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Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Lore Speculation

by - 11 years ago


The Reaper of Souls has been exploding over Diablo news feeds everywhere. The obvious fact is that this is the Diablo 3 expansion we’ve all been patiently waiting for. Over the next few days I’d like to go a little bit further into the speculation of the players, places and tone of what may be unveiled next weekend at Gamescom.  Lets start with just who is the Reaper of Souls.

Malthael, the Archangel of Wisdom. Angel of Death. Reaper of Souls?

The title, Reaper of Souls, and the tagline “Death, at last, shall spread its wings over all” instantly triggers the image of one individual from Diablo lore, Malthael. Before he was official declared the Archangel of Wisdom he was portrayed as the Archangel of Death in the Sin War trilogy.


Reaper of Souls?

Wielding sickles, cloaked in black and covered in mummy-like wrappings he strikes a very stark contrast to every other angel we’ve seen. Imperius was impressive with his wings of flame, but that still followed the imagery of flowing wisps of energy. Malthael on the other hand has rune covered wrappings as wings in his concept art. Even his voice darkens the souls of mortals with the feeling of death. If the Grim Reaper ever took some vacation time Malthael would have no problems covering his shifts. This guy is the closest thing to death incarnate in the Diablo universe. As an angel though, isn’t he supposed to be a good guy? Well, for a time he was.

Malthael before the Darkening

Before his Darkening

His character was fleshed out in the Book of Cain. This portrayal was more befitting of his station on the Council. He was calm and said to have cherished all life. He quietly contemplated all things, he would weighed on every aspect of an issue and considered things from all points of view. He rarely spoke, but when he did all of Heaven would stop to listen. To further differentiate the Malthael here and the one in the Sin War, the voice of the Aspect of Wisdom was melodious and inspirational to all who heard it.

He spent most of his time in the Pools of Wisdom, a place where wells of pure emotions were found. Here you could look into the pools and see not yourself but the sum of all of the connections in your life. He often would spend years staring into the Chalice of Wisdom, gaining insight into the hidden strings that connect all things in creation. He acted as an anchor that held the Council together because despite any bickering or indecision between its members all would follow Malthael’s command.

But what happened to this gentle, insightful soul? What darkened inside of him to become uncaring and lost?

The loss of the Stone and the Darkening of the Wise.

There is some unknown connection between the artifact known as the Worldstone and Malthael for when it was stolen by Inarius, Malthael began to change. He turned cold and distant. Becoming ever more melancholy and at times even frightening to his fellow angels. Was the Worldstone the source of the visions in Chalice of Wisdom? Were they lost when it was taken?

Once Sanctuary and the Worldstone were found by the forces of Heaven you’d think that he’d begin to become his old self again wouldn’t you? But it seems he didn’t. The life or death of every single being in the world was of no concern to him, “Whatever the choice in the end, it does not matter for me…” A far cry from the being that cherished life. Eons of brooding can do that to you, but was there something else? Could he have seen something involving the nephalem and their connection to creation? To make things worse, just a few hundred years after the rediscovery of the stone one of Malthael’s friends, Tyrael, would destroy the Worldstone. This act seemingly sent him off the deep end.

Destruction of the Stone

Destruction of the Stone

And, at the End of Days, Wisdom shall be lost

Upon learning of it’s destruction Malthael not only left Heaven, he abandoned Heaven completely. Forsaking not only his home but his own kind and left to the Pandemonium Fortress, a place of chaos that exists in the ‘scar’ between Heaven and Hell. Seeking solace in the empty halls of the former home of the Worldstone he’s been lost to outside world for that last twenty years.

What could he have found in those years of wondering and contemplation? I’m thinking he blames Auriel and Itherael for voting to save the nephalem, an act that would set the course of everything that follows; he blames Hell for the plot to corrupt the Worldstone that lead to it’s destruction; he blames the nephalem for being the catalyst of this act and he will of course have a special hatred for Tyrael. It was Tyrael that cast the deciding vote to save the nephalem. It was Tyrael that was duped into giving the lords of hell the soul crystals that corrupted the Worldstone. It was Tyrael that was almost directly responsible for the near destruction of Heaven. It was Tyrael that destroyed the Worldstone.  That’s cause enough for a quest of vengeance. I could easily see Malthael deciding it was time to act and correct the mistakes of the past, to wipe out humanity and Sanctuary.

I think it’s pretty easy to see how they’ve been molding Malthael and his character towards this point. He’s got all the right motivations and even has the look down. Malthael is going to be the big, bad evil guy of this expansion. He is going to be the Reaper of Souls… But will he be alone?

Stay tuned for more speculation in the days to come as we continue to delve deeper into the lore and try to find some answers as we get closer to the announcement at Gamescom.

Part 2 The Usual Suspects

Part 3 Eternities of Conflict

Part 4 Oh, The Places We’ll Go

Not just any lore fan, Neinball is a two time undefeated champion of the Diablo Lore Zone at Blizzcon. He’s so proud of this fact he puts it on his resume.

P.S. Ben, Evelyn if either of you are reading this, I expect a trophy this year.

Whitney Fairchild

Whitney "Neinball" Fairchild has been involved in the Diablo podcasting community since 2011. He focuses on the analyzing game development and the lore & story of the Diablo franchise.

6 responses to “Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Lore Speculation”

  1. Ryan Smith says:

    rune words pls

  2. Simere says:

    Can you think of a better motivation for Malthael than revenge? Vengeance is all played out for me. If they make him the Grim Reaper figure I’d instead hope he’d be more along the lines of the cooler, impartial portrayals such as Death from Supernatural. But a bit more involved.

    • Neinball says:

      Of course vengeance isn’t the only possible motive. He could have gone completely crazy in the last 20 years and the only way he sees of correcting Creation’s course is to kill everything for example.

      I went with vengeance since it’s a common theme Blizzard, and the video game industry in general, uses. It may be a bit over played but it works. It’s easy to understand for the player, reader or watcher. There is a lot that can be done with the vengeance narrative though. Look at the original God of War, quest for vengeance pure and simple until you got to real reason for why Kratos wanted vengeance.

  3. shamito3783 says:

    I advise Blizzard to make that expansion free. Blizzard already lost a shitload ot Diablo- and Blizzard fans with Diablo 3.