I've been watching all the speculation keenly since I got back to my PC after the WWI weekend. Speculating is addictive, and, to be honest, claiming that the final boss will be Arthas might be as possible as anything else we come up with. That said, there is a small amount of evidence that we have to work with, and makes some scenarios appear more likely than others. I thought it'd be worthwhile to sit down - now a week later - and gather what we know, and what we think of it.
The only thing we might claim to know is that Azmodan and Belial will feature prominently, at least initially. This is based on an interview (which I now can't find...) with some Blizzard employee who invited fans to count how many of the seven evils remain.
We also know Deckard Cain will be present, and his rescue will probably serve as some initial quest. (This is from the website and the gameplay video.) The FAQ says, when asked of the story:
This raises the question of whether Cain has been corrupted. However, no-one can say that this is necessarily implied by the statement, since it might just mean some beasties have stolen him away.Originally Posted by FAQ
I should mention that Adria - or maybe her progeny - will probably feature. She's singled out as a resident of Tristram in Cain's Journal on the official site, which is a source of the backstory for newcomers. I have no idea what she might be up to, but I'm quite sure she'll be around.
And what of the Prime Evils? Any Diablo game is expected to culminate in a battle against Big D (or some minor variation) in the end. The expansion is open to many more options, but facing the red guy is almost certainly how the game will climax. However, Big D - and Meph - are in trouble: their soulstones were destroyed. Okay, Big D's might have been destroyed:We know that he (Diablo) was defeated: we did that ourselves. But we didn't smash the stone... Presuming he comes back for a climactic battle, this needs explaining.Originally Posted by Marius
Fortunately, for Blizzard at least, there's the relatively unexplained phenomenon of the Worldstone. In the game, there is a minor indication that the Worldstone holds the worlds (which are presumably the High Heavens, Sanctuary, and the Burning Hells) apart. From the very end of LoD:
The only supernatural being on our side doesn't know what he's doing! It appeared then that a corrupted Worldstone would give Hell an edge, but destroying it would even the playing fields. The indication given in the Sin War Trilogy (which I have not myself read) seems to be that, in addition to holding the worlds apart, the WorldstoneOriginally Posted by Tyrael
- conceals Sanctuary from the warring Heavens and Hells, and
- prevents mankind from evolving again to it's power as a race of demon/angel hybrids.
I won't pass much comment on this, because I've only read this in other threads. It's all consistent. The first point might seem dubious, but I'm under the impression it became moot when Lilith revealed the existence of the third realm created by Inarius, i.e. Sanctuary, to the folks in Hell.
What "barriers between the realms"? Recall Tyrael's speech when you find him in Tal Rasha's tomb at the end of Act II in D2:Those powers. But if the Evils could sew terror, hatred and destruction around Sanctuary without trouble pre-soulstones, why conspire to have them made (as is revealed when you defeat Izual)? This is murky at best. It suits the Horadrim, because then they believe they can imprison the Prime Evils. Why would the Big 3 do it? It seems they might be more powerful when contained, and able to control powerful emissaries: Meph got Sankekur, and conquered the Zakarum; Baal got Tal Rasha, leader (right?) of the Horadrim; and Diablo got himself a powerful adventurer, strong enough to defeat the spirit physically single-handed. They might get an edge over the "barriers between the realms".Originally Posted by Tyrael
Back to the question of fighting Big D in the end if he has no soulstone. It seems that spirits will be able to drift in and out of Sanctuary without facing any detriment to their powers. Not good for us, but good for Blizzard's writers. Just about anything might've happened to the spirits of the Prime Evils, including the possibility - which has had some support in other threads - that the three brothers evolve to some combined corporeal form. This is supported by little more that the three mouths on (what we think is) Big D at the end of the cinematic trailer. It'd be cool, and consistent, so it's a possibility.
So what's been happening in the world? According to Jay Wilson:
It's only our best guesses as to why this invasion didn't happen, and why we're seeing so much of it in the cinematic trailer. (Aside: the armies of Hell may simply have been part of the girl's - Leah? - vision of "what the darkness hides". We don't know that those demons are walking Sanctuary... yet.) There are plenty of reasons for the invasion not to have happened. Maybe Azmodan and Belial are still not getting along enough to mount an offensive. Maybe there's trouble because the Big 3 are re-incarnate. Maybe it's taken time for the strength of the Worldstone to happen. Maybe some angels got involved. Who knows.Originally Posted by Jay Wilson
However, much (most?) of the debate has centred around our white-winged ally of Diablo 2: Tyrael. (The coolest-looking angel ever, IMHO.) So what do we know? Well, he destroyed the Worldstone. We know it from the cinematic at the end of LoD, and it's even reproduced in the cinematic trailer. But what of him?
It is very possible (but, as with all the speculation, very far from certain) that Tyrael arrives in the cathedral riding a meteorite. (His meteor spell must be slvl99 or something.) The chief evidence is because the Blizzard website shows an angel standing in what appears to be the Tristram Cathedral (in the cinematic), since the same candles appear on the right. Let's not get ahead of ourselves: this could be any angel, say Hadriel (remember him?), since it's a safe bet we'll be seeing many more of their kind in D3. Why might it be Tyrael? As a non-fan, the only angel you'd've seen so far is the guy in the cinematic tossing his sword into some rock. (Seems a waste: it's a nice sword.) We just happen to know that's Tyrael, so, without introducing anymore angels just yet, that'd be Tyrael in the cathedral.
Tyrael also has hundreds of reasons to choose from for coming to Earth. He's been intervening more than the Heavens deem appropriate, so they may've tossed him Sanctuary-ward. He might just have disagreement of principles. Maybe he brings a warning. Maybe he's a bit disillusioned by what's happened after he decided to destroy the Worldstone. Again, who really knows. But if we are going to create scenarios where the slvl 99 meteor has brought down Tyrael, we do need some reason.
So finally, there's the most controversial question: has Tyrael been corrupted? This is principally from the Diablo 3 website, which says:
In particular, the "failing luminaries" might include Tyrael, but as with the guy in the cathedral, it could be a new character. There've been claims that the white and red of the logo supports this theory, but I think that's going a bit far. But for a few suspicious circumstances that need explaining and a vague line on the site, it's just an idea. It has a lot of support, because it certainly has the "cool dark twist" appeal. It can be made consistent, but it's honestly about as likely as Tyrael still being clean. Tyrael may well be corrupted during the course of D3, but it remains, like everything else, to be seen...Originally Posted by Diablo 3 Website
Whatever Blizzard do, I'm sure it'll be great, and I hope they don't pay too much attention to fan demands. Each of Blizzard's three franchises is a top-seller and critical success. They know what they're doing, and I hope they just get on and do it.
If you read this far, you either have too much time, or, like me, not enough, but spend it on the wrong things...