Insight Editions, $35.00, ISBN 978-1-60887-063-9
Diablo III: Book of Cain is meant to be a lead-up to the release of Diablo III, the third installment of the hack-and-slash pseudo-RPG PC game that left an indelible impact on gamers back in the early 2000s. This book contains glimpses into the world of Sanctuary, the history of the events leading up to the destruction of the Worldstone, and a glimpse of the flavor of the third game.
I know, the Diablo franchise isn’t known for its strong story lines. In fact, the lore developed outside of the games – in the tie-in books, mostly – and this book provides a summary of the events in those books. I use the word “summary” because this book contains very brief descriptions of everything and anything. If you are looking for a splatbook, this one isn’t it. This is a coffee table book through and through.
And it’s a very nicely designed one too. The paper is colored to resembled the worn and faded pages of a musty tome. The cover design is tad too cartoony for my liking, but the design of the pages within are appropriately gorgeous in a dark and sinister way, just the way a book containing forbidden heresy should look like. It’s unfortunate that the whole “grimoire of dark secrets” feel is ruined by the use of the jarringly contemporary-looking font for the main blocks of text, but I guess I can’t have everything.
The content, however, is the weakest part of this lovely-looking book. The content is really sparse. This one is written to be a collection of notes and personal missives from Deckard Cain, the Horadrim scholar in the previous two books, to his adopted daughter, Leah. I’d expect the notes from a supposedly wise scholar to be more detailed, but here, Mr Dille just skims the surface of things. There are chapters on the Prime Evils and the angels of the Angiris Council, but they are pretty much Post-It notes. No wonder Leah is on the useless side in the actual game – her adopted father is clearly not as smart as he’d like to imagine he is. I mean, why even allocate space to information about each of the Prime Evils’ kingdoms when Cain is going to sum everything up as “Um… nobody knows much, so yeah, whatever”?
Even the parts about the history of Sanctuary leading up to the events in Diablo III are frustratingly superficial. They are almost all rehash of the events that I know from playing the previous two games. I’d have preferred seeing these events from Cain’s unique point of view, for example, but Cain turns out to be as useless as a historian as he is a scholar. On the bright side, if you haven’t been paying attention to the plot details in Diablo II because you are too busy doing Mephisto runs, you will know now that the Dark Wanderer’s name is Aidan and he is the eldest son of King Leoric, the mad bloke who died shortly before the first game started. Oh, and Aidan had been boinking Adria, the annoying “I sense a soul in search of answers!” witch NPC that charged an arm and leg for potions and spellbooks in the first game. Adria is now retconned into your typical bad-tempered hot witch in sexy robes. Can’t have our manly doomed Aidan being a GILF-chaser after all.
The history of the creation of Sanctuary and the descriptions of the various wars between angels and demons and between the mages are more interesting to me. These are still short, but because I have not read the tie-in books of the series, these parts are something new to read. But these parts also reveal that the people living in Sanctuary are all tragically Stupid Good types that frankly deserve every tentacle shoved up their various body orifices. Oh, so you have found the secret to imprison a Prime Evil that threaten all humanity? What do you do? Write down the information in cryptic coded riddles in books hidden away in some godforsaken place, tell nobody about the information, and then let everyone who knows the information die out from old age. You have finally imprisoned the Prime Evil in a special gem. Of course, the sane thing to do is to not tell anyone else about this, put the gem under ground, build a town over it, and then die off without even leaving a note that says, “Hello, scary Cthulhu-like monster underground, do not release, thanks.” You have finally found a way to vanquish an evil mage who found a way to imprison the souls of demons and angels alike after a long and grueling battle. The natural thing to do after this is to write down in obscure books that this evil mage exists, you have vanquished him, but you are not sharing the methods to do this because your Order’s code wants you to keep everything a secret!
Come on! These are supposed to be learned mages and scholars here who want to safeguard the world from the forces of evil. So why the secrecy? Even if the secrecy dooms the people of future generations into repeating the same mistakes that unleashed the forces of evil in the first place? It’s enough to make me side with the Prime Evils and wish for the destruction of these imbecile fools.
You know what the sad thing is? The idiocy that runs rampant in the lore of Sanctuary is still miles better than the huge, huge, huge ball of idiocy that is the story line in Diablo III. But that’s another story, as this is not a review of the game. But I tell you, the ending of Diablo III is especially horrifying because Tyrael gets to become the Archangel of Wisdom and the boss of the Angiris Council despite behaving like an utter crap-for-brains imbecile in the game.
Anyway, this book will have little appeal to anyone outside of the Diablo fandom – unless they like pretty pictures and they are looking for a $35 paperweight. It doesn’t really add much to the Diablo III experience either, except to warn me that the NPCs in that game are going to be imbeciles that can’t see the obvious. In other words, this is the perfect coffee table book. Look, touch, but think twice before taking it home.