Much has happened with the Diablo-franchise over past few months, and I have been postponing to write about it too much. At first, I figured I would be fine until BlizzCon – and now we are getting close to the actual release of the expansion! It did not help at all that an early beta-build of the new expansion – Reaper of Souls – was data-mined before I got properly started, which added tons and tons of rather definite things to what was earlier just a mad scramble of loose theories and suggestions, essentially making a post like this rather meaningless. But, as you know, I still like doing this kind of theorizing – and as such, I am going to dig into what we now know (almost) for certain. Oh yeah, and there WILL be spoilers. You were warned.
Lore and Setup:
The setup for the expansion is pretty simple, in its essence. The Black Soulstone was not destroyed, but instead found and kept safe by Tyrael and a newly reformed Horadrim Order. However, out of the blue (black?), Malthael appears, kills the Horadrim and takes the Black Soulstone, to use for some kind of nefarious scheme, that we currently do not know. The premise is really best described by watching the official trailer, shown below.
Death, at last, shall spread it wings over all.
So, what is Malthael up to? What is he going to do with the Black Soulstone? Why is he so incredibly cool in the role of the Angel of Death? Did he actually decapitate two Horadrim as his first actual move on-screen? Should I ask more questions, or simply begin answering them instead? How much of all this did we actually see coming? Let us take a look. Also, keep in mind, I will probably keep it a bit more short as usual, as I am posting this on an odd time, just before the release as I will intend to continue it afterwards, and look more closely ahead.
Catching Up with Past Predictions … and Malthael
Ah yes, the obvious first choice to look at. I was not off by much in regards to Malthael, the previous Archangel of Wisdom, that was the first in line as a new antagonist (of sorts) after the Prime Evil, and that the Black Soulstone was not destroyed. At all. Malthael now has the Black Soulstone, his intentions being unclear. Or well, his more direct intentions actually are not as unclear as we would assume: He wants to end the Eternal Conflict (that is, the endless war between Angel and Demon) for good… by destroying living and demon alike. After all, the humans are half-demon. His intentions regarding the usage of the Black Soulstone, however… are indeed unclear. We will see soon enough.
Before getting a closer look at the Black Soulstone, there is one thing from the trailer above that quickly needs to be looked at. Tyrael, for one. Malthael had every chance of outright killing him – and seems to consider it – but he does not. I am not going to get much further into that, as I think it is a simple thing of him simply not seeing that Tyrael is, indeed, not human but rather just a mortal angel. As such, it goes against Malthael’s righteous plans of removing the world of demonic taint. Yes, because that is the kicker: Malthael’s cause has to be righteous, otherwise he should be able to be harmed by El’druin (this is confirmed). Surely, ending the Eternal Conflict is a good cause… right?
So, to get back to the Black Soulstone, why would he want to get a hold of it, then? To get that answer, let us look at the most obvious contender for having interest in the stone… There is a bit more to it than that, but I will get to that afterwards.
Adria and Westmarch
They had to get that part of the story sorted. Adria’s disappearance was much too fatal to go unnoticed, especially when she turned out to had been engineering more or less everything from the start – and then be able to vanish without anyone following her. But, no. This time she is going to be stopped – and killed, for good. As predicted. While she doesn’t exactly have the full and complete Black Soulstone, she does seem to have gotten hold of a sliver of it. How is… unknown to me at this point, but we do know from the data mining that her appearance has become somehow altered, resembling that of Diablo. So, what was her purpose, other than to birth Leah to be the ultimate avatar of Diablo? Did she have the sliver with her when she split from Leah, and set her on her path – or did she get it through other means? Regarding the sliver, the following quote about the features of the Black Soulstone becomes interesting.
“If broken, fragments mirror the properties of the greater whole, yet each piece’s overall effectiveness – power, if you will – is noticeably diminished.”
– Book of Tyrael, Zoltun Kulle chapter
We also know that Adria’s been “hiding out” at the Tomb of Rakkis – what is going on there, and what ritual is she trying to complete? She is obviously aligned with the demons and Diablo, so one of the reasons that Maltheal has struck here first, might have been because of her doings as well? If he wants to end everything that has a demonic taint, it should be a good idea to get the purest of evil wiped out first, that’s for sure.
Was she looking into the weapon designs for stuff, that could be used along-side the Black Soulstone, in another devastating attack on the High Heavens? The below quote, which was used in the Templar’s talk to Tyrael about the tomes that he had found, makes a lot more sense now – besides actually straight up stating what this entire expansion is.
“These are plans for angelic weapons that will fit human hands. (…) It implies that my brethren seek to destroy this world and that your order was created to stop them.”
– Tyrael, “The Truth” Gossip
One can understand that Malthael would not want the Black Soulstone to fall into the hands of Adria. Quite the fatal outcome, without a doubt. This would be a perfectly valid reason for him to start his purge in Westmarch. That it is a place with lots of people, and a power-center of the whole of Sanctuary is a minor point in comparison, really. But, if he wanted to lure the nephalem to band together to destroy Adria first, then it is a rather sneaky ploy.
The Black Soulstone and Zoltun Kulle
Now, let us get back and take a closer look at the Black Soulstone again, seeing as it did not just fade into nothing. It was an easy call to make, really. But, it’s easy to look at a very simple potential truth: It was meant to do the opposite of what the Eternal Conflict was all about: contain – and thus, passively destroy – Angels and Demons alike, while the Eternal Conflict would eradicate all humans/nephalem, that it had once created. A kind of inverted balance, that is only made all the better after having heard about the Sin War as a giant prequel to the Diablo III story.
The point is this: Zoltun Kulle and Maltheal were not really that much different after all – they were just getting their wisdom from different places. Zoltun Kulle from the Black Soulstone (or, simply, the Soulstones in general), and Malthael from Chalad’ar, the Chalice of Wisdom.
“The soulstones contain echoes of history and time – of the origin and purpose of all things.”
– Book of Tyrael, Zoltun Kulle chapter
The Worldstone – which the Black Soulstone is, essentially, a part of – had been an obsession for Maltheal for a long time, and it seems that he had finally understood what Kulle had intended. He just made the “minor” difference of wanting to wipe out the entire human and nephalem population, too. And why? Simple: Malthael wants the stone to stop humans like Adria to do – well, just as she does: being an avatar of the Prime Evil. This can only be done while keeping it in his control.
Either way, this is a subject I will take a bit closer look at in the write-up after I have played through the expansion. The Black Soulstone has a very interesting plot-wise use, and very deep ties to both the deeper Diablo story and what has later been expanded in the game since Diablo II and the arc that Lord of Destruction added with the Worldstone and the Nephalem. Again, this is a subject that I made a lot of predictions about, but I feel it is better that it is kept for later, since it does not seem like it will be explored too much as of yet.
I do have some good bits lined up in how this could be tied a bit better into the future story. Some curious notes in Book of Tyrael had some nods towards Hephasto the Armorer, which some might remember from the Hellforge in Diablo II. Yes, that’s the place where we destroyed Diablo and Mephisto’s soulstones – which didn’t really go as planned. Rest assured, it does not seem like my ideas from the previous posts are totally off, either way. We simply might not get the Malthael siding with the necromancers that I had hoped for. Too bad.
Imperius and the Post-Reaping
Still too early to say too much about Imperius that I have not already guessed at earlier, at this point. It has been shown that we will fight alongside him, when venturing through and around the Pandemonium Fortress. In my eyes, he is still a potential contender to something in the future, but with Malthael already “going nuts”, I fear it would be too much if this happens again. That notion is getting slightly old and out of hand. But, on the other hand, we are still not completely sure of what exactly happens to Malthael. Or well, the better phrase is probably: We do not know the more exact details of his demise and what happens right after, yet.
Something entirely else to take note of, is the upcoming book “Storm of Light”, which – with Imperius on the cover – is sure to cover more than what is promised from the description. And, if we know Blizzard right, it does seems very odd to build up a character that is either meaningless or not going to be properly represented (look at Leah, and Malthael, for example). Which would, in the end, give notion to the thought that Imperius still has a grand say in the overall story-arc of Diablo III. This is especially because of the fact that he was already quite present in the normal game – and in Reaper of Souls. Makes you wonder. Still, I am going to return to that after the release of the expansion, when I have played it through, and potentially also have had time to read through “Storm of Light”. Or I might return to the subject more than once – which is probably more logical.
I will return after Reaper of Souls is out – and I have blazed through on my Crusader. Oh yeah, I was right about that too (and I am really happy about it, trust me)!