Monday, May 21, 2012

The biggest Xanatos Gambit ever

After completing Diablo 3 on Normal difficulty yesterday, I have to say, I'm impressed, and I don't know what the haters are going on about. At least those who complain about something else than the online-only component. It did a very good job of ditching what Diablo 2 did wrong, especially how easy it is to screw up your character PERMANENTLY if you don't read a guide online and copy one of a select few builds. Trying out skills you don't intend on really using is a blast, and it's something you couldn't do before.

I will concede that itemization may need some work, since stacking up Vitality and the main stat seems to be the way to go most of the time, especially in Normal, where the more interesting affixes haven't started dropping yet. That, and from what I hear legendary items have too low of a drop rate compared to their usefulness compared to high-end rares and crafted items (I know most legendaries are level 60, but still, I haven't had a single one drop so far). I think people are rather harsh on Blizzard there, internal testing with only a limited amount of people playing past the first third of the first act of the first difficulty will only do so much, and we should be expecting some improvements in future patches. I don't recall D2's launch that well, but I'd be surprised if items were perfect out of the gate (not to mention the masses of crippling bugs we don't have to deal with this time around).

But the thing that really made me go "what the hell?" has to be the storyline. Now, I don't care that much for story in video games, but holy crap is it ridiculous. Not necessarily saying it's bad, but that it's a lot to swallow all at once. As it turns out, the entire trilogy and its backstory was a Xanatos Gambit on Diablo's part, one that would have Hideo Kojima saying, "that's too much". MASSIVE SPOILERS beyond the jump, so don't click if you don't want anything spoiled.

Okay, so Diablo, Mephisto and Baal were banished to Sanctuary after being on the losing end of a civil war that opposed them to Belial and Azmodan. They ravage the world for decades until Tyrael gathers a bunch of mages of all origins and entrusts them the task of containing the Prime Evils within soulstones. Now here's part one of the gambit: if the Three defeat the Horadrim, then all's well and good for them. But if they lose, fortunately they learned how to corrupt the soulstones and bypass its effects from Tyrael's trusted lieutenant turned traitor, so either way they win. And it's what happens: they all get trapped into soulstones and sent to various locations for safekeeping.

This is where Izual's info kicks in. Since Diablo's soulstone, located beneath Tristram, is corrupted, he can get the Archbishop Lazarus (who, according to the Diablo 2 manual, was already exposed to Mephisto's soulstone beforehand) on his side, and attempt possessing King Leoric. Once again, Diablo wins either way: if he succeeds, he's in control of the king of Khanduras (self-explanatory), and if he fails, the ordeal leaves Leoric mad enough that he can then use Lazarus to sacrifice Prince Albrecht to him. Diablo would then possess Albrecht and start rebuilding his power from below the cathedral. You following thus far? Just wait, it's about to get much worse.

At the end of the first game, Diablo gets defeated by Aidan, Leoric's other son and the canonical incarnation of the hero of the first game. He then compels Aidan to jam the soulstone in his forehead in an attempt to wrestle the Evil contained within, much like Tal Rasha did after his battle with Baal. The problem: the Horadrim and Tyrael stuck Tal Rasha in a sealed tomb whose location remained secret until the events of Diablo 2. Aidan, on the other hand, was very much a free man, and Diablo took over almost instantaneously. He spent some time moping in Tristram, then disappeared right before another demonic attack that left the town in ruins. Diablo's plan was to release his brothers so that they could unleash carnage upon humanity once again, which he eventually did... before all three fell to the Diablo 2 heroes.

But guess what? Diablo had already seen that coming, so in the meantime he'd worked on a backup plan that, in the event that he was defeated, would make him even more powerful. Sheesh, how many twists and turns can his plans possibly take? This particular plan was exceptionally long-winded and complicated, but here goes. Diablo has an ally in Tristram, namely Adria. Now the game does a very lousy job of explaining why in the world Adria is allied with Diablo when she happily helped you defeat him in the first game, so I'm going to assume that Adria wanted Diablo to possess Aidan, since he was a much more powerful vessel than Albrecht, and this is why she cooperated like that. Anyway, before leaving, Aidan!Diablo gives Adria a child, that would bear Diablo's essence (Leah). He then instructs her to dump the responsibility of raising said child on Deckard Cain, so that in the event of another defeat, Adria could then go on her own and "mark" the essence of the five Evils that were defeated in Diablo 2, whatever that means.

Then, once Leah came of age and Belial and Azmodan appeared in the mortal realm, Adria would appear out of the blue and manipulate her into reviving Zoltun Kulle so he could finish his Black Soulstone, which could contain multiple demon lords (and even angels) at once. Adria pretends it's for the sake of destroying all seven Evils at once when they're contained within it, but when Belial and Azmodan go down and the roll call is complete, she then double-crosses everyone, uses the Black Soulstone and merges it with Leah, who's the perfect vessel since she's the daughter of Diablo himself. The end result is the most powerful entity ever - all seven Evils within the same body.

Nevermind the fact that Diablo STILL loses, it's still the textbook definition of a Xanatos Gambit, with multiple steps that happen over the course of the trilogy where no matter what happens, Diablo still gains something (until the very end where he's at his most powerful and loses anyway). How's that not on TVTropes yet, exactly?


  1. Did you find it a bit far-fetched that the final fight is a simple one-on-one tussle to the death? If all evils are contained within Diablo, I would find it would make more sense if they had a preceding quest which would somehow weaken Diablo a bit. I find it hard to believe that one person could defeat all seven evils, all by their lonesome.. But that's just me :P