to no one in particular that's all okay then? What about the guy who wanted to kill your mortal pals and throw you out of heaven five minutes ago? What about him? You know, the guy who's like, your leader?
    But no. We never hear from Imperius again or get any kind of scene where the other angels recognise Tyrael's sacrifice and re-evaluate their own beliefs because of it. They mention vaguely that mortals have saved the day, but it's always sort of implied through their earlier dialogues that they were totally cool with that in the first place. There's no conflict or lesson from what Tyrael's gone through, Heaven just seems to nod its head and go "Well, okay then" so that everything can be neatly wrapped up in a ribbon at the end.
    What if Tyrael had died at the end fighting to save Heaven from Diablo? Do you think maybe that might've given Imperius and the other angels pause to reconsider their harsh judgement of mortals? I don't know. Maybe that's getting a bit too biblical, but it just seems like a more dramatic, engaging way of doing things in an epic fantasy adventure. Leading on to...



    Imperius. I do not understand why this character is here or why he is given so much screen time during the most poignant moments of the story. It made sense to me to think of him learning a lesson in the end and rethinking his strict beliefs, because that would've justified all of his previous appearances in the game. But there's none of that. He does nothing outside of his first cutscene, accomplishes nothing, and doesn't service the plot in any meaningful way. Just like Leah, this is a character who's all setup and no payoff. He even says outright that if he sees us again during the final battle he'll kill us, paving the way for a boss battle and some kind of resolution to his character. But just as we bump into him again and he's holding his spear poised...
    Diablo does something bad somewhere else that we don't see and his wings fall off. At which point we step over his writhing body and never spare him another thought for the rest of the story.

    Now I could forgive this if Imperius was just a nothing background character, not everyone has to have a perfect arc and resolution, but two of the five major cutscenes in the game feature him in a prominent role. These are the most engaging, cinematic, story-driven moments of the game, and Imperius gets almost as much screentime in them as Tyrael or Leah. He's built up to be this crucial piece of the puzzle, and at the final moment he's swept under the carpet. Once again, nothing has been learned, nothing has been gained, and all we're left with are our thoughts of “Wait.. what?”



    Now those three are the main characters I take the most issue with. Deckard Cain and some of the other minor characters don't particularly stand out either, but there's nothing jarringly wrong with the way they're slotted into the story. They fulfil their purpose, and that's more or less that.
    However, amongst these problems with the characters there are still some little gems that shine through; namely the companions, and Covetous Shen as the comic relief. The blacksmith Haedrig also seemed like he had some interesting story tidbits going for him, but unfortunately his introductory quest with the bizarre wife-murder moment is so strange and disconnected from reality that I had a hard time taking him seriously as a character after that.

    All of the other followers though have some interesting personalities and backstories that we get to know over the course of our adventures, with some kind of hook and resolution that engages us and makes us care about them. Why is this though? Why are these minor characters that have next to no direct influence on the plot the most interesting and well-constructed of the whole bunch?
    I can think of two main reasons for this: first off, simply the fact that they have next to no influence on the plot. Everyone else has to be tied into this grand web of narrative in some way, and as a result the stories of the actual characters themselves are often overwritten by plot or game mechanics, Leah being the most obvious example of this. But our companions don't have to worry about that. Once they're introduced, their stories essentially exist within their own little bubble, free of outside influence and completely self-contained. It's their simplicity that makes them work, and they're some of the very few moments in the game that manage to accomplish “less is more” effectively.

    But the second, and rather more important, reason for these characters working so well is simply because they are the most human of the entire cast. Amongst a menagerie of angels, demons, witches and wizards concerned with either saving the world or bringing about its end, these people have by far the most down-to-earth and relatable tales to tell. The Templar and Scoundrel in particular could be characters in almost any story; a zealot so devoted to his faith that the source of his greatest strength becomes his greatest weakness, and a man with a tale of love, loss, guilt, and penance. Even the enchantress has a theme of discovery and the foreign explorer about her.

    These characters work because we can relate to them. We've all experienced, or are at least familiar with, the sort of conflicts they tackle, and it engages us with them in a way that just doesn't happen when you focus on the more biblical high-fantasy concepts of the Diablo universe. Their stories and motivations are far more grounded in reality than anything else in Diablo III, and had our central cast dealt with similarly human problems we might have cared about them a little more. What if Leah had struggled with accepting the death of her father-figure, and the central focus of her story became learning to stand on her own two feet over the course of the adventure, a classic coming-of-age tale? How about if Tyrael was forced to constantly tackle the limitations of his fall from grace, the story of a prince-turned-pauper? And perhaps if Imperius had faced some resolution to his superiority/racist angle he'd have seemed a lot more like a real person, and made us feel some feelings at the end there.

    Next time, Antagonists!



    ---


    Part 2


    So moving on, and still on the theme of characters, we come to our second point of discussion:

    Antagonists

    To disclaim again; I'm going to be talking here primarily about the main antagonists as characters. There are other things that contribute to how the player responds to them that I don't mention here, in particular the delivery of the narrative, pacing, and game mechanics. These are things I'll be getting into later, but for now I'll just be talking the about antagonists as if we were watching Diablo III: The Movie.


    This is something a lot of people cite as one of the major issues with the Diablo III storyline, and for anyone familiar with Blizzard games it's certainly not a new problem. I don't think it needs to be explained in depth why the constant cheesy villain taunting, stating of the obvious, and generally one-dimensional personalities are a bad thing, so instead let's look at the more overarching issue that stems from these symptoms and some of the other factors in Diablo III that contribute to it.

    The central problem here is a lack of threat and realism, the former stemming somewhat from the latter. A good villain needs to be threatening – not just so that we have a reason to defeat them, but so that we have a genuine need to. To clarify; a weak villain that serves as a purely practical means to an end can generally get by with being either a bit of a meanie, somewhat annoying, or just plain old having a face we don't much like the look of. A truly great villain however needs to be threatening, because that's what drives the dramatic conflict and makes us root for our hero (or ourselves) to overcome them. If a villain can convince us that his actions have real weight behind them, and that he can hurt us in some way, then the desire to defeat him becomes more than a simple case of resolving the story; it becomes a genuine desire to see him fall for fear of the consequences otherwise. It might seem silly to think of a fictional character hurting us, but in a way that's very much what they're capable of at times. If you believe a villain is capable of causing our heroes that we like and care about to suffer, then every moment the bad guy stays in power is a moment where something potentially horrible can happen to a character we care about at any given time. This can be heightened in dramatic sequences to drive the tension to breaking point, and really wring every drop of emotion out of your audience. At this point we have to see the villain defeated not just because he deserves it, but because we're genuinely emotionally invested in it.

    It's an age-old trick of storytelling to convince your audience that what they're seeing on the screen is real, and it makes for a fantastic story if you can pull it off. Unfortunately though none of the main villains in Diablo III ever really seem to accomplish this. So why is that?


    One factor we can look at is that the villains in this game are plain old stupid. I don't know if this was intentional, in order to make the player feel powerful or smart or whatever, but it detracts from their thematic purpose in the narrative and cheapens the accomplishments of our heroes rather than empowering them. Now in the next section I'm going to verge into nitpicky plot-point territory, but the things I comment on here are all symptomatic to the overall feeling that our main antagonists don't know what they're doing and don't provide any kind of threat for us to care about.


    First of all:
    Belial's Master Plan to Grab the Soulstone

    Belial is a stupid dumbyhead idiot who doesn't know how to work a situation to his advantage or manipulate the odds in his favour despite being given countless opportunities to do so. The reason I'm singling him out first is because his ineptitude is even more compounding on his character given that he's supposed to be a master of lies and deception – a more cunning demon lord than we've ever encountered thus far in the Diablo series.

    So what was Belial's ultimate plan in Act II? From what I understand he was after the black soulstone right? And he was like, manipulating you and the other characters into getting it for him? Okay, fair enough. That's a pretty smart move, getting your enemies to do something for you rather than risking yourself or your own minions to do it.
    Of course there's just the tiniest issue of your plan involving ensuring your enemies get their hands on the one thing that they can use to destroy you forever. I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty colossal risk to take, particularly for someone who's supposed to be a cunning master of manipulation. It's like Superman devising a plan to send Lex Luthor after the last piece of kryptonite in the universe.
    I mean I guess it could've worked if he'd had like half a dozen foolproof failsafes. But he didn't. It didn't seem like he'd even considered that.

    What makes all of this worse is that it appears as though Belial doesn't really even need our heroes to get his hands on the soulstone in the first place. He shows up constantly along the way to lend us a helping hand and keep tabs on our progress. It seems like he just knew exactly where we were going from the start and how to get there. If he knew all that why didn't just send his legions of snake-people to get the soulstone instead? That'd be one way of getting what he wanted without, you know, risking everything.
    I guess Belial was missing pieces of the puzzle and he still needed our help to get there, but the opportunities for him to delay the heroes or set up some kind of a trap or trick before we manage to defeat him are so numerous that it's mind boggling. Hey Belial! You're standing in the archives of the guy who has the soulstone! Now might be a good time to call in the legions of Hell hmm?
    Or I guess not. Better just stand there. Waiting.

    I don't know, maybe some of the snake people in the dungeons are supposed to be Belial's minions coming to try and stop us, but it's really a stretch to think of reasons for why any of this makes sense in the context of our demon lord's master plan. When you find yourself having to constantly think up reasons to justify pretty big lapses in logic it's generally a safe bet that the writers missed a trick along the line.

    So Belial doesn't get the black soulstone, he helps his enemies get the black soulstone, and his actions directly contribute to his own demise as a result. Either Belial is overconfident to the point of stupidity, or he's a guy who really likes to ride the line. Even that could've worked if it was established that he was a crazed game-player, obsessed with the thrill of giving his enemies the chance to win a lá Professor Moriarty or The Joker, but we never see anything to indicate that kind of streak in Belial. As a result we just have to conclude that he's plain old dumb. He fails to account for the flaws in his plan that are staring him in the face, and he pays the price for it.


    Azmodan faces a similar problem of his actions conflicting with what we're told about him. He's supposed to be a master strategist, and yet all he seems to do is throw his army against the walls of a keep until they eventually get pushed back and defeated. Again, you can imply that more things went on off-screen before we arrived, but if we're left to assume that his amazing strategy happened sometime somewhere that we didn't see or hear about then it has no impact on us as an audience, and it doesn't help us buy into the idea that Azmodan's a character capable of things worthy of caring about. What if there'd been some back and forth during the battle for Bastion's Keep? We light the fires, so Azmodan extinguishes them? We bring out the catapults, so he targets them with his flying demons? We try to cross the bridge, so the demons collapse it under our feet? Azmodan makes no attempt to counter or respond to our tactics during the entire battle, and the great strategist just sits back on his throne while the forces of good slowly roll over his army one demon at a time.
    I bet he was tired though, carrying his big butt around the battlefield all day. I know I'd be tired. Maybe that's why he'd run out of plans by the time we got there.

    Our two main antagonists in the game come across as completely incompetent at the skills in which they're supposed to excel. Belial is about as cunning as a shoe, and Azmodan has all the strategic expertise of a couch.
    Now overall these are somewhat minor points, but they're compounding issues on top of the cheesy dialogue and ineffectual taunting that make it difficult to take our villains seriously as a real threat. This is easily countered by having the bad guys do something bad and succeed at it. Have them win a battle or kill off a hero. Or if all else fails just have them sit in their dark pit brooding and just generally seeming evil, then allow the audience to make them threatening with their own imagination. Diablo II used the latter option primarily because of the limitations of the storytelling resources available at the time, and ironically succeeded in creating much more threatening villains than Diablo III even with all its hours of dialogue, cutscenes, and background lore.


    So now we come to Diablo, the big cheese himself, and to his credit he manages to outshine both Belial and Azmodan in the complexity of his shortcomings. I'll give him credit though, Diablo is certainly the most effective villain in the story, and he does manage to accomplish part of his plan against all odds and bring the war to his enemies' front door. It's not set up particularly well but you have to admit the sulphurous blemishes all over Heaven's pristine walkways and demon soldiers rampaging through the streets amidst the impaled bodies of angels paint a pretty clear picture of what Diablo's capable of.

    The problem our main villain faces however is that he inherits both the overly complicated, flaw-ridden plotting of Belial, and the ineffectual monologuing of Azmodan.
    So let's talk about Diablo's grand scheme to become the prime evil and overthrow Heaven. The overall idea of this as I understand it is that Diablo knew about the black soulstone and had been planning for years to combine the powers of all the other demon lords within it so that he could become the prime evil and demons could finally win out over their angel counterparts. To do this he enlists the help of Adria and has her pop out a babby for him so that it can be used at a later date as the vessel for his rebirth.

    Alright then. So this all gets revealed to us in a very short amount of time in the middle of the most confusing and awkwardly handled scene of the entire game, and the questions it throws up not only muddy the tone of the moment even more, but also force us to question what the heck Diablo was thinking when he thought all of this up.

    So what about all the other demon lords? Were they in on this? I guess not because Belial and Azmodan were trying to take over the world for themselves, and it's established that they're not exactly on good terms with the rest of their demonic brethren. Was Diablo dying (twice) a part of the plan? I got the impression it was because he needed his soul in the stone along with all the others right?
    Sheesh. That's a pretty big risk to take. And from what we can gather the only person in the world who was in on it was Adria, an old human lady that Diablo apparently entrusted his entire plan to over the twenty years he spent being dead. What if she'd tripped and broken her neck while out picking berries for her witch-magics? What if Belial and Azmodan didn't make their move for another fifty years and Adria died of old age waiting? What if Belial and Azmodan hadn't been complete idiots and managed to succeed in their plans?
    I guess it takes a lot of confidence in the superiority of your people for your entire scheme to hinge on every single one of your most powerful contemporaries being murdered within a few short years. Sure am on the edge of my seat about these dangerous demons now.

    The point being Diablo's plan is a very flimsy hope pretty much based on the stars aligning and everything going without a hitch for it to succeed. Again, less in the realms of master planner, more along the lines of gambling idiot.
    Maybe it was a backup plan or something, or maybe he knew how things'd play out using his wizard magic, but once again we're straying into the realm of making-excuses-for-things because the story doesn't offer up any other reasonable explanations.

    You could argue that it's a last-ditch effort, I mean the demons seem to be getting their butts kicked pretty regularly at this point, so an all-or-nothing stab at destroying the Heavens might not be completely out of the question for a crazy bad guy, but it still seems like a bit of a stretch when you consider all the hundreds of things that could've potentially gone wrong. It seems less like a calculated risk and more like double or nothing on the roulette wheel. If Diablo's so careless with his own plans then it diminishes his threatening nature as a villain. He comes across as desperate and out of options, leaving his fate in the hands of others rather than being the driving force behind the conflict in this story.
    This is reinforced by his impotent monologuing. Every time you strike a blow against Diablo he makes sure to pick up the phone and explain to you how useless your efforts are, even though the player has enough of a brain to know that what they've been doing is the exact opposite of useless. I honestly felt like Diablo and Azmodan were out of their depth during these segments. It's as though they're children whose only response to an obstacle being placed in their way is to raise their voice and yell “Yeah, but..!”


    So I don't really know what else there is to say about the main villains as characters. There are other factors that contribute to how they come across related to the pacing and gameplay mechanics, but I'll need a fresh part of the discussion to really get into those in detail. I could talk about Maghda or Magdha or Magdah as well, but there's really nothing unique to her failings as a villain that isn't encompassed by the problems associated with the others. It's one of the most disappointing things about the antagonists in this game that they're all so similar and generic. It's like the writers just slap “villain” on the character sketch and leave it at that.

    I could talk about Adria as well, but she's nowhere near as central a character as the others, and her status as a villain lasts all of two minutes in the actual game outside of a vague sense of unease surrounding her previously. Not that she isn't important to the plot, but she's important to it as a plot device as opposed to as a character.


    You could literally spend hours nitpicking all the dumb stuff these villains do and say to death, but the ultimate problem is that they just fail to convey any real threat or malevolence. They're all talk, and if there's something most people in your audience learn fairly early on in their lives it's that if someone talks the talk, they'd also better be able to walk the walk. If they can't do that, we don't have any reason to care about them or what they do. There's no emotional response, and as such no real engagement from the player.


    Next time, Narrative Delivery!
    Last edited by Wondercrab; 2012-06-13 at 04:53 PM. Reason: Added part two

  2. #2
    Leah sucked plain and simple. Nothing about her character grew over the game simply because YOU KNEW WHAT SHE WAS WITHIN MINUTES OF MEETING HER. The foreshadowing in this game was awful.

  3. #3
    Stood in the Fire Magicalcrab's Avatar
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    Actually, Leah grew quite a bit throughout the campaign. She learned about her powers, she learned more about her mother and she was trying to use her powers responsibly and then she died.
    I guess.

    WHAT A GREAT ARC.

  4. #4
    Bloodsail Admiral chemicader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyIommi View Post
    Leah sucked plain and simple. Nothing about her character grew over the game simply because YOU KNEW WHAT SHE WAS WITHIN MINUTES OF MEETING HER. The foreshadowing in this game was awful.
    In a way its awful, but the "I knew that was coming" moments are fun too, but there are just simply too many of them. I completely agree with the OP, except from Imperius, I am 99% certain he will get a big role in the upcoming expansion.

  5. #5
    Interesting thread. I fully agree with your description of these characters, but to be honest what bothered me most was the way the story was told, the unrealistic, almost ridiculous cartoon way in which main characters talked or were talked to by the evil powers, be it Maghda, Azmodan, the lust spider woman or Diablo. "While you did this I did that! HA HA HA". "IT IS OF NO MATTER THAT YOU DID THIS (x30)". For me this kind of conversations were so infuriating and it made the story unbelievable and really laughable, and that added a great deal to the confusion on what I was supposed to feel on moments like when Leah died. I mean to be honest I didn't care, and as the foreshadowing is so terrible you don't even get a feeling of "I knew it!!" but you're like "duh.." and you move on to the next terrible conversation without really caring about anything, and that disconnects you emotionally from the game (and so kills all immersion).

    I mean I love the gameplay, I play this game every day. But the story was honestly just terrible and the way it was told even worse.

  6. #6
    It's obvious.
    She embarks on a great journey, learns about her strengths and weaknesses, progresses steadily, and then she dies.

    Leah = hardcore mode personified.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by chemicader View Post
    In a way its awful, but the "I knew that was coming" moments are fun too, but there are just simply too many of them. I completely agree with the OP, except from Imperius, I am 99% certain he will get a big role in the upcoming expansion.
    It leaves nothing to the imagination and nothing for surprise. Hell I knew who the man was at the bottom of the cathedral the minute I saw him. It's leaves the viewer. with no anticipation, nothing to motivate them to push further for story. It's cold, uninspired and flat. I'm not even sure why they bothered to be honest.

  8. #8
    The Lightbringer Rizendragon's Avatar
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    Wait a damn minute... You write that whole thing (I understand this is "part one") and you leave out arguably the most important character in the actual plot? I agree that the story is a little weak, but as someone that hasn't played any Diablo game before it's plausible. Adria is the pivotal character that holds this entire story together.

    We start out fighting all the undead trying to figure out what caused it. After we find Tyreal we help find his sword to cure his amnesia where we are introduced to another organization that is trying to get these pieces to create an imbalance and get a leg up on the angels.

    After we recover the sword and Cain dies we chase this organization to Caldaeum where Tyreal senses something far greater than Magdah. Then we kill Magdah. Tyreal and Leah are done doing their recon mission and we are introduced to Belial. We find out that Leah's mother is alive. We find her and she introduces the black soulstone to the story. This is where shit starts speeding up.

    Do you see what I'm getting at? Take the story at face value. Stop analyzing it.

    Leah: sacrificial lamb (Metzan has been quoted as saying finding her and saving her might be a part of the expansion)
    Adria: bitch that sacrificed Leah (this is the character we are supposed to hate)

    Imo those are the 2 most important characters in the story. Everyone else is a tool.
    Cain gives back story and build up.
    Tyreal is here to help and cope with his new found mortality.
    Imperius is a just a douche and if you watched the animated short that was the 100% unlock his ingame persona is exactly how he was portrayed in that video.
    The other 2 angles show that there is a divide in the thoughts and feelings of the angels. Imperius being on one end of the spectrum and Tyreal on the other has the balls to stand up to him.

    I really don't know why everyone is trying to analyze this so much. It's a story to base the game around and give us a reason to be here. It's really no weaker or stronger than most games out there. If you want something thats "fleshed out" or something to really analyze then pick up a book. You mention that Leah dying killed your immersion. It did nothing more than piss me off and make me want Diablo and Adria dead. It immersed me more.

    Edit: as a side note; How many people in this thread have the conversation achievements and actually listened to the narratives between your character and the person you were talking to?

    Edit 2:
    This entire sequence is just baffling to me and I have no idea what I was supposed to be feeling or what emotional context it was supposed to evoke. Was it supposed to be sad? Frightening? Frustrating? Epic?
    When I was playing through Act IV for the first time I was honestly just confused. I didn't know what had happened to Leah, whether we were going to save her, what the point of her arc had been, or how I was supposed to be feeling about Diablo's sudden return.
    There's definitely something to be said for the ambiguous fate of a character in the right context, but was the epic climax of a straightforward fantasy adventure really the right time to be so vague?
    This and pissed is exactly how you were supposed to feel. Imagine actually being in the situation. You'd be feeling a ton of emotions. You were just betrayed by Leah's mother who sacrificed her child for Diablo. That's pretty cold. I can see one person feeling confused, angry, sad, frustrated, motivated. That is pretty close to how I was the first time I played through end Act III beginning Act IV
    Last edited by Rizendragon; 2012-06-10 at 06:59 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by chemicader View Post
    In a way its awful, but the "I knew that was coming" moments are fun too, but there are just simply too many of them. I completely agree with the OP, except from Imperius, I am 99% certain he will get a big role in the upcoming expansion.
    I'd expect so too, but as mentioned I'm focusing primarily on the game as it currently stands, at the very least they could've given Imperius some resolution, an expansion teaser, or just cut down on his screen time a lot more and used it to focus on characters that were relevant to the story at hand.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cirque View Post
    Interesting thread. I fully agree with your description of these characters, but to be honest what bothered me most was the way the story was told, the unrealistic, almost ridiculous cartoon way in which main characters talked or were talked to by the evil powers, be it Maghda, Azmodan, the lust spider woman or Diablo.
    Oh don't worry, I'll get into that a lot more when I talk about the antagonists. ^^

    Quote Originally Posted by Brytryne View Post
    It's obvious.
    She embarks on a great journey, learns about her strengths and weaknesses, progresses steadily, and then she dies.

    Leah = hardcore mode personified.
    I think that's the best, most meta explanation for her character I've heard. o.o

    Quote Originally Posted by Rizendragon View Post
    Wait a damn minute... You write that whole thing (I understand this is "part one") and you leave out arguably the most important character in the actual plot? I agree that the story is a little weak, but as someone that hasn't played any Diablo game before it's plausible. Adria is the pivotal character that holds this entire story together.

    ...

    I really don't know why everyone is trying to analyze this so much. It's a story to base the game around and give us a reason to be here. It's really no weaker or stronger than most games out there. If you want something thats "fleshed out" or something to really analyze then pick up a book.
    Adria wasn't really important to the story as a character though, she was just there as a plot device and to supplement Leah's development. We don't really get to know anything much about Adria as a person, and it's not really necessary when all she's there to do is facilitate parts of the story that are extrinsic to her.

    And I have to take exception to the idea that we shouldn't discuss things like this critically just because they're not "supposed" to be good or fleshed out. There are a great many games out there with fantastic characters and storylines, and as one of my favourite developers I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to Blizzard and myself if I didn't hold them to the same standards. Crafting a quality product is all about engaging in this kind of critical discussion and analysis, and without sounding out problems you can't expect a medium to progress. The disappointing thing to me is that Blizzard clearly look at all of their game mechanics with this kind of close scrutiny, while the stories feel as though they were written in a single sitting and tacked on as an afterthought.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Wondercrab View Post
    And I have to take exception to the idea that we shouldn't discuss things like this critically just because they're not "supposed" to be good or fleshed out. There are a great many games out there with fantastic characters and storylines, and as one of my favourite developers I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to Blizzard and myself if I didn't hold them to the same standards. Crafting a quality product is all about engaging in this kind of critical discussion and analysis, and without sounding out problems you can't expect a medium to progress. The disappointing thing to me is that Blizzard clearly look at all of their game mechanics with this kind of close scrutiny, while the stories feel as though they were written in a single sitting and tacked on as an afterthought.
    At least someone recognizes this principle. I don't give a fuck that you label it an ARPG. That doesn't give Blizzard or any developer the licence to half ass the story. I mean why bother then? The entire thing felt like an afterthought on their part and I'm glad people recognize it for what it is.

  11. #11
    The plot in this game was very bad. I'm sort of glad that Blizzard doesn't care at this point.

    I 100% agree that the companions are well written and interesting.



    Also, do mortals even save the day? They rant about it a whole bunch, but aren't the Nephalem descended from angels and demons? Strictly speaking, the only straight up mortal who accomplishes anything in this whole game is Adria, and she's mostly sticking around for the expansion.


    Why does Tyrael crash land on a church, almost killing people? Of the four main characters (Cain, Leah, Tyrael, YOU), only you and Tyrael survive the story, and only you are left able to work with anything. Given what Blizzard had to work with here, this is an absolutely wretched job. Without any variable narrative, there's no excuse for anything except something that should be able to be a best seller all by itself, given the scale and resources of this project.

  12. #12
    The Lightbringer Rizendragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wondercrab View Post
    Adria wasn't really important to the story as a character though, she was just there as a plot device and to supplement Leah's development. We don't really get to know anything much about Adria as a person, and it's not really necessary when all she's there to do is facilitate parts of the story that are extrinsic to her.
    Even as a plot device she's probably the most important because she's the reason we get to where Leah dies. In terms of development most of her character is in the conversations which I agree is unfortunate, but it's better for game play that way imo. The way I take Adria after seeing the whole story through is someone that we are "supposed" to just because she's Leah's mother. On the first play through Adria's pushing of Leah can be seen as a way to make Leah stronger, but after seeing what she does to Leah and how she betrays us I see her more as trying to prepare Leah's body for Diablo's presence. Leah becomes Adria's tool to fulfill the means to her end in almost a cruel way. Leah is pushed and used to get to Belial. She's almost tortured trying to maintain the Black Soulstone.

    On the surface this is "what needs to be done", but underneath it all, the way things turn out, it just feels like Adria is nothing more than a cruel heartless bitch that almost enjoyed watching Leah's pain and struggle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wondercrab View Post
    And I have to take exception to the idea that we shouldn't discuss things like this critically just because they're not "supposed" to be good or fleshed out. There are a great many games out there with fantastic characters and storylines, and as one of my favourite developers I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to Blizzard and myself if I didn't hold them to the same standards. Crafting a quality product is all about engaging in this kind of critical discussion and analysis, and without sounding out problems you can't expect a medium to progress.
    Ok I get it, and I do agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wondercrab View Post
    The disappointing thing to me is that Blizzard clearly look at all of their game mechanics with this kind of close scrutiny, while the stories feel as though they were written in a single sitting and tacked on as an afterthought.
    Though I disagree that the story feels thrown together and an after thought, Blizzard has always gone on the mantra of game play > story. This is actually a huge part of their success. Look at WoW for example. There are several things that are far more fleshed out game wise, but the story is almost solely take care of in 3rd party books. Blizzard tries to make it so that knowing the story isn't essential to play the game, but it's available to you if you enjoy story telling.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Rizendragon View Post
    Though I disagree that the story feels thrown together and an after thought, Blizzard has always gone on the mantra of game play > story. This is actually a huge part of their success. Look at WoW for example. There are several things that are far more fleshed out game wise, but the story is almost solely take care of in 3rd party books. Blizzard tries to make it so that knowing the story isn't essential to play the game, but it's available to you if you enjoy story telling.
    That's basically saying it's okay if the story is crap we don't need to analyse it because well Blizzard always about game play before story. Here's a thought. If you had fucking standards and didn't swallow the bullshit they fed you Blizzard could do both. It's an afterthought, in the same way multi player was for doom 3. It lacks any soul.

  14. #14
    The Lightbringer Rizendragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Verain View Post
    The plot in this game was very bad. I'm sort of glad that Blizzard doesn't care at this point.

    I 100% agree that the companions are well written and interesting.



    Also, do mortals even save the day? They rant about it a whole bunch, but aren't the Nephalem descended from angels and demons? Strictly speaking, the only straight up mortal who accomplishes anything in this whole game is Adria, and she's mostly sticking around for the expansion.


    Why does Tyrael crash land on a church, almost killing people? Of the four main characters (Cain, Leah, Tyrael, YOU), only you and Tyrael survive the story, and only you are left able to work with anything. Given what Blizzard had to work with here, this is an absolutely wretched job. Without any variable narrative, there's no excuse for anything except something that should be able to be a best seller all by itself, given the scale and resources of this project.
    Demons and Angles are immortal (can be killed, but don't age and die of natural causes). Nephalem are extremely powerful, but they are mortal (they age, can die of natural causes, or can be killed through conventional means). So yes Mortals save the day.

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyIommi View Post
    That's basically saying it's okay if the story is crap we don't need to analyse it because well Blizzard always about game play before story. Here's a thought. If you had fucking standards and didn't swallow the bullshit they fed you Blizzard could do both. It's an afterthought, in the same way multi player was for doom 3. It lacks any soul.
    After reading your trolling and spewing nothing but Blizzard and "fanboi" hate all last night I will do nothing more than ignore you.
    Last edited by Rizendragon; 2012-06-10 at 07:25 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Rizendragon View Post
    After reading your trolling and spewing nothing but Blizzard and "fanboi" hate all last night I will do nothing more than ignore you.
    Oh good. I take that as I'm right and you can't answer the charge that you think it's perfectly okay to accept mediocrity because it's a Blizzard game.

  16. #16
    Pit Lord RaoBurning's Avatar
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    Two words: Expansion Pack.

    Really, I'm more stoked for avenging Leah - and possibly retrieving what's left of her soul from the Black Soulstone - and uncovering the true nature and history of Shen, than I was about just about anything that actually happened in this game.

    I really, really enjoyed the little bits of follower dialog, between themselves and with me.

    Adria aside, I'm sorely disappointed with the villains. Magdha was a throw away, and that's fine enough for a mid-level boss, but Belial and Azmodan did not, I think, live up to their in-game hype at all. Belial showed zero deceptive powers - c'mon, he's the kid. Duh. And Azmodan gives us no reason to think he's a master strategist of Hell worth fearing. Frankly, they both fight like little bitches anyway.

    Diablo coming back as the big bad was expected. The game is kinda named after him and all that.

    All in all, I think there were some really good almost ideas that just didn't pan out worth a damn. 12 years and this is the best story they can throw at us? Enhancing the plot doesn't detract from game play it all - it can only enhance the immersion.

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyIommi View Post
    That's basically saying it's okay if the story is crap we don't need to analyse it because well Blizzard always about game play before story. Here's a thought. If you had fucking standards and didn't swallow the bullshit they fed you Blizzard could do both. It's an afterthought, in the same way multi player was for doom 3. It lacks any soul.
    Your statement here reminds me a great deal of one of the authors I follow elsewhere, but much less, hmm, violent. He did a long and detailed rant about a certain season finale that he was less than pleased with, and for legitimate reasons no less. Good work not being satisfied with mediocre story telling. Blizzard did not make it big on game play alone, I'm quite sure.
    Last edited by RaoBurning; 2012-06-10 at 07:40 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wells View Post
    This is America. We always have warm dead bodies.
    if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by hksin11186 View Post
    Two words: Expansion Pack.

    Really, I'm more stoked for avenging Leah - and possibly retrieving what's left of her soul from the Black Soulstone - and uncovering the true nature and history of Shen, than I was about just about anything that actually happened in this game.

    I really, really enjoyed the little bits of follower dialog, between themselves and with me.

    Adria aside, I'm sorely disappointed with the villains. Magdha was a throw away, and that's fine enough for a mid-level boss, but Belial and Azmodan did not, I think, live up to their in-game hype at all. Belial showed zero deceptive powers - c'mon, he's the kid. Duh. And Azmodan gives us no reason to think he's a master strategist of Hell worth fearing. Frankly, they both fight like little bitches anyway.

    Diablo coming back as the big bad was expected. The game is kinda named after him and all that.

    All in all, I think there were some really good almost ideas that just didn't pan out worth a damn. 12 years and this is the best story they can throw at us? Enhancing the plot doesn't detract from game play it all - it can only enhance the immersion.
    now that you mentioned the 12 year part didn,t kindomg of amalur use the same fate not written crap for your main character.

  18. #18
    Pit Lord RaoBurning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newbryn View Post
    now that you mentioned the 12 year part didn,t kindomg of amalur use the same fate not written crap for your main character.
    No clue. Haven't heard of that game before you mentioned it just now. I'm sure there's an expert in the audience somewhere.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wells View Post
    This is America. We always have warm dead bodies.
    if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.

  19. #19
    Brewmaster Newbryn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hksin11186 View Post
    No clue. Haven't heard of that game before you mentioned it just now. I'm sure there's an expert in the audience somewhere.
    it actually dint come out that long ago was just remembering the similarity in terms of characters.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom...lur:_Reckoning

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by hksin11186 View Post
    Your statement here reminds me a great deal of one of the authors I follow elsewhere, but much less, hmm, violent. He did a long and detailed rant about a certain season finale that he was less than pleased with, and for legitimate reasons no less. Good work not being satisfied with mediocre story telling. Blizzard did not make it big on game play alone, I'm quite sure.
    No they didn't. I remember when starcraft 1 came out and most of the story was told you to by dudes in little video boxes. It was sooooooooo much better even with the limitations of the old technology. They cared at one point.

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