Once Upon A Time

    Four years ago I played the greatest RPG in existence. And it spoiled me: ever since I?ve been searching for a storyline of equal depth and magnitude; for characters I could grow to know and love; for a world that would take me to the very boundaries of imagination, and possibly beyond.  So far my efforts have been in vain.

    The game in question was Planescape: Torment. I bought it on a whim, with no preconceptions (or ideas) as to what it might be like. It proved to be beautiful, and I strongly urge anyone who hasn?t done so to give this game a chance. But I digress (as always).

    I?ve enjoyed a number of RPGs since: Baldur?s Gate II, Final Fantasy VIII, and Arcanum to name but a few. Not one was so intelligent, so cleverly crafted as Torment. Sure, the combat was entertaining, but if fighting were my sole interest I?d just play Diablo II. Likewise, if storyline was all I wanted I?d simply read a book.

    Why can?t there be a game that excels at both these aspects? Torment, for all its narrative depth, is merely average when it comes down to fighting. Icewind Dale II has some nice battle sequences, but a dyslexic crackmonkey could?ve thrown together a better plot. Diablo II? well, at least you get to kill stuff.

    Okay, perhaps that?s a bit harsh. The storyline of Diablo II may not be fantastic, but when it comes to background the world of Sanctuary really shines. The Great Wars, the Horadrim, the binding of the Three? there?s some fascinating stuff there.

    In fact, the real problem lies in the game?s lack of interactivity (and is the reason many refuse to call Diablo II an ?RPG?). Blizzard would seem partial to the Final Fantasy approach in this regard: hours upon hours of pointless fighting, interspersed with pretty cinematics and the occasional gathering of NPCs. Ultimately the discerning player doesn?t feel like they?re achieving anything. Naturally this is of no concern to the common player (the one who skips cut scenes and whose only goal is to hit the level cap), but then again, what is? I know that?s condescending, but I wouldn?t be much of an elitist if I pandered to xXx-DeAtHsPiRaL and friends.

    Now for the question nobody asked: do I foresee a greater level of non-combat interactivity becoming a future staple of Blizzard games? The short answer is ?no?, and the long answer is unprintable. But Blizzard have pots of money, so I?ve decided to look at the next best thing: input from established authors. Combining Blizzard?s knack for entertaining combat simulation with a tale written by somebody possessed of actual talent? All signs point to ?success?. Let?s have a gander at what we might come to expect:

    The Uncommon Touch ? If Diablo III were written by an established author

    I?ve compiled a list of some of my favourite writers. I?ve then proceeded to insult them as I offer suggestions as to how they might handle the next installment of our beloved hack?n?slash series. Try not to hate me too much for this:

    Terry Brooks
    Renowned For: the Shannara series; pioneering the now-common fantasy technique of writing the same book over and over.
    Plot Synopsis: You know those soulstones you thought you destroyed way back in Act IV? Turns out your heart wasn?t pure enough, buddy; the stones weren?t completely destroyed. Or maybe you used the wrong hammer, or perhaps the planets weren?t in the proper alignment. Whatever the case, Diablo and Mephisto are back, and only a descendent of the hero of Diablo II (who was, as it turns out, a descendent of the hero from the original Diablo game) can defeat them. Get ready to take your place as one of the Chosen Three-Millions?

    Robert Jordan
    Renowned For: the Wheel of Time series; overuse of the word ?neckline?; not knowing how to finish a story.
    Plot Synopsis: The Three have been defeated, but evil yet remains in the world of Sanctuary. In order to confront the source of all that is vile and unholy, approximately two-dozen unassuming farmers and princesses must undergo various journeys of self-discovery (mostly involving falling in love with one another). Will they defeat the Ultimate Evil before the 15-game contract expires? Probably not.

    Terry Pratchett
    Renowned For: Discworld; generally just being a genius.
    Plot Synopsis: Difficult to say. I?m sure it would be hugely satirical and very, very funny? so long-time fans of the Diablo series would certainly despise it.

    J.R.R. Tolkien
    Renowned For: 3 blockbuster movies; being dead.
    Plot Synopsis: Lord of the Rings without hobbits or Tom Bombadil. Peter Jackson would of course have to ghost-write, so expect more exploding heads and fewer essays on the beauty of wildflowers. In fact, this approach would leave Sanctuary pretty much unchanged.

    I had to stop at this point, as I realized I?d run out of fantasy authors whose books I?d actually read. It really isn?t my favourite genre (I know to admit such is tantamount to nerd blasphemy, but I don?t care. I hate Star Wars too). Still, a tedious, clich?d fantasy tale is by no means the worst we could end up with. I?d hate to see the Diablo series violated by industrial revolutions, laser cannons, or burning legions. I?d hate to see our beloved destroyed through attempts by Blizzard to turn it into something it should never have to be. Diablo is standard medieval fantasy. And when it comes down to it, I guess I love it just the way it is. Better they don?t mess with the formula ? chances are, they?d only end up creating a monster.

    Disclaimer: The Lion’s Toes was written by Leon (Robert McGrath-Kerr) and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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