Diablo IV, out on June 5 for most major platforms, features an assortment of side quests. The loot-hunting RPG has some 213 optional missions, half of which I haven’t seen during my short time with the game. But of the others I’ve played during the open beta in mid-March and the review build earlier in May, there’s one side quest that lives in my head rent-free.
The latest entry in Blizzard’s loot-based role-playing game, Diablo IV tasks you with taking down Lilith, a succubus who has opened Hell’s gates to unleash her demonic army in a quest to establish her dominance over Sanctuary. It’s a pretty meaty narrative about control and generational destinies, but as you uncover the truth of the connection you share with Queen Succubi, you’ll also meet characters desperate for help with their many, varied issues. This can range from the mundane, like collecting herbs to create a potion; to the elaborate, like exorcizing a demon possessing multiple people in the religious capital of Kyovashad. Among these myriad tasks is Unyielding Flesh, a side quest you can pick up relatively early on that has left a lasting impression on me.
Tucked away in the southeast part of the map is Yelesna. It’s a small little settlement, but it’s got just enough—an armor dealer here, a blacksmith there, a stable master over there—to make it a fast-travel location once I’ve activated its central waypoint. Krystyna is among the few intrepid folks still living in the stone-and-wood town that’s sandwiched between hordes of ghouls and goblins and other hellspawn. She’s looking for her husband Feodor, who dipped out with another woman in the dead of night. But she can’t find them, instead asking if I’ll head to the decrepit forest to the east to track the pair down.
As I leave Yelesna, mowing over every trash mob in my path with Krystyna in tow, I eventually come up to the woods, the last location the two were spotted in. After a bit of investigating, I find Feodor suspended by chains, his flesh carved clean off, his breathing labored. Standing in front of his skinless body is Yulia, the mysterious woman who hopes her “sweet Feodor” knows bliss eternal before escaping deeper into the forest. With organs exposed, Feodor tells his wife that he’s witnessed “such pleasure [and] such pain” and rabidly barks for more brutality. Horrified, Krystyna then begs me to hunt Yulia down.
I follow Yulia’s trail a little further east to a pocket of the woods. Surrounded by pools of blood and mounds of decomposed flesh, Yulia says she’s “given only what [Feodor] desired,” explaining that she tore his petty soul asunder by “agony and ecstasy.” Despite catering to his gluttony, his masochism, she can’t use his flesh for whatever ritual she was concocting because it’s “unyielding.” She ain’t done, though, as she transforms into a Hellbound demon to stop me from interfering with her plans. Thus begins a short 1v1 with the mini-boss.
Yulia the Hellbound is hella weak. With my OP Necromancer—and seven skeletons—I kill her in less than 10 seconds. She doesn’t put up much of a fight and I don’t see my character take a single hit of damage during the battle. It’s over as quickly as she transforms. So, I make my way back to Krystyna, who is standing in front of her naked—in more ways than one—husband. Defeated and exasperated, she gives me a reward: A rare Blood-Barbed dagger plunged into Feodor’s chest, the same one Yulia used to deskin his mangled body. Then Krystyna just leaves. No, “Goodbye.” No, “Thank you.” No, “Let’s get you out of here, Feodor.” It’s just me, skinless Feodor, and a bloodied dagger, which happens to be significantly crummier than my rare two-handed scythe.
Unyielding Flesh is a super-short side quest in Diablo IV. It takes all of about five minutes to start and finish. But despite of its brevity, its extreme illustration of sadomasochism, or the giving and receiving of (often sexual) pleasure from acts involving consensual humiliation and/or pain, leaves an image I can’t erase from my head. Even after completing the quest, Feodor is alive, chained up to a couple of trees, gurgling on his blood, squirming for someone to punish him. It’s horrifying, but I can’t look away even though I know I left him there to rot alone. I wish I could’ve saved him. Yet, he probably prefers things just the way they are.
This is the beauty of questing in Diablo IV. The game is chock full of fascinating stories, little narratives that take you off the beaten path to unearth strange happenings and unnerving occurrences within the world of Sanctuary. It’s easy to get lost in the web of tales the game tells, something I’d love to see AI try and do.