The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 2

Last week I mentioned Deckard Cain’s death was too soon, Maghda’s presence was too Disney, and the Coven have their hands on some amazing teleport and portal magic.

“I had to follow him. From that moment we travelled… east. Always… into the east.” -Marius, Diablo 2

Act 2 takes place in Lut Gholein. Wait, what? Didn’t we do this before? Oh, it’s called Caldeum now. Got it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but can’t we try a little harder to not have Diablo 3 flow like its predecessor? Diablo 2 goes from Tristram, to the desert in the East, to the jungle, to Hell, and finally to Mount Arreat. Diablo 3 goes from Tristram, to the desert in the East (and the adjoining jungle), to a Hell–ish Arreat, and lastly the High Heavens.

With the exception of the final act, the environments and the path in which we encounter them just feels annoyingly repetitive. I’m not looking for Demons in Space, mind you. I get the feeling that this chain of scenery was very intentional. While also a continuation of a story, Diablo 3 feels like a retelling of a story for the current generation of gamer. Given the much larger and broader player base for the game, I understand why they would feel the need to tell the story this way. It’s just a personal annoyance.

Act 2 begins with seeking revenge on Maghda, the architect of Deckard Cain’s demise. The chase isn’t woven with any real twists or turns. Just… lots of hidden footprints.

So then we get to fight Maghda and end her reign of evil. Fight begins. Fight ends. Butterfly lady is toast. That’s it kids. Nothing else to see here. Deckard Cain is avenged… I guess.

Something about the chase, the buildup, and the defeat of Maghda doesn’t feel great. This part of Act 2 felt too flat. What I think might have been missing here is some more interaction between Leah and Maghda prior to her demise. Planting seeds of the fate to come for Leah… or perhaps more exposition about where Adria has been before we actually encounter here. This is an awkward part of the story because there’s just not a lot of story presented in the early chapters of the act.

Things get far more interesting after the first encounter with the child Emperor followed by the discovery and rescue of Adria. What’s great about Adria is you can discover she’s probably not all you think she is if you engage in some extra conversation with her. The Templar certainly doesn’t trust her. I feel that there should have been a bit more tension shown between the player character and Adria though. Here we are allying ourselves with a witch, and not one of the butterfly kind either. Not everything here adds up, and that’s apparent from fairly early on…

… just like it’s apparent that the child emperor is Belial.

This is the Lord of Lies? I mean, was anyone… anyone surpised that the Emperor was Belial? The player character wasn’t, and neither was I. I’m pretty sure you weren’t either.

Then there’s Zoltun Kulle. A dark Horadric mage gone wrong, brought back to life by our exploits, only to be killed again a few minutes after rebirth. Um… okay. So, here was yet another potential spot to introduce an adversary for later in the story and the book is closed on him before you can get the echo of his incessant laughter out of your ears. As annoying as his laugh was, Kulle was a far more interesting character than Maghda, and deserved more exposure and development in the story. After all, he was the creator of the Black Soulstone itself. He showed that there existed a darker side to the arts of the Horadrim, and this had so much potential and room to be explored.

Nah, let’s just kick him to the side and move on to the next loot pinata, good Ol’ Honest Belial.

I can’t take credit for this next bit. I read a forum thread several weeks ago about how the plot of Diablo 3 could have been improved. One poster suggested that Belial’s illusions of the child Emperor could have been just as cheesy and transparent… leading the player character to the inevitable confrontation at the palace. However, when the player character kills Belial, it would then be revealed that the past few minutes had been an illusion… a hallucination of sorts, and now the dead body of the young, very mortal, Emperor lies at the player character’s feet. Belial succeeds in learning about the Black Soulstone, and has turned a nation of Sanctuary against the player character in the process. The actual confrontation with Belial could then be saved for later in the game, or even the expansion.

That would have been a very intriguing twist and one I wished had been canon. Like it or not though, Belial is just a very bad liar in Diablo 3. I’ve been told both Belial and Azmodan are nothing like the way they’re portrayed in the novel “The Order,” and I really need to get my hands on that book sometime soon.

The three primary adversaries in Act 2 were as shallow as the desert wastes of the east that we travelled through. Yet, there could have been so much more done with Maghda, Kulle, and Belial. Had either of these three been given more time, development, and care in Act 2 they could have been great villains. Instead, they’re just boxes we’ve checked off as we make our way to Arreat Crater, and the forces of the Lord of Sin.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog next week for more.

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