The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 4

“And you, nephalem! Look below and see what your kind has wrought!”

- Imperius, Archangel of Valor, Act IV

Indeed, what has been wrought? We’ve slain ghosts and ghouls, banished hellish demonic brutes to parts unknown, all in the cause of being rid of the lords of the Burning Hells once and for all.

However, to borrow from World of Warcraft a moment, in Act IV we find that the events of Diablo II were “merely a setback.” Is it a surprise that Diablo returns in Diablo 3? Of course not. If anything I was surprised it took until the very end of Act III for the big reveal.

We begin the final chapter of this journey in a realm we haven’t seen before. The High Heavens itself was a perfect setting for the climax of the game. The corruption that pervades the realm is communicated well. You feel like the primal forces of light and darkness are battling one another with every step you take in your quest to hunt down the Lord of Terror, now the Prime Evil.

After dispatching Diablo’s first henchdemon, Iskatu, the Big Bad shows his inner Azmodan and reveals to us that henchdemon number two has the Archangel of Hope. We shortly meet Ithereal, the Archangel of Fate who tells us the exact same thing. So… why did Diablo have to say anything? Was that there to subtly communicate to us that the tendencies of Azmodan are now his own as well? It’s as good an explanation as any I suppose.

Ithereal explains that while he is the keeper of the Scroll of Fate, the nephalem is not in the scroll. Thus, it’s possible that the nephalem can change fate. I have to admit, after having finished Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning shortly before Diablo III’s release, this plot point made me shake my head. For those of you who haven’t played it, the hero in that game is known as the Fateless One, and while the fates of everyone in the land are known to those who can read fate, the Fateless One is the exception to the rule. It was odd to see this aspect brought up in two games released so close together.

No time for chit chat though, it’s off to rescue the damsel in distress archangel since freeing her will give the forces of the High Heavens hope again, figuratively and literally.

Rakanoth is eventually dealt with (that boss is such a $#@!ing cheater, but I digress) and Auriel is released from her shadowy bonds. Diablo warned Rakanoth that if he failed that his fate would be the same as Iskatu and his brothers’. Huh? Isn’t Diablo one and the same as his brothers right now? Don’t get me wrong, I think we know what he meant… it’s just that dialogue was unnecessary and confusing.

I don’t think the primary antagonist in a story has to be overly wordy or provide so much exposition. It’s a common trait for “big bads” and while it works for stories directed at a younger audience, I think the audience this game is intended for deserved an Azmodan and Diablo (and Belial) that were more cerebral.

Our next step is sealing two Hell Rifts… because those are the only portals through which everything in the Burning Hells is pouring through to invade the High Heavens. More portal magic, and this portal magic is confusing for exactly the opposite reason as Act 1. If Diablo has the power to open direct portals into Heaven and Hell now, how would sealing off two of them stop him from opening future ones. Yes, Auriel mentions her blessing will help the nephalem to seal the rifts, but is her blessing more powerful than the combined might of seven demon lords in one form? It certainly wasn’t the case when she got captured.

Our journey continues onward and upward, when we’re stopped once again by Imperius. At this point I figured there was no avoiding having to fight Imperius if we were to face Diablo. Imperius is an overzealous representative of one side of the eternal war, and it would have been amazing to fight both Heaven and Hell to reach the end of the game.

That wouldn’t be the case though. After a brief how do you do to Diablo 2 boss Izual, we meet Imperius one final time. I was ready to take him on. I was the nephalem, and he was in the way. Imperius had to be put in his place for the greater good.

Thus, seconds later Imperius is put in his place by Diablo Ex Machina corrupting the Crystal Arch, causing all angels to fall to their knees powerless.

What? Did that really happen? This act is blazing by compared to the three acts before it. Heck, we face our first sub-boss before killing hardly anything else in Act IV. So here we get to Imperius, ready for an epic boss battle and just like that it’s time to go straight to Diablo. Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 gold.

This one part of Act IV left me feeling more cheated and upset than anything else in the whole entire story. It was the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I had put up with so much poor storytelling up to this point to reach some sort of payoff. The battle with Imperius would have been a great payoff. It never happened.

I closed my eyes a moment, took a breath, and proceeded to the Crystal Arch to fight Diablo. Oh look, the Templar is conveniently trapped. Of course he is.

Three attempts later, Diablo is defeated. That’s it. Game over. I win. Yay… I guess.

Of course we know it’s not as simple as that. There are all matters of loose ends, and the epilogue of Diablo 3 itself to talk about. Next week I’ll wrap up my thoughts on Diablo 3 by talking about the end of the beginning, and what might await us in the inevitable expansion pack(s) to come.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog next week for the conclusion to this series!

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