Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Morbed

diablo-iii-morbed-coverBack on October 12, 2013, at the New York Comic Con — Micky Neilson told me there were plans for a novella based on Morbed. Today Pocket Star released the new digital book Diablo III: Morbed by Micky Neilson (Blizzard publishing lead & New York Times best selling author). This character was first revealed within the pages of Diablo III: Book of Tyrael, foreshadowing things to come.

Details of this digital book were kept in shadows until barely four days ago when I stumbled upon it at Amazon. I check Amazon.com nigh daily in search of upcoming Blizzard books, and Diablo III: Morbed wasn’t in Amazon days ago. The digital book is now available today and can be read. I started reading it sometime around midnight.

Review

**Note: There might be spoiler elements beneath this line. Be warned.**

What is Morbed, and where is it based on in the timeline? The story seems to happen a few months before the events of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The King of Westmarch was still alive, and it had not been invaded yet by Malthael’s forces. Here are a few details to share.

Morbed was a former thief. A band of adventurers defeated the King of bandits in Aranoch; and word quickly spread about their feat and reached the ears of Justinian the king of Westmarch.

Justinian summoned this band of adventurers to find a hooded vagabond who was seen entering some of the ruins hidden beneath the Bloodmarch. It’s said this vagabond collected relics from the catacombs and possibly pillaging the Tomb of Rakkis.

The band is composed of Morbed, Jaharra (wizard), Aedus (druid), Clovis (crusader), and Vorik (necromancer). Clovis the crusader was in this mission because he wished to find the bones of Akarat to renew the faith of his religious order. The crusader thought this mission would help his quest.

Now what most catches my attention about this story is the inclusion of, both, a druid and a necromancer to a story that took place sometime before Reaper of Souls. At one point, Jay Wilson said to MTV Multiplayer some of the previous classes might return in future Diablo III expansions.

Jay Wilson: “There’s a lot of people on our team who aren’t happy with our class choices,” he admitted. “But after we’ve established ‘Diablo III’ as its own game with its own type of gameplay and experiences, I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at old classes. We are trying to design [the Witch Doctor] class so that if we did bring back the Necromancer, there’s room for him. We’re looking out ahead of time at what our expansions are going to be, so we’ve got to keep room open for some of those other classes down the road.”
 

We have seen a necromancer NPC in Diablo III already, and most recently Zayl the Necromancer was among the five heroes recruited by mortal Tyrael to steal the Black Soulstone from the High Heavens (as seen in Diablo III: Storm of Light); but we had not heard of a druid in a very long time in-game or in the printed media based on Diablo.

Like in comic books, some characters are heroes — like Superman (DC Comics), Captain America (Marvel Comics) — while others are anti-Heroes with traits of heroism such as Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, even Batman. They are not 100% noble or moral. They have shades of grey. Willing to kill, or to follow their own personal agendas.

I think this is the first time I see a Diablo character such as Morbed. The only other Blizzard character I can compare him with is Prince Arthas (at Stratholme and Dragonblight).

Prince Arthas and even Kael’Thas were formerly noble, and righteous in their own way. Then their lives changed drastically. Dramatically. The scars were deep. Their emotions a maelstrom. Eventually, their morals shifted, and they turned to evil.

Morbed comes from a different background. He was a former thief. He is changed his old ways, but other non-heroic traits have stuck around. The way he is pictured in this story he is going from a scumbag to someone seeking redemption for his past deeds. That gives Morbed some depth as a character. As well as bringing up controversy. Why should we care about the character? Well, look at how Wolverine has boomed the Marvel Comics and films. It has been proven that Anti-Heroes, well written, are a formula that do work. Especially, if you as an author craft a good complex story with twists and drama. The reader becomes entangled into the story, and starts to care about the anti-hero, and wishes to learn more. The reader gets hooked to the anti-hero.

I have no doubt Morbed eventually becomes a hero, but in the first half of this story, Morbed is anything but a hero. He is selfish, he betrays, he won’t risk his life for his own band; and above all else… he is a survivor. He knows his way out of trouble. He uses all the abilities he learned as a former thief. He is no hero. The problem with Morbed is that he won’t risk his hide to help his own teammates in the battlefield. He is willing to leave behind his platoon. Yet, he is filled with guilt.

That element on its own can be exploited by the author. There is a potential way lingering in the air to redeem his past mistakes with this guilt element roaming his mind.

The question is … what is Micky Neilson planning to do with this new anti-hero? Diablo III: Reaper of Souls launched barely a month ago, and there is no trace of this character as a new NPC. Is he slated to appear in a future content patch? Or the next expansion? That is something to ponder about.

More questions inbound. Are we going to see more of Morbed in a full-fleshed novel in 2015? A graphic novel based on him? Otherwise, why write about a nobody character if you have no plans to expand? Makes no sense right? So, one must assume there are plans for this character.

Those characters birthed through the Diablo III short stories came to life in Diablo III: Storm of Light, and they assisted Tyrael — a central figure in the Diablo universe.

Hopefully, we will hear more from Micky Neilson on what plans he has for Morbed, when he is ready to share details.

Conclusion

I do recommend Diablo fans to read Diablo III: Morbed. If this story is foreshadowing things to come either in printed media or in-game at some point, then it is a must-read. We not only learn about a dark anti-hero who gains strange power through this enigmatic lantern, the reader also learns about an ancient history.

In Warcraft, we know the Amani Trolls lived in the region we know now as Quel’Thalas. The High Elves traveled there, decimated the trolls, and usurped their sacred lands to build Quel’Thalas.

In the Diablo universe, on the other hand, we have heard for years how Rakkis fought his way into the west lands and founded the city of Westmarch. However, have we ever learned who Rakkis fought and who originally lived in what we now know as Westmarch and Bloodmarch?

Indeed, Blizzard did never delved into that. Diablo III: Morbed gives us a glimpse into this when the hooded vagabond faces Morbed, and the vagabond reveals to Morbed his motives to pillage ancient artifacts from the Tomb of Rakkis and adjacent underground ruins.

What if this people — exiled from the former Blooming Moors (now known as Westmarch) — became a new class in the next Diablo III expansion? That’s another one to ponder. This short story would then be the prelude to that. Would you dare not to read even out of curiosity?

Diablo III: Morbed Giveaway

I will giveaway 10 copies of Diablo III: Morbed (via an Amazon Gift eCard). You must be a follower of Blizzplanetcom Twitter or Facebook.

Winners will be contacted through Facebook or Twitter. Winners will be listed beneath this line of text so check back. Make sure to check out your social account inbox. Giveaway ends Wednesday, April 23 at 11:59pm EST (New York).

Characters

Morbed (former thief)
Jaharra (female Wizard)
Aedus (druid from Scosglen)
Clovis (crusader)
Vorik (necromancer)

The fisherman – a merchant, posing as a fisherman, who brought the band to the isle.
The vagabond – descendant of the original inhabitants of the Blooming Moor (now known as Westmarch) who were exiled by Rakkis.

Kasha, Roshan and Ishkara (spirit wolfs summoned by the druid)

Locations

Aranoch (mentioned)
Westmarch
House of Bulkhan
Glooming Moors

Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Book of Tyrael

diablo-iii-book-of-tyrael-cover-full-sizeThe Diablo III: Book of Tyrael is now on sale at the New York Comic Con (booth #1564) and local bookstores. I grabbed my copy from the Insight Editions booth at the New York Comic Con for $28.

Diablo III: Book of Tyrael was written by Matt Burns (Associate Publishing Developer, Blizzard Entertainment).

Book Materials

In terms of printing materials, this book has the typical Blizzard-quality standards and what you would expect from an Insight Editions book. It’s awesome. The front cover’s Sword and ornaments artwork is embossed — giving you that special visual and tactile feeling. The lower part of the book is wrapped by a cover jacket.

Now I think this book kind of went a few notches up in terms of detail in comparison with Book of Cain and other similar Blizzard licensed products. If you take a look at the outer side of the pages which run along the width of the book in Book of Cain — you will notice the pages’ border were truncated to mimic ancient scrolls. Diablo III: Book of Tyrael lacks this, but instead the pages’ border is painted in gold. It’s crazy. You can even see the light reflect off the golden surface. The photo doesn’t even catch half of how it really looks like.

diablo-iii-book-of-tyrael-review-1

In the interior of the book, all pages have this wash-out material that gives you a feeling this is an old manuscript. It’s rare to find a page that has no artwork.

Finally, at the back of the book is some sort of envelope glued to the cardboard. The center has a seal one can detach to open the envelope. Within is “The Red Tree of Khanduras” listing Deckard Cain, Archbishop Lazarus, Prince Albrecht, King Leoric, Queen Asylla, Prince Aidan, Leah and Adria.

diablo-iii-book-of-tyrael-review-2

When you unfold the poster it is kinda huge. It has an artwork of a big tree. The roots seem to entangle The Black Soulstone. The branches have images of all the characters mentioned above concerning “The Red Tree of Khanduras”.

On the other side of the poster, it shows the same characters in their final fate: Queen Asylla decapitated, Leah as Diablo the Prime Evil, Aidan as the Dark Wanderer, King Leoric as the Skeleton King, Adria holding the Black Soulstone, Albrecht as Diablo, Lazarus and Cain death.

Review

Diablo III: Book of Tyrael is written from the point of view of Tyrael. However, Tyrael attached writings from Deckard Cain’s Journal and Leah’s Journal to pass the wisdom down to his new Horadrim, and future generations. It is not written as a novel, but more as a compendium of notes.

There is no index page or content list. The entirety of the book is a roleplay from the point of view of the Diablo III characters. An exception is the credits page.

Diablo III fans should definitely get their hands on this book. There are many elements from the upcoming Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion; and probably the expansion after that.

I have never seen such an extensive collection of lore about Adria the Witch. Adria’s past prior to her arrival to Tristram is written by Leah, and her story after arriving to Tristram is from Deckard Cain’s notes. Tyrael got Leah’s notes from Bastion’s Keep.

Some of the lore comes from Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon.

Tyrael shares his experience as mortal in his charge as the new Wisdom. Charge that’s short-lived as Imperius doesn’t acknowledge him and ignores his warnings about the Black Soulstone.

Tyrael is confused with all the raw emotions coursing through his mortal body. Fear to fail his duty as Wisdom. Emotional insecurities assaulting him.

The book reveals why Tyrael decided to steal the Black Soulstone from the Angiris Council, and why Westmarch as its burial ground. The story of Adria the Witch, the Founding and Ruin of Westmarch, and lore about the Crusaders can be found in the book, too. Take this book as a prelude to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls; and as a primer for the upcoming novel Diablo III: Storm of Light by Nate Kenyon which hits bookstores on February 2014.

Content List

There is no index/contet list, so I’ll simply list the sections found throughout Book of Tyrael:

Introduction – This is a letter from Tyrael to the New Horadrim.

Part One: Adria

The Witch of Tristram
Adria’s Origins
Adria’s Quest
Zoltun Kulle and the Black Soulstone
Conclusions
 

Part Two: The Fate of the Black Soulstone

Being Mortal
The Dissonance of the Angiris Council
Wisdom
The New Horadrim
Rakkis and the Founding of Westmarch – Prelude to Conquest
Campaigns Against Ivgorod and the Barbarians
The Creation of Westmarch
The Lost Ruins of Westmarch
Crusaders
 

Part Three: Miscellanea

A Timeline of Sanctuary

  • Pre-History – (Inarius)
  • Recorded History

Factions of Sanctuary

  • Amazons
  • Assassins
  • Barbarian Tribes
  • Council of Elders
  • The Coven
  • Crusaders
  • Druids
  • The Edyrem
  • Horadrim
  • Iron Wolves
  • Mage Clans
  • Necromancers
  • Paladins
  • Patriarchs (Ivgorod)
  • Rogues
  • Skatsim
  • Templar
  • The Temple of the Triune
  • The Thieves Guild
  • Trade Consortium
  • Zakarum

Figures of Interest — this is a long section with brief descriptions of several humans, demons and angels throughout history. Some only mentioned in the novels and the comic book.

 

Artists

Some of the artists behind all the artwork in Diablo III: Book of Tyrael were the same from Book of Cain, while others seem to be new.

  • The Black Frog
  • Nicolas Delort
  • ENrang
  • Riccardo Federici
  • Gino
  • John Howe
  • Joseph Lacroix
  • Iain McCaig
  • Jon McConnell
  • Petar Meseldzija
  • Jean-Baptiste Monje
  • Glenn Rane (Cover)
  • Ruan Jia
  • Dan Hee Ryu
  • Adrian Smith
  • Yang Qi
  • Bin Zhang
  • Zhang Lu

Credits

BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

Matt Burns (Writer)
Doug Alexander (Creative Direction, Layout and Design)
Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson, and Brian Kindreagan (Additional Story Development)
Victor Lee (Additional Art)
Josh Horst, Kyle Williams, Skye Chandler (Producers)
Cate Gary (Editor)
Justin Parker (Lore)
Jerry Chu (Licensing)

Special thanks to: Christian Lichtner, John Polidora, David Lomeli, Benjamin Zhang, Peter C. Lee, Leonard Boyarsky, Michael Chu, Valerie Watrous, Evelyn Fredericksen, Sean Copeland, Leanne Huynh, Audrey Vicenzi, and Joseph Lacroix.

INSIGHT EDITIONS

Raoul Goff (Publisher)
Chrissy Kwasnik (Art Director)
Vanessa Lopez (Executive Editor)
Anna Wan (Production Manager)
Elaine Ou (Editorial Assistant)

SPOILERS

The Coven is actually a remnant of what was once known as the Triune (the ancient religion seen in Diablo: The Sin War trilogy)

Adria was born in Kingsport — curiously, the southern port of Westmarch — where Reaper of Souls takes place.

Adria’s father was Sevrin — a powerful merchant in Kingsport, who strangled his wife in a fit of rage.

Adria possibly killed her own father some time later when an unusual fire burned their home. She fled north to the Westmarch capital. Joined a group of witches. Turns out Adria and Maghda met there in their youth. Years later, both witches joined the Coven and took control of the group after killing its leaders.

Adria later departed the Coven after a schism with her partner — around the time of the Darknening of Tristram.

On one of Cain’s notes, he acknowledges after taking Leah as child with him, he began to research about Adria. He decided to keep what he learned a secret, and hid the truth to Leah.

I’m surprised this book has a long timeline similar to Warcraft’s. Also most of these Leah’s notes dating Diablo III (Caldeum and Bastion Keep) are written in 1285 Anno Kehjistani. Some notes are denoted as “1st day of (what seems like a month)”. Examples: Ratham, Kathon, Ostara.

Short descriptions of each important human, angel and demon throughout history (alive and deceased).

Zoltun Kulle was from the Ennead mage clan — group which delved into transmutation and enchantment magics.

The Black Soulstone was a profane simulacrum of the three soulstones Tyrael gave the Horadrim years ago.

Now we have another name of the first Horadrim group: Jered Cain, Tal Rasha, Zoltun Kulle and Iben Fahd. The latter was among the few survivors who attempted to defeat Zoltun in his lair.

The first part was Adria and Zoltun Kulle. The third part is from the point of view of Tyrael. He expresses how he feels as a human. How he felt as an Angel and how he viewed the flaws of the Angiris Council.

“I deliberately took on the form of a mortal, sacrificing my angelic essence, in response to the Council’s continued inaction. In doing so, I hoped to set an example to the Heavens — to prove that laws can be bent for a greater good.”

Tyrael left the Heavens after Diablo the Prime Evil was defeated. He couldn’t bear the angels’ judgment — who blamed him for the countless deaths of angels. I think this is the first time we ever hear how angels are born. Tyrael mentions before he left back to Sanctuary he witnessed the Lightsong — the creation of new angels. The angels tune their essences into the Crystal Arch in synch. The harmony of this “sound” and “light” creates new angels.

Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls

The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls is a digital-only eBook — a rare format Blizzard Entertainment is currently pushing for the first time since year 2000. The first ever eBook from Blizzard was Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (Garwulf’s Corner). It was a time when the eBook format had just been born recently, and there wasn’t a big audience as nowadays with the boom of Kindle devices, iPad, Marvel Digital, and Comixology.

It reminds me a lot to how Chris Metzen and Flint Dille introduced Transformers: Autocracy to the fans of that universe. I was swayed into the 12-issue digital-only comic book not only because it was written by Chris who I am a loyal fanboy of, but through him I was able to re-experience one of my favorite childhood characters and sci-fi universes of the 80s when I was a teen.

A year after Transformers: Autocracy went live in the digital waves, IDW announced the Transformers: Autocracy (Hardcover).

It’s unknown if Blizzard Entertainment will go that route a year from now with Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls.

In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Kindle device you can still read this digital book straight from your internet browser via the Kindle Cloud. All you need is the Adobe Acrobat plug-in installed. Chances are you already have it installed. However, it’s a good idea to update it.

After you order the digital book, go to this URL: https://read.amazon.com to read it from your Firefox or Internet Explorer browser. You will see the eBook there. Or follow this instructions (view images).

The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls contains fives stories previously seen in the official Diablo III website under the Game Guide page:

  • Hatred and Discipline (by Micky Neilson – Blizzard Publishing Lead)
  • Wayfarer (Cameron Dayton – Transmedia Consultant, Story Developer & Writer)
  • Unyielding (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Doubtwalker (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Firefly (by Michael Chu – Diablo III Quest Designer)

In the digital book, there are Black & White illustrations by John Polidora (Senior Illustrator/Concept Artist/Visual Development Artist at Blizzard Entertainment) placed at the first page of each story. The class sigil illustration is placed at the end of each story, too.

You will ask yourself: “Well, why would I pay $7.99 for something I can read straight from the Diablo III Website?”

You can set the Kindle Cloud to download what you purchased and to set an offline mode. In addition, there are two stories in this digital book never seen before, which expand the Diablo universe.

These two stories are:

  • Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile
  • The Hunger

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile is written by James Waugh (New York Times Best Selling Co-Author of World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen). The story hasn’t been read before in the official Diablo III website.

After reading this story, I was amazed at the lengthy dialogues between the characters. So much dialogue.

At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around a theater theme and playwrights within the World of Sanctuary. Reminded me of Shakespeare and Dante’s Inferno for a sec. I was skeptic. Mea Culpa.

That didn’t last long though. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep going forward.

Behind all the theater stuff lies a story of the Dark Exile from a perspective we haven’t seen before. It was a mechanism to tell a grand story which reveals things not completely answered in Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.

Duriel and Andariel’s reasons to be in Sanctuary for example.

The story might also reveal who the Priests of Zakarum served, and what led to their corruption. Should be a must-read.

The Hunger

The Hunger is written by Erik Sabol (2009 Blizzard Global Writing Contest runner-up). It’s a new story we haven’t read in the official Diablo III website.

I have a mix of thoughts after reading this story. It’s about a woman who pays a wagon rider pretty well to take her cargo through the desert of Aranoch. I have to criticize we don’t know who the woman is nor her background or affiliation.

Each dialogue is short, and focuses more on fast-paced action. The story intrigued me. Out of the blue, the story ends – and I was left with this hunger to read more and figure out what really really happened in the story or what the point or goal was.

It’s a scary story, and definitely Rated M with gore and creepiness. For some reason, I was left with the feeling that we might see more about Rigley in the Diablo III expansion or elsewhere. Felt like a cliffhanger. Time will tell.

Final Thoughts

I’m game for more Diablo III themed stories. I got into reading Blizzard stories outside their video games after my very first IRC Chat interview with Richard A. Knaak back in 2003. It was a funny interview because I was asking him questions about Warcraft: Day of the Dragon (2001) without having read the book. Shortly after the interview I read the book. I couldn’t but start collecting all the books based on each Blizzard video game available at the time, and to religiously purchase every new publication from the pen of Blizzard Creative Team writers or the mainstream freelance writers whether they were books, manga, comic books or digital versions. Be it Warcraft, StarCraft or Diablo themed.

Reading the stories expands so much your knowledge of the video game, and gives a special depth to your gameplay experience. Ever since the Burning Crusade expansion, Blizzard Entertainment added another edge to storytelling with the help of Christie Golden.

Blizzard synchronizes these books and the in-game quests in ways that compliment and enhance your overall experience. In World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde you would read about the Ata’mai Crystals, Velen and the Draenei, Oshu’gun in Nagrand — and you’d play the video game and go like — “Wow, I’m playing a quest about what I read in Christie’s novel!” — “Holy! I know this place, or that character!”

Every single novel and game expansion have been woven to tie-in, thereafter. I love that.

Now we have the first digital book ever since Diablo: Demonsbane, in an era where digital books are so mainstream. The question is … will Blizzard Creative Team be bold enough to bring these story elements into Diablo III or its upcoming expansion?

How do you translate these short anthology stories into in-game content? Especially, when Diablo III has been around a long time now.

I think Blizzard should consider adding new quests to Diablo III via patches. The venue is there. Every time I roam the lands of Sanctuary is a different experience. You’ll find random optional quests. For example, The Matriarch’s Bones or the Jar of Souls Event. These are random.

New Journals dropping from monsters or libraries hinting at events happened in Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls. Something reminiscent of the Ashbringer stories found throughout the world long before there was an actual Ashbringer in-game, serving as a hint of things to come in the Diablo III expansion.

That’s what I’d like to see in this new wave of digital book tie-ins.

Blizzplanet: Diablo III Normal Difficulty

It’s been ages since the first time I beat Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. I can’t say I played religiously everyday, nor multiplayer. Still, I have fond times spending hours and days clearing every single cave, basement, and underground levels.

Some people rush through the quests to reach Diablo. I’m more a completionist, and I just can’t rush through. Takes longer, but satisfaction and victory thrill is felt tenfold.

It’s been over a decade, and we waited so long for this game to ship. After defeating Diablo III in Normal Difficulty, I can only say: It was worth the wait. Blizzard Entertainment’s creative team and the Diablo III team built something that feels like Diablo II, but improved so many areas of the game.

The storyline is awesome. I never saw many of these plots and characters coming. The story feels truly epic, be it quests, in-game lore books, or dialogues between the NPCs. I explored it all. From what I saw in the achievements, I barely missed a few in-game books.

I only found one flaw with the game, and that’s mostly because the Auction House is currently disabled until further notice. So hard to make space in your inventory and stash.

I’d say the cost for each stash 14 slots needs to decrease, and the cost of the tabs as well. The second tab costs 100,000. The third tab costs 200,000. That’s 300,000 — not counting the additional 10,000 per 14 slots.

At the time of finishing Diablo III, I only managed to get the second tab (100,000), and only have 50,000 gold (a quarter of what the third tab costs).

All my focus went into spending gold to buy 14 stash slots, and to buy the second stash tab, and all its slots. I was not able to invest in upgrading the Blacksmith. At all. Thus didn’t even use the Blacksmith’s recipes to build gear.

There’s a work around if you are running out of inventory space and stash space while you manage to get all three stash tabs. You have up to 10 character slots. Create two level 1 characters you won’t be using for a long while. Empty the stash onto both characters’ inventory — use them as bank characters so to speak. When the Auction House is launched, put all those items in those two bank characters for sale. Much better to use this method, than to trash stuff that might have potential value at the Auction House. Go, empty your inventory and stash to make space so you can keep farming Nightmare Difficulty items until the Auction House opens.

At level 32, I beat Diablo III Normal Difficulty wearing only what I looted from bosses and rare elites. Lot of yellow gear. No Blacksmith gear. I’m so glad I could experience the entire gameplay and storyline, and to be able to say indeed Darkness Falls, Heroes Rise. Mission accomplished. Yet so much work to do. Next step: Nightmare Difficulty.

Other than my suggestion to lower the stash costs, this game was worth the wait. Very polished, awesome scenarios, cool random events and game mechanics, and quests. Diablo III is everything Diablo II should have been, now in the flesh, made reality. I love this game, and truly hope to play it often in coop-mode. Big <3 to Jay Wilson, Christian Lichtner, Andrew Chambers, Kevin Martens, Jason Bender, Wyatt Cheng, and the remaining Diablo III Team. I'm amazed by all the information found in-game about the story. Now I understand how important it is for fans to read Diablo III: Book of Cain and Diablo III: The Order. Reading those two books will prepare players to the video game’s storyline, and overall help them understand what’s going on, and who the characters and locations mentioned are.

Big kudos to Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson, James Waugh and the whole Creative Team for their truly epic story. As usual, there’s a cliffhanger. What’s next? As Jay Wilson mentioned throughout these past few years, there will be Diablo III expansions. Who do we fight now? There are some characters in the game whose whereabouts are still unaccounted for.

Update: Because of the ending, the repercussions are palpable, and yet unpredictable. Will the expansion be set several years in the future? Will Sanctuary have to fight in other worlds where the Burning Hells still have foothold? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recommend reading Diablo: The Sin War Box Set (Kindle edition). To read the eBook on your PC/Mac computer or mobile device download the Kindle app.

As a mass market paperback, you can get it here:

Chronologically, Diablo: The Sin War is the earliest event in the Diablo story — about 3,000 years in the past. In this book, the Angiris Council voted against or in favor of humanity. The true origin of Sanctuary and the Worldstone are revealed too. Material that is widely used in the Diablo III quests, in-game books and NPC dialogues. Some important characters that play a role in the book trilogy: Trang’Oul, Rathma, Kalan, Lilith, Mephisto, Tyrael, Imperius, and Uldyssian.

Possible Expansion Characters – Spoilers

  • There are seven lieutenants of Azmodan. We only fight two: Ghom (Lord of Gluttony) and Cydaea (Maiden of Lust).
  • Missing Lieutenants of Belial
  • Adria
  • Zoltan Kulle
  • Inarius
  • Lilith
  • Malthael

Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: The Order

I just finished reading our review copy of Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon, courtesy of Simon & Schuster, Inc. and Gallery Books.

The short review: “I’m totally in love with Diablo III: The Order”. Ok, I have a couple of rants that a few trolls might also point out: Tyrael’s voice never talks to Cain (not even in dreams), and a pivotal moment could have had someone like Archangel Auriel (Hope), Trang’Oul or even a necromancer slipping in into the story to guide Deckard Cain in his most darkest time, but in general this book is a [must-have] to all Diablo III fans.

Curiously, there aren’t really Diablo III single player spoilers; except for maybe the epilogue which ties-in with one of the Acts. Even so, the epilogue happens probably 10-12 years before Diablo III.

While these might be spoilers, I think they might serve as key information to those wondering what the book is about. Don’t worry, these only comprehend about the first 50 pages of the book. You decide whether the topic interests you enough to buy the book, or not.

The prologue starts with Aderes Cain telling the story of Jered Cain and the Horadrim (as they hunt and imprison Diablo and his brothers) to a group of children, including her 11-year-old son: Deckard Cain.

This prologue serves as a foreshadowing or primer to understand Deckard Cain’s regrets for wasting so much of his younger life ignoring the stories and scripts about the Horadrim and the demons.

A young Deckard Cain who grew bored of the stories, angry for the loss of his father to disease, who wanted to pursue adventures and dreams away from Tristram — a place where nothing happened, and where he feared he would spend all his life working at a shop like his father. Typical attitude of a young rebel living in a farm, far away from cities.

After the prologue, sadly we jump forward in time to 1272 (59 years later). Deckard Cain should be around age 70.

It’s been ten years since the defeat of Baal and the destruction of the Worldstone (at the end of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction).

Deckard Cain journeys with the Paladin Akarat to the Vizjerei secret repository to search for scrolls that might give him knowledge about the End Days. Cain faces a demon who talks a mix of truths and lies, knowledge which Cain later uses to his advantage after the demon is swiftly defeated.

Deckard Cain travels to Caldeum to visit Gillian the Barmaid (check out her background at our colleague wikia site). She’s a well-known character from Diablo I (voiced by Glynnis Talken, alias Sarah Kerrigan). Adria left Leah to her care, and Cain wanted to keep tabs on the girl.

There’s a flashback (via Cain’s dreaming) of the events of Diablo I: mentioning Aidan, Gillian, King Leoric and Lachdanan.

Gillian sends Cain to bookseller Kulloom. Among the scripts found by Cain at the Vizjerei secret repository were Zakarum, Bartuc, and Horadrim texts. Kulloom hints at having heard of a Horadrim group. This revelation amazes Cain, who thought he was the last Horadrim, and sets to pursue any hints that may lead him to find them.

Nate Kenyon fleshes out the growing bond that unites Deckard Cain and a very young Leah. It’s touching how Leah changes dramatically her initial rebellious behavior to a caring one for the old man.

There are two main plots: the search for the Horadrim group in Kurast, and the one bound by prophecy.

A monk named Mikulov has read the prophecies of the patriarchs of Yvgorod. He has gathered scrolls from several locations around Sanctuary. Scrolls which have something in common: a time juncture that triggers the upcoming End of Days prophecy: The first day of the month of Ratham, the month of the dead.

On the side of the demons, Belial has powerful servants in Sanctuary with the gift of vision and prophecy. Several paths lead to different futures. Different outcomes. However, it’s intriguing none of them foresaw Mikulov in any of the visions — a monk who has visions of the future, too. He’s a wild card. Unexpected. Mysterious. Undetected in visions of the large tapestry of destiny. Intriguing.

After learning so much about Mikulov, and what he’s capable of doing, after playing Diablo III beta — I’m inclined to create a Monk character as my first Diablo III retail character. Mikulov rocks! It seems it won’t be the last we will see of him. I’m inclined to think we’ll see him in future novels. As Richard A. Knaak’s Zayl the Necromancer, many fans will truly get fond of of Mikulov the Yvgorod monk as one of the heroes of Sanctuary.

The author uses the moments Deckard Cain goes to sleep to give readers a quick intro to the lore of the previous three Diablo games (Diablo I, Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction) via flashbacks tormenting Deckard Cain in his dreams. He sleeps often throughout a span of seven days.

Belial, the Lord of Lies is omnipresent throughout the story without making much of a screen time. There are spies everywhere. Anything or anyone can be the eyes or ears of Belial in subtle ways.

This book sets a pivotal point for readers to understand the Deckard Cain we will see in Diablo III. The book, of course, delves more into his weaknesses, and his personal regrets than the game itself.

Deckard Cain is a man that carries a heavy burden upon his shoulders. He blames himself for the sins of the past. As a young boy, he refused the Horadrim teachings shared down by his mother. He felt them to be mere unfounded stories.

He blames himself for the death of everyone in Tristram, and thinks Aidan wouldn’t have died if he had focused his young years to learn more from the Horadrim scrolls concerning Diablo and the other Prime Evils. However, how much of his self-doubt is his? How much are [lies]?

Diablo III: The Order is a tragic story of great proportions. I have never seen Deckard Cain so powerless, desolated, lonely, desperate, hopeless. Nate Kenyon delivered as a writer in this book revealing to fans (on-your-face) several facets of Deckard Cain we never knew of him, while capturing that essence of him we have grown fond with over a decade in the previous games.

Deckard Cain has reached rock bottom at a delicate juncture. And the sad part is Cain is out of time. The story locomotions toward a spiraling countdown. Each chapter, and each step taken, each day passed leading toward the first day of the month of Ratham.

A day Belial has designated for the death of the 8-year-old Leah, and the rising of the death — an army of the Mage Clans who died in a lost city of Kehjistan.

We’ll learn something new about Deckard Cain’s past. It seeps in slowly throughout the story. In stages.

Three powerful things will be used for the final showdown against Belial’s servants: hope (as their strength), courage, and a Diablo II item long-thought to be lost.

It’s safe to read the book before finishing the Diablo III single player. No spoilers there, except for a hint at the epilogue — at the end of the book, which ties-in directly with one of the Acts.

The book will change everyone’s perception of Deckard Cain. We’ll now see his most intimate thoughts and memories. His weaknesses, and his strengths through the mind-eye of the author: Nate Kenyon.

Is Deckard Cain a failure? A coward? Or a Heroe? Fans will see him like never before on both sides of the spectrum. For a first work in the Diablo universe, Nate Kenyon is welcome among the hall of legends alongside Richard A. Knaak. Hope to see more Diablo novels from both authors. Dark and gritty enough for old Diablo book readers, and informative to new readers who missed previous Diablo video games.

Order Diablo III: The Order (Hardcover) now. Kindle edition can be downloaded here. Don’t have Kindle? Did you know you can read Kindle eBooks on your PC/Mac internet browser? Download the Kindle Reading app.

Share questions for Nate Kenyon at our following forum thread. (One copy of the book will be giveaway)

Description

For more than ten years, Diablo has been one of PC gaming’s iconic and blockbuster franchises, with millions of players experiencing to this day all the adventure and terror in the world of Sanctuary. Now, DIABLO III: THE ORDER (Gallery Books, May 15, 2012; $26.00) will tie-in with the long-awaited release of Blizzard Entertainment’s all-new game, Diablo III. This original novel reveals the untold story of Deckard Cain, one of Diablo’s most popular characters.

Now a much older man, Deckard Cain is on a mission to find the remnants of a rumored Horadric cell, and must call upon all of his knowledge and wit to teach and inspire those around him even as they face danger and death at every turn. Can he lead the return of a ragtag group of Horadrim and their ideals to Sanctuary … or will they die out with Cain himself?

About the Author

Nate Kenyon is the author of StarCraft: Ghost–SPECTRES. He is a Bram Stoker Award finalist and he has had stories published in Shroud Magazine, Permuted Press’s Monstrous Anthology, Horror World, Dead Lines, The Harrow, and Legends of the Mountain State 2, and has several others forthcoming. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers.

Nate Kenyon (Left) and Blizzplanet's Medievaldragon (Right) at New York Comic Con 2011

Characters

  • Deckard Cain
  • Aderes Cain (Deckard’s mother)
  • Gillian (cameo: Diablo II character, Caldeum barmaid, adoptive mother of Leah)
  • Leah (Age 8 )
  • Kulloom (Caldeum bookseller)
  • Belial, Lord of Lies
  • Hyland
  • James (Caldeum blacksmith)
  • Mikulov (Ivgorod Monk)
  • Cyrus (owner of the Red Circle Inn in Lower Kurast)
  • Lord Brand
  • Garreth Rau (scholar, one of the finest bookmakers in Sanctuary, leader of the Horadrim cell)
  • Captain Hanos Jeronnan (cameo – Diablo: Legacy of Blood)
  • Egil (Horadrim member)
  • Lund (Horadrim member)
  • Farris (Horadrim member)
  • Cullen (Horadrim member)
  • Thomas (Horadrim member)
  • Jordan (Horadrim member)
  • Anuk Maahnor (Bartuc’s captain)

Flashback or Mentioned

  • Farnham (lost his daughter to The Butcher)
  • Pepin
  • King Leoric
  • Aidan
  • Lachdanan
  • Albrecht
  • The Butcher
  • Wirt
  • Griswold
  • Asheara (Diablo II character, Caldeum’s Iron Wolves mercenary leader)
  • Trang’Oul
  • Ratham (founder of the priests of Rathma)
  • Bartuc
  • Horazon
  • Amelia (Deckard Cain’s wife, died 35 years earlier)
  • Thomas Abbey (Captain, Khanduras Royal Guard)
  • Archangel Tyrael
  • Kara (Necromancer) — looking back, while this character is only mentioned by Captain Hanos Jeronnan, and never appears in the story, she’s a canon-character from Richard A. Knaak’s Legacy of Blood along with her companion: Norrec. The book doesn’t mention her last name: Kara Nightshadow.
  • Norrec

Locations

  • Tristram (flashbacks)
  • Vizjerei Secret Repository (Bartuc followers’ runes and a closed portal to the Burning Hells)
  • Borderlands
  • Flating Sky Monastery (Ivgorod)
  • Kingsport (mentioned)
  • Lower Kurast
  • Gea Kul
  • Captain’s Table (Gea Kul Inn by Jeronnan)
  • The Black Tower (near the sea, Gea Kul)
  • Al Cut

Bestiary

  • Thresher
  • Sand Wasp
  • Unburied
  • Overseer
  • Fallen One
  • Feeder
  • Scavenger
  • Skeletons
  • Demons
  • Khazra (Goatmen)

Prologue: Memory

  • Prologue: Tristram, 1213

Part One: Gathering Shadows

  • Chapter 1: Ruins of the Vizjerei Secret Repository, The Borderlands, 1272
  • Chapter 2: The Hidden Chamber
  • Chapter 3: The City of Caldeum
  • Chapter 4: Gillian’s Residence, Caldeum
  • Chapter 5: The Black Tower
  • Chapter 6: The Bookseller’s Tale
  • Chapter 7: The Burning
  • Chapter 8: One for the Madhouse

Part Two: Darkness Descending

  • Chapter 9: The Cavern in the Hills
  • Chapter 10: Out of Caldeum
  • Chapter 11: Dreams of Tristram
  • Chapter 12: The Walled Town
  • Chapter 13: Lord Brand’s Manor
  • Chapter 14: A Stranger Comes
  • Chapter 15: The Graveyard
  • Chapter 16: The Hidden Room
  • Chapter 17: The Road to Kurast
  • Chapter 18: Tristram’s End
  • Chapter 19: The Red Circle
  • Chapter 20: The Docks
  • Chapter 21: The Feeder
  • Chapter 22: The Blood of Al Cut

Part Three: The Lord of Lies

  • Chapter 23: The Road to Gea Kul
  • Chapter 24: The Horadric Chambers
  • Chapter 25: The Camp
  • Chapter 26: The First Ones
  • Chapter 27: Lund’s Bow
  • Chapter 28: The Possession
  • Chapter 29: The Warning
  • Chapter 30: Blood Ritual
  • Chapter 31: A Plan Emerges
  • Chapter 32: The Tunnels
  • Chapter 33: Al Cut
  • Chapter 34: The Courtyard
  • Chapter 35: The Ritual Chamber
  • Chapter 36: The Walking Dead of Al Cut
  • Chapter 37: Gea Kul, Resurrected
  • Chapter 38: The Road Ahead

Epilogue

  • The Lord of Lies

Blizzplanet Review: SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset

I have now about 5-6 months experience with the SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset.

I can say “this is the best headset I have ever had”. The first time I unpacked this review copy, I was awed by its design and the box design.

The design is just a complimentary feature for Diablo III fans. This SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset is actually a customized SteelSeries Siberia v2.

It has a 50mm speaker unit surrounded by leather, with XL-sized ear cups which cancel out noise. I have a hard time listening to people talking to me while playing video games because the ear cup does an amazing job at what it was designed to do — giving you that much of an immersion into the video games music, special effects and ambient sounds.

I play Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo III beta, Crysis, and other video games with the Diablo III Headset.

I feel this SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset gives me an extra edge while playing FPS games. The sound is so amazingly crisp and clear, I can hear people walking nearby — allowing me to prepare an ambush. I can more or less determine where other players are by listening the direction in which their shooting sounds come from.

Without the headset I can’t hear nearby movement nor determine the direction where people is shooting from as I do while using the Diablo III headset.

For those using FRAPS, you can record videos using FRAPS while the Diablo III Headset is plugged into the computer, and the sounds can be heard in the uploaded videos.

Bang for your Buck

Alright. The SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset is pricy: $117.78 (approximately). However, every single buck is worth it.

Ever spent $2.99 for a cheapo noname-brand headset from those 99-cents Stores? (guilty)

Ever got one of those $19.99+ Logitech headphones? (guilty)

How long have those lasted? A few months. Let me tell you what’s likely what caused 98% of your headphone’s malfunction. It’s the poor cabling protection.

The cabling is usually thin. As you handle it back and forth the cable bends, and the connection is lost between the jack and the ear cup receiver.

The Diablo III Headset (Siberia v2 D3H) is a diamond for anyone who wants the best sound quality, but the most important thing about this headset is its lifetime.

Cheap headsets usually malfunction within a few months. The secret of the Diablo III Headset (Siberia v2 D3H) is that it shares the same cable material as the Diablo III Mouse. The double-braided nylon cord prevents the internal cable from bending — the natural cause of the death of most other headsets.

The USB jack connector is gold-plated. The only benefits for gold-plated USB connectors is a better contact and that they do not oxidize or corrode, which of course extends the lifetime of the product another notch.

There’s a small box in the cabling that allows the user to adjust the volume of the headset’s sound, and it also has a slide-button to enable or mute the microphone.

The noise cancelling pull-out microphone is located on the left ear cup. You can pull out to use it, or hide it back in when not using it. Ideal for Skype and in-game chat via ventrilo.

Another wonderful feature of this Diablo III Gaming Headset is the length of the cable. The headset has a 1 meter (3 feet) cable, but a 2-meter (6.5 feet) extension cable comes along in the box to attach the headset’s USB connection. In total, you have a cable length of 3 meters (9.5 feet).

I am able to walk around the room to the small refrigerator and back without removing the headset. If you are listening to music, that’s great to be able to multi-task away from the computer.

Illumination Settings

The Diablo III-themed illumination around the back of the ear cups can be programmable.

The illumination intensity has the off, low, medium and high options.

Pulsation can be customized to steady, slow, medium, fast or trigger.

It’s Diablo-III themed, thus the illumination only has a solid red as a color option. No biggies.

Sound Settings

The SteelSeries Engine driver icon sits accessible at all times in the bottom-right of the Windows Vista/7 quick launcher area. Drivers can be found at Steelseries.com/support/downloads

The Diablo III Headset software has an equalizer UI to change the intensity and depth of the sounds. You can create profiles for each game, and assign a specific profile to be triggered by the launch of a game/exe by browsing the game location in your computer.

Box Design

The box has the golden Diablo III logo with a runic-like-embossed texture. The Blizzard logo and SteelSeries logo. Headset specifications and description.

The box is made of strong cardboard, and it’s designed to be opened easily.

The front of the box can actually be opened like a book. The frontal flap is kept closed with a tiny magnet hidden somewhere within the cardboard.

In the interior you can see Tyrael and Imperious artwork, as seen in the Diablo III: Book of Cain.

The text is localized in english, french, german and spanish:

And the Heavens shall tremble. Enhance your senses and prepare to safeguard the mortal realm from the rising powers of the Burning Hells. Hear the world of Sanctuary the way it was intended.

Co-designed with Blizzard Entertainment, the official Diablo III Headset brings players an immersive audio experience through its optimized soundscape, clear microphone communication and an illuminated, Diablo III-themed design. hear your fate. Prepare for victory.

  • Customizable Soundscape: Multiple Diablo III-themed options.

  • Plug-and-Play: In-line controls with USB connection.

  • Long Lasting Comfort: Lightweight suspension design

Cons

I only have one cons. Just one. I am not able to record sound in the Windows Moview Maker’s Narration timeline while the Diablo III Headset is plugged into the USB, and it is not even displayed in the sound source options. I can only see my internal sound card.

Not a big deal if you aren’t into video making. All you need to do is remove the Diablo III headset.

Conclusion

I’m waiting for the price to go down to get a second headset for two family members who would no doubt love this as a gift.

You really need to get the SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset. Best sound quality, best cabling material, great length allows you to walk around the room. Microphone, mic mute and sound adjustment buttons. Long lifetime. Diablo III-themed equalizer UI (via SteelSeries Engine) and product design. It’s awesome. Go. Get. It.

Note: Blizzplanet is giving away one Diablo III Gaming Headset. Check out our Diablo Dialogue web show hosted by The Bearded Gamer to learn how to participate to win one.

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Blizzplanet Review: Diablo III: Book of Cain

Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Gallery

Diablo III: Book of Cain is the official Diablo universe lore source book written by Flint Dille (The Transformers) with the collaborative assistance of Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson and Matt Burns from the Blizzard Entertainment Creative Team.

Blizzplanet got a copy of Diablo III: Book of Cain, courtesy of Insight Editions and its publicity manager, Carlie Demelo. Special thanks to her for the giveaway copies for our visitors.

I’ll begin the review of Diablo III: Book of Cain. Take a seat, and buckle up.

Materials

Insight Editions took very special care of the publishing process, production and appearance aspect of Diablo III: Book of Cain.

When you hold this book on your hand, you will notice the excellent care to details over its materials. The cover has the Diablo skull and all the stylish ornamental embroidery. All the outer-edge of the skull and the ornamental images are embossed. Embossing is made by letterpress machines which raise the level of the image using pressure and heat. The eyes and mouth are debossed causing a recession or hole appearance. You can feel the lines and holes with your fingers making the Diablo skull design sort of 3D, both visually and tactile. The cover treatment is a matte finish with both embossing and debossing.

The red rectangle with the Diablo III: Book of Cain logo is actually not part of the cover itself. It’s a separate removable paper, or belly band, wrapped around the cover flaps. The belly band is loose on the front cover, but it’s firmly held on the back cover.

What’s holding the belly band tight there? An envelope glued on the interior of the back cover, with a sticker in the shape of a candle seal. The candle seal resembles the image shown in page 145, which I’m guessing is the symbol of the Great Families of Xiansai (I might be wrong).

“What’s in this envelope?” — you ask. Within the envelope is a folded poster of the Sanctuary Map. The map itself is a die cut with irregular edges along its border — obviously a real-life old scroll replica.

When you see the side of the book where all the pages are, and pass your finger through its thickness, you will feel a sandy texture on your fingertips. It looks like rugged cardboard to give it a old paper feel of ancient scrolls.

Taking a single page between my fingers, I could see what gave that texture. The edge of each single page has been cut in irregular shapes giving it a feathered appearance. If you slide your finger along the edge of the page you won’t feel the straight line cut of normal pages, it’s a rugged surface. I’m told this is known as deckled edges.

Each page has a yellow-orange 2D texture to resemble papyrus or ancient scroll paper.

Insight Editions wanted this book to delicately resemble a real world replica of the in-game Book of Cain item. I’m completely astonished with the material and printing processes of Diablo III: Book of Cain. This is a book leaking design excellence, as you would always expect from a Blizzard licensed product.

Quick Look Inside

Usually, books have a page with the name of the publisher, the writer and all the credits, the publishing year and copyright notices, and even a introduction message or dedicatory. Blizzard licensed books, in specific, usually have a glossary and/or reference list telling you all the books where determined topics originate from in continuity in the last pages.

Insight Edition went in a different direction.

The first page says: “Take heed, and bear witness to the truths that lie within. For they are the last legacy of the Horadrim.”

There’s no credit page, or copyright notices nor a content list in the initial pages.

You will see the title … Diablo III: Book of Cain in the initial pages; where the only thing written is: “text by Flint Dille” and “Insight Editions”.

After that page comes the letter addressed to Leah by Deckard Cain which she is meant to read after his death. This is the page Insight Editions recently shared in public during the 12 Days of Diablo III: Book of Cain. That was only page one of three. The letter offers more details.

At the end of the book you will see another letter to Leah. Finally, the last page contains the copyright notices and credits.

Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Content List | Gallery

BlizzCon 2008 – Diablo III Hands-On Gameplay Impressions

I am fortunate to be one of the lucky people who played the Diablo III demo showcased at Blizzcon 2008 in Anaheim. Not only was it a pleasure to play it, but left me craving for more. I decided to create a female Wizard. She spawns in the outskirts of the Tristram Woods where Captain Rumford and an armored warrior are piling up a bonfire of corpses. The warrior can be seen transporting the corpses off a wagon and into the bonfire.

Captain Rumford says they are burning the corpses to prevent them from rising as undead. NPCs that have something to say have a black oval with dots hovering above them when you place the cursor over them.  A popup window displays the “introduction” option, feature that remains a constant from Diablo II. However, not only does each NPC talk to you.  Your very own character talks back, interacting with the NPCs.  By saying talk, I mean both: the NPC and your character have voice over actors adding emotion and life to the Action / RPG.

Read below a lengthy preview on various features observed in the Diablo III hands-on demo

I started pressing keys to see what options were available.  Pressing (C) opens the Character window, Inventory (I), Quest (Q), Skill trees (S), and mini-map toogle (N), Game Menu (ESCAPE button)

CHARACTER STATS

At level 5, these were the stats I found on my Wizard character. Hope these stats offer you a better scope of how the Wizard stats and abilities work:

Melee damage: 2-8 |  Spell damage: 12-23 |  Armor: 34

  • 16 Strength – Physical damage bonus: 16%  |  Armor Bonus 26%
  • 28 Dexterity – Crit chance 7.0%  |  Dodge chance: 7.0
  • 18 Vitality – Life: 56 |  Mana Regen: 0.9 sec.
  • 94 Willpower – Spell damage bonus: 52.8%  |  Health globe bonus: 0.0%

In Diablo II, you get points after leveling to spend on these four stats. In Diablo III, thus far, these stats increase automatically. You no longer have control over where these points are spent into. At the bottom of the Character (C) window, you can find a table with two columns displaying the following data:

Physical Offense Defense
1.20 Attacks per second
70% Physical crit chance
150.0% Physical crit damage
0.0% Block amount
6.0% Block chance
34.0 Armor
2.5% Physical damage reduction

At the bottom left of the Character (C) window you will find your character resistances. These can be determined by icons:

Blue snowflake = Frost
Red Flame = Fire
Purple Thunder = Lightning
Green Skull = Poison
Yellow icon = Arcane

INVENTORY

The Inventory window shows a lot of visual information. It has a simple and intuitive UI frame with colorful gradients of orange and dark brown, and stylized symbols that highlight a gothic-like feeling. You can see your character model viewer which allows you to rotate your character. Around the viewer, you have 12 gear slots: helm, medallion, chest, sash, 2 rings, weapon, shield, boots, pants, gloves, and shoulder. Between the weapon and the shield is a strange circle. When clicking it, a new window pops forward. Based on the demo observation and loot, this window with 9 circles resembles the Glyphs window from World of Warcraft. In the case of Diablo 3, these 9 circles are reserved for Runes.  Thus far in the Blizzcon demo, only the Wizard can equip runes. (i.e. certain monsters may randomly drop a minor power rune).

Beneath the character viewer and gear slots can be seen the bag inventory—all in the same window.  There are 30 slots, but only a few are enabled. You can expand to the full 30 slots by adding bags into the bag slots.  On the bottom-right you can see four slots. There is where you drag the bags into. By dropping the bag item into that slot, you increase the amount of slots enabled.  Eventually your goal is to enable all 30 slots.  Each slot is thin and tall, and certain items can stack in the same slot. Doesn’t look like there is a special slot bar for potions, but mini-health potions have been seen, as well as elixir of dexterity and elixir of vitality which may have durations of up to 300 seconds (5 minutes).

RUNES

Not much was revealed about [WIKI]Runes[/WIKI]. [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Witchdoctor[/WIKI] classes don’t have runes enabled in the Blizzcon demo, so it looks like it is something still in the works. In a press panel, [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] revealed these runes will change the visual effects of your character and its spells/abilities. Imagine your lightning spell increasing its glow making it look more powerful and actually increasing your damage output.

MINI-MAP

You may toggle the mini-map by pressing (N).  It is more effective than the old Diablo II map overlay (tab). The mini-map is located on the upper-right corner.  It has no frame like the World of Warcraft circle framed mini-map.  It has an unframed tall rectangular area. By pressing the arrow keys you can move the mini-map in any direction. To reset simply press (N) twice, or escape.

How is this new mini-map more effective?  Diablo II’s overlay map would take the whole screen, and would interfere your line of sight affecting what you could see on-screen.  By placing the overlay map to the upper-right corner, your whole screen is visible for gameplay purposes.  Each [WIKI]NPC[/WIKI] is displayed as a tiny yellow dot. Place your mouse cursor over the yellow dots, and automatically a window pops up above the dot displaying the name of the NPC.  You can see and identify NPCs ahead of you, not yet within visual range. Update: Monsters are not displayed by the mini-map. You will still have the element of surprise. The mini-map helps you locate NPCs that might have a quest for you, or some interaction options to learn some lore.

RARE MONSTERS /  BOSS

In Diablo II, it was hard sometimes to notice a rare [WIKI]monster[/WIKI] among a bunch of mobs. Sometimes you would even get killed before noticing a rare was behind that bunch of mobs. In Diablo III, before the rare monster or boss enters into view, a name tag pops at the top-center with a health bar.  The health bar is divided into a few rectangles.  The health bar / name tag window displays the special attributes of the monster (i.e. a rare named Head of Grief had three attributes beneath its name tag: Vampiric, Froze, Fast.

QUESTS

While exploring the world, you will find NPCs with a yellow exclamation sign floating above their head.  When you accept the [WIKI]quest[/WIKI], the title and objectives are displayed onscreen at the right-center for few seconds, then fades out.  You can access the quest window by pressing (Q). It’s very similar to World of Warcraft.  After walking away from the bonefire of corpses at the Tristram Woods, you enter the Ruins of Tristram. There are a few destroyed buildings. You can see the Physix engine in action when randomly some debris of the ruins crumble down. Placing your mouse cursor over some of the door signs you will find Griswold’s Blacksmith Shop. While exploring, you find a well. It can be highlighted if you place your cursor on.  A quest starts and it is automatically displayed onscreen to the right: Little Girl Lost. Objective: Find a way to free the little girl’s spirit from the old well in Tristram.

When you stand near the well you can hear the girl’s voice over and weeping. She is trapped inside the well. Something funny … some of her quotes resemble that of the girl in the Poltergeist film.  Exploring further into the Tristram ruins you find a female ghost and listen to her voice over which is repeated over and over randomly: Where has gone my girl?  She must be so lonely.  She never goes away without her doll.  She’s lost without it!

Not far from the ghost you will find a chest on the ground. Within lies the doll. Loot it and return to the well. The quest is completed as you return the doll.  The spirit of the girl ascends from within the deep well and thank you. A reward is automatically placed in your inventory.  You will read a message onscreen saying how much XP (experience) you gained, and the name of the looted item. In my case, a Socketed Boots of Brawn (+9 armor, 1 socket, + 2 strength).

Before reaching the Cathedral of Tristram entrance, you will find [WIKI]zombies[/WIKI] kneeled on the ground as if eating from a body. Once you kill them, the body on the ground – tagged Dying Adventurer – automatically highlights a yellow exclamation sign enabling a new quest: The Return of the Skeleton King.

The voice over says something along these lines: “Please … listen to me!  The fire, somehow … it awoke him. The Skeleton King’s evil haunts the cathedral once more.”

Your character’s voice over says: “Skeleton King, huh?  Sounds interesting. Rest easy. I will show him the err of his ways.”

Enter the cathedral. Eventually you will find an NPC with a yellow sign on his head. Take the quest. Guess who the NPC is? If you have played Diablo 1 or have visited DiabloWiki.net the name Lachdanan will ring a bell. He was the loyal friend of King Leoric in Diablo 1.  Lachdanan killed King Leoric, who cursed him on his last dying breath.

SCROLLS & BOOKS

This is probably the most lovely lore source feature for players who decide to immerse themselves into the world of Sanctuary.  Let’s say you enter a dungeon, and find a pedestal. When you highlight the pedestal, by moving your mouse cursor over it and clicking it, you loot the book.  Open your Inventory (I) and click the book or scroll.  A sound clip pops up at the bottom-right of the screen. Underneath the clip are three buttons: play, stop, close. It is a voice over recording telling the story within the book.

For example, in the Cathedral of Tristram, the Journal of King Leoric tells his story during the time Diablo possessed his son Albrecht (Diablo I).

BUTTONS

The three buttons to the right of the main UI correspond to the Left Mouse button, Right Mouse button and an alternate Right button that switches those last two by pressing TAB button.

  • Click the left mouse button to move and attack enemies.
  • Click right mouse button to use the assigned skill
  • Press the alt key to show all dropped items
  • Use the 1-4 keys to activate assigned hot bar skills
  • Right-click on a hot bar, or mouse button slot to assign a new skill.
  • Press TAB or scroll the mouse wheel to swap between right mouse and alternate right mouse skills.

SKELETON KING

The Skeleton King appears at the third level of the Tristram Cathedral. Former King Leoric has a large axe. As told by Jay Wilson in the past, boss events can feel epic without the town portal escape trick or the heal potion spam mechanic. Once the Skeleton King engages in combat, dozens of zombies enter the room to attack you. The boss has an animation that alerts you when he is about to slam his long axe toward you. The idea here is to attack him a few times, and run away before he slams the axe in front of him. It can be avoided. Kill a few mobs for health orbs, and attack the Skeleton King again. Rinse and repeat. I was able to kill King Leoric without dying by doing these steps. Sadly, the Diablo III demo finished after killing this first boss, with a message from Blizzard congratulating me for killing the Skeleton King in this BlizzCon 2008 demo.

THOUGHTS

After playing the demo at Blizzcon, I can only say—hopefully not sounding heretic – that I loved Diablo III, and look forward for the announcement of the remaining two classes. No release date for Diablo III unfortunately, but personally I wish this game was on stores around October 2009. Gameplay mechanics are very similar to Diablo II,  except much better. The graphics are vibrant and colorful, without taking away the epic and dark feel of the previous games. The Physix engine honors the [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] class pretty well, smashing stuff and debris in all directions.

You can click emblems on the walls, that activate a mechanism that drops a candelabrum. If timed correctly, it could smash onto a group of mobs. If you move your character quickly into the area the candelabrum drops on, your character gains daze effect for a few seconds (funny). It would be cool to interact more with objects and traps using the Physix engine to benefit you on bosses and monster encounters. For those who asked me recently if [WIKI]Stashes[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Waypoints[/WIKI] are returning in Diablo III, I asked [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] and the answer is yes.  Waypoints however will play a different function this time around.  Upon death you respawn at the [WIKI]check point[/WIKI].  Check points I observed in the BlizzCon demo happen by the door toward the next catacomb (for example).  Some objects spawn near you at the check point. You need to equip them again.  This means no more running back to your corpse which is surrounded by 15 monsters. Diablo III is enhancing everything that was broken in Diablo II.

Diablo Archive – Diablo: Demonsbane Review

After receiving the Diablo Archive, boasting 752 pages, just recently, I decided to read through it backwards starting with Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (of Garwulf’s Corner fame).

I am sure the Diablo Archive will be a jewel among my Blizzard novels collection. Better to have four Diablo novels on a single tome, than have invididual books all around the place unable to find them at times. There is one thing I disapprove from the Diablo Archive however.  For such a big tome, and quiet heavy in weight, the cover designer Richard Yoo or whoever chose the cover material should have gone for thick cardboard material. This huge archive is no pocket book. It is about two inches thick. The cover material is made of the same material as any other pocket book with the same thin thickness. The result is a jellyfish-effect when you handle the heavy book around. I usually read on my bed. At times when I am uncomfortable, I usually lie on my back and rise the book above me in the air. The weight is almost unbearable after 20 minutes, but the material doesn’t help. Enough with the material rant.

What can be found inside is worth the nuisance. For years, I have heard of Diablo: Demonsbane. A lecture painted in myth. Something I knew existed, but couldn’t reach. It was a few years ago, when I first heard of its existence. It was released on 2000 in ebook format. I have a lot of Warcraft RPG books in ebook format, and even purchased Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor as an ebook.  But for some odd reason I never got around reading Diablo: Demonsbane, even when I craved it more than any other book. Curiosity compels one’s craving. I have never read a review of Demonsbane, or heard what it was about. I just knew it was the first of the Diablo stories ever released.

I reported about the first printing of Diablo: Demonsbane on paper two years ago on July 2, 2006. It was titled Blizzard Legends Vol. 1.  It contained a printed version of three ebooks from each game franchise: Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor (by Chris Metzen), Starcraft: Uprising (by Micky Neilson), and Diablo: Demonsbane (by Robert B. Marks).

However, it is now with the release of Diablo Archive that fans have the opportunity to get this craved story more broadly as it comes bundled along with Diablo: Kingdom of Shadow, Diablo: The Black Road, and Diablo: Legacy of Blood.

Personally, I was expecting something different in Diablo: Demonsbane. More of a dark fantasy meets Lord of the Rings with some fancy Shakesperian old-english language accent. Part of the myth I envisioned for lack of any knowledge of a Demonsbane’s summary.

I started reading on Sunday evening and couldn’t stop reading. It caught my attention. It is a short novella spanning through page 685-738. According to the epilogue, these events take place on year 302 and seem to happen during the Sin War.  Right at the end when I read the epilogue, it made me wonder.  Did Diablo: The Sin War somehow retconned Demonsbane? I have no idea. What I do know is that none of the events of the Sin War trilogy seem to be mentioned in it. Nor did the main character in Demonsbane show up in the Sin War trilogy.

Which book comes first in the timeline is also a mystery to me. One thing does gets mentioned that might help those who have better knowledge of the timeline than me.  Sarnakyle the Kejistan mage of the Spirit Mage Clan mentioned he was among the party of mages that killed Bartuc the Warlord of Blood at Viz-jun two years earlier.

The story is centered around Siggard, a warrior who fought at Blackmarch with the Entsteig’s army. They had fought demons there led by the favored archdemon of the Lord of Terror: Lord Assur. This archdemon has a peculiar glyph of invincibility that makes him feared by the Vizjerei Mage clans. There is however one thing that may kill him, and that would be spoiling it. I did see it coming when I read what could kill him, but was unsure as the requirements for it to happen were not clear at sight, specially with the interaction of Siggard with the other characters.

Ever since the Night of Souls through the events in Brennor, it kept bouncing around my mind why Siggard can’t remember anything about Blackmarch until certain point as if he had magically forgotten. As I was reaching the last pages of the story, it was more evident my suspicions were right, but the idea resulted contradictory. Making me doubt.  Robert B. Marks wrote here a very nice story, and wrapped up with a surprise few could have seen coming. It keeps a fast pace, while adding elements of suspense. I enjoyed the read and don’t regret it. One well-known character appears a couple of times, but heavily weights on the outcome of the story: Tyrael.

I will be reading through the Diablo Archive in upcoming days. One thing I am glad of doing, however, is to have started backwards, reading Diablo: Demonsbane first. It is a pity this story was brought as an ebook and as a short novella. As an ebook, it didn’t get the attention it deserved in 2000. And as a novella, it was too short. The story was worth an entire book of 378 pages. I hope the author writes a continuation of Siggard’s adventures.  Otherwise, I would like to read a new story from him again. Take note Blizzard. Cheers, Robert B. Marks.

Go grab your copy of the Diablo Archive.

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