Blizzard has become an iconic studio thanks to the massive success of its biggest franchises like World of Warcraft and Diablo. The studio has refined genres like the hero shooter and MMO over its time. Still, with the release of Diablo in 1996, the studio pioneered the Action RPG genre and cemented the series as one with the most expansive loot-based endgames. However, interested players may want to know what the series is all about with new titles coming.
Key Info Up Front
Genre: Action RPG
Titles: Diablo, Diablo II, Diablo III, Diablo II Resurrected, Diablo IV, Diablo Immortal
Gameplay: The Diablo series allows players to team up with friends to journey across a fantasy land to slay hordes of enemies as one of the numerous classes that can equip unique gear, unlock skills, and fulfill their role on the battlefield.
Story: The story of Diablo is centered around the titular demon attempting to invade and destroy the world of Sanctuary with legions of demons and monsters that all follow his command.
The Story of Diablo
The first Diablo game introduces players to a world with three planes of existence: the High Heavens, the world of Man, and the Burning Hells. Upon creating the world of man, some of the powerful Lords of Hell, Diablo included, set out to get themselves exiled from the Burning Hells and into the mortal realm. This allowed them to corrupt and influence the mortals to gain more power through their denizens of worshippers. This led the Horadrim, an influential group of magi, to trap the Lords of Hell in three crystals known as Soulstones.
While the Soulstones removed the Lords of Hell from physically being in the world, they could still extend their power beyond them to influence people to carry out their will for them. This allowed Diablo to eventually control archbishop Lazarus to destroy the Soulstone when a town named Tristram was built around the monastery that held it. Then, Diablo possessed Tristam’s rule, King Leoric, and his son Prince Albrect to sow war and chaos across the realm and fill Tristram with monsters.
Diablo then correctly begins with the player arriving in Tristram. At the behest of the locals, the player(s) end up delving into the dungeons beneath the chapel to cleanse it of the demonic presences there and to bring an end to the terrors that haunt the town. The dungeons eventually lead to catacombs and then even to the Burning Hells. Eventually, Archbishop Lazarus is killed, and even Diablo’s mortal form is destroyed, reverting it to a dead Prince Albrect. Diablo is killed by ripping the Soulstone out of his forehead, after which the hero puts it into their forehead to take Diablo’s power for themself. This turns the three player characters in Diablo into NPCs in later entries: Blood Raven, False Summoner, and Prince Aidan.
Diablo II starts shortly after the end of the first game with a new team of adventurers hearing about new evils plaguing the people across the world of Sanctuary. As the group passes through a Rogue Encampment, they hear about an evil being known as the Dark Wanderer. Eventually, the heroes learn of the unnamed warrior responsible for killing Diablo and implanting the Soulstone in themself. They learn that this has allowed Diablo to take control of the warrior, where he is using him to spread demons throughout the world and try to free the Lords of Hell Mephisto and Baal from their Soulstones as well.
The Dark Wanderer can bring Mephisto and Baal out of their Soulstones before revealing himself to be Diablo in human form. The three Lords of Hell then open a portal to the Burning Hells together, just as the heroes arrive to stop them. The heroes slay Mephisto and take his Soulstone before going into Hell themselves. The heroes then go into Hell, where they slay Diablo and use a massive machine known as the Hellforge to destroy both of their Soulstones and prevent their return. However, Baal is still running free and in possession of his Soul Stone.
Baal is the subject of the game’s expansion, Lord of Destruction, which follows Baal’s attempt to corrupt the Worldstone on Mount Arreat. The angel Tyrael sends the heroes to Mount Arreat through a portal to stop him. There, the players have to gain the trust of the xenophobic barbarian tribes that gave Baal access to the Worldstone in exchange for a promise that he would spare their tribe from destruction. To gain access, the heroes defeat the spirits of three legendary Barbarians and then finally face Baal himself. Baal is eventually killed, but not until after he corrupts the Worldstone with the power of Hell, forcing Tyrael to destroy it.
Diablo III picks up twenty years later, when a meteor strikes the cathedral from the first game, causing Deckard Cain, an ally to players throughout the series, to disappear. The player then investigates the crater that was left by the falling star. The star ends up being a person with no memory of who they are or where they came for, other than a vision regarding a sword that shattered as he fell. Once the heroes can repair the sword, the person regains their memories and is revealed to be the mighty angel Tyrael who fell to the mortal world to warn them of the coming forces of Hell.
Hell’s invasion ends up being the most complete and dangerous, with numerous Lords amassing armies and attacking various kingdoms across Sanctuary. The players travel across the land to help repel the demon hordes and defeat the Lords of Hell behind the attacks. Still, it is eventually revealed that Diablo himself has led an army to attack the High Heavens themselves.
The players travel to the High Heavens and can eventually rally the despondent remaining angels. The latter can then push back the army of Hell and destroy Diablo’s physical form yet again. Afterward, Tyrael accepts a position on the ruling body of angels, the Angiris Council. However, he maintains his mortal form to help solidify an alliance between the High Heavens and the world of Man.
In 2014, Diablo III received its first expansion titled Reaper of Souls. After Diablo is defeated yet again and the world is saved, a Black Soulstone that holds the power of all seven Lords of Hell is stolen by Malthael, the former Archangel of Wisdom that disappeared after the corruption of the Worldstone. It is revealed that Malthael is now calling himself the Angel of Death. Tyrael then recruits the players to figure out what Malthael is planning and end it. They discover that Malthael considers humanity a unique breed of demon since they were initially created by an unholy relationship between an angel and a demon. Malthael thus aims to kill all of humanity to end the eternal conflict between the High Heavens and Burning Hells.
Malthael then attacks heaven to keep the angels from interfering with his plans. The heroes are sent to the High Heavens by Tyrael to end the invasion before they try to kill Malthael. However, to kill Malthael, Tyrael says that they have to become one with death. To do this, they break into a soul prison within Malthael’s fortress and merge with the spirit of their ancestors. They then face Malthael, who destroys the Black Soulstone to absorb the power of the seven Lords of Hell. The heroes still claim victory, but the Lords of Hell are released in the process. The expansion then ends with Tyrael wondering whether the heroes will continue to be the savior of humanity and heaven or if their mortal hearts will be corrupted to become the greatest evil yet seen.
While the series has undoubtedly changed with every entry, the core of its gameplay has mainly stayed the same over that time. This has allowed the series to give fans the experience they are looking for from a Diablo title while still modernizing the formula to keep it from feeling outdated. The gameplay of each title centers around players picking from different classes to find the best gear possible and unlock new spells and abilities to deal with more powerful hordes of demons and gigantic bosses.
Every Diablo playthrough begins with selecting your class, and it is the biggest decision one makes in any of the games. It determines your character’s appearance and their gear and playstyle. They are so important that all three of the expansions released for the series have also included new playable classes to help mix things up for players who have mastered the ones available in the base game already.
Classes in Diablo
The first Diablo only launched with three classes, the first being added in its Hellfire expansion. However, the classes were relatively similar, as each only had one unique ability. All of the classes could use the same gear and spells as the other classes, and the majority of the differences between them came in their unique animations and voiceovers.
|Introduced In||Class||Unique Ability|
|Diablo||Warrior||Can repair his items.|
|Rogue||Can disable traps.|
|Sorcerer||He can recharge his staves.|
|Diablo: Hellfire||Monk||Can see hidden details throughout the game.|
Classes in Diablo II
The classes system in Diablo II was then greatly expanded to include seven classes, including the two added through its expansion. Each of these classes was also far more unique than in the previous game. Each class can equip different gear and has three skill trees to level up that unlock different abilities and proficiencies for players to learn and build around. Diablo II also introduced mechanics that allowed players to summon minions to fight for them, a convenient approach that a few classes take advantage of.
|Introduced In||Class||Skill Trees||Minions|
||One at a time|
|Diablo II: Lord of Destruction||Assassin||
||One at a time|
Classes in Diablo III
Diablo III maintained the standard set by Diablo II and eventually had seven classes after the release of Reaper of Souls. However, the progression of the classes was largely changed. Rather than each class having multiple skill trees for players to level up, they each have a linear progression of active and passive skills that are unlocked as the player levels up. These skills can then be swapped out and modified to have different effects or deal different types of damage. This allows players to change their build at any time to experiment or adapt to different environments and enemies. Still, it does place more of a restriction on each class to fill a particular role on the battlefield that they are most proficient at.
|Introduced In||Class||Role Description|
|Diablo III||Barbarian||A tank class specializing in holding onto the attention of enemies and dealing damage to the hordes surrounding him while also soaking up damage.|
|Demon Hunter||He is a stealthy ranged combatant who focuses on setting down traps to cover enemy movements and dealing burst damage to bigger foes with his crossbows.|
|Monk||An unarmed religious warrior can move around the battlefield quickly to exploit enemy weaknesses and avoid taking damage.|
|Witch Doctor||A spiritual caster that summons minions spreads disease, leeches health from enemies, and debuffs foes with various status effects.|
|Wizard||A powerful arcane caster that can manipulate elements and time to put out severe damage to hordes and solo enemies alike.|
|Diablo III: Reaper of Souls||Crusader||A tank class that can also solidly fill a healer role focuses on using shields, flails, and spells to keep the team standing and attract foes from medium to close range.|
|Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer Pack||Necromancer||A summoning class that uses dark arts to raise undead minions will distract enemies and deal damage for them.|
The second most crucial part of any Diablo game is the loot. The gameplay loop of the series is all about loot. Players play through the story and grind endgame content to get their hands on increasingly powerful gear that can have massive impacts on their playstyle in the name of tackling increasingly challenging difficulties and enemies. As such, the loot systems of each game have iterated on what came before it, similarly to the classes, to make it as modern and engaging as possible with each new release.
In the first Diablo, loot can be divided into gold, potions, skill books, and equipment. Gold and potions are rather self-explanatory, while skill books allow players to equip their characters with new spells and abilities and level them up when finding repeat books. Equipment includes all gear that players can put on their character, including weapons, armor, and jewelry. There are regular pieces of equipment that can drop and be used by any class and unique pieces that are much rarer and coveted among players for how powerful their abilities and stats are.
Diablo II Loot
Diablo II expanded this loot system to include more individual gear slots for players to fill and gems, runes, charms, jewels, scrolls, potions, and arrows. The armor players can equip split into body armor, boots, gloves, belts, helms, shields, shrunken heads for necromancers, and pelts for druids. The equipment was also restricted to specific classes, allowing the pieces to cater to different abilities and builds for each class rather than being broad enough to be used by any character. Gems can then be inserted into weapons to upgrade further and personalize their performance. Runes are also inserted into weapons and can even be powerful enough to carry unique abilities with them, while charms are kept in one’s inventory for a persistent buff.
The loot system was also expanded to include more rarities and item quality ratings. They are sorted into Low, Normal, Rune Words, Superior, magic, Rare, Set, and Unique. As an item’s rarity goes up, they are much more powerful, allowing players to advance their characters and eventually tackle exponentially more challenging encounters. The new Set rarity also pairs items together and gives players with multiple items from the same set equipped additional bonuses.
Diablo III Loot
Diablo III simplified the loot system of its predecessor slightly to make it more approachable. Players can still loot potions, gold, gems, and runes from enemies with the new recipes that can be used to craft items and dyes that can change the color of one’s equipment. However, runes are placed in individual skills rather than weapons, with only gems being socketed into weapons to improve them. A player’s gear is divided into amulets, belts, boots, bracers, chest, gloves, helms, pants, off-hand, shoulders, and rings. The quality of the gear is then divided into the quality groups of Inferior, Common, Magic, Rare, Legendary, and Set.
End Game Content
The Diablo series is also famous for the end games of its titles that have kept players engaged for years after the original release of the titles. The games have even been used as templates for other genres that need large endgames, like live service MMOs.
Diablo End Game
While its two successors are well known for their End Game content, the original Diablo does not have one. When players finish the game, they are either able to restart the game with the same character or with a new one. Players can increase the difficulty of their game with the Hellfire expansion or when playing in multiplayer, but there is no defined end game system.
Diablo II End Game
Its base of players primarily defines diablo II’s end game. These have included PvP communities, running the Baal or Uber Diablo bosses on Hell Difficulty, or running through the Pandemonium Event that challenges players with facing three tough bosses to collect unique gear. However, Diablo II also introduced its ranked ladder system, which gave the game a whole new element to its end game. The ladder resets every few months and groups players into clusters known as realms. Then, players would compete with others in their domain to reach the top of the leaderboard by getting the maximum XP possible in the fastest time with a brand new character. The mode also held exclusive high-level gear that dedicated players would want to get their hands on. Once the ladder was done, the character used was moved to a non-ladder save file, meaning they could no longer get that exclusive gear unless they already had it.
Diablo III End Game
Diablo III then sought to expand its end game even further. To do this, the game introduced many more difficulty levels that allowed players to replay the story repeatedly to continuously get higher gear, as well as the new Rifts and Bounties. Bounties unlock after beating the primary campaign and give the player procedurally generated missions in regions of the map that can be completed for new gear and bonuses. Rifts could then be unlocked, and were each randomized dungeon could have various game-altering effects applied to challenge the player. Diablo III also brought back the ladder system but changed the title to seasons and introduced new cosmetic items that could only be unlocked each season.
The Future of Diablo
It has been quite a while since Diablo III was released in 2014, but fans of the series thankfully have two new entries to look forward to. The first is the mobile game Diablo Immortal. While its mobile nature was initially met with derision and hesitation by series fans, press and fans who have gotten access to the game early have given it a lot of praise. Diablo Immortal also seems to be taking an approach more similar to an MMO so that players can invest heavily in one character and continue to get meaningful progression.
Then, there is Diablo IV. Diablo IV has been detailed to be returning to the darker roots of the franchise. This is emulated both in its graphical style that shows the world in a dower and dismal state and through its four announced classes: Barbarian, Sorceress, Rogue, and Druid. Beyond the classes, little is known about how the newest entry will change the series’s gameplay. The developers have already announced that it will see the return of randomized loot and dungeons and the gear system that fans have come to expect. Little is also known about the game’s story, other than that players will be facing off against Lilith, a mighty demon that is the daughter of Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred.
Question: What mythology does Diablo draw from?
Answer: The series primarily draws from the folklore and myths of Jewish mythology and the Christian old testament.
Question: When does Diablo IV come out?
Answer: Blizzard has yet to announce a release date for Diablo IV.
Question: Which Diablo game is best for new players?
Answer: I would recommend starting with Diablo III as it is the most approachable titles. Then, if you like it, the next title you should pick up is Diablo II Resurrected, as it updates the game’s graphics to look more modern while also having a more significant player base and modern internet features.
The Diablo series has largely managed to stay the king of the genre it pioneered many years ago. Competitor series have arisen and found success, but the Diablo name has remained synonymous with the genre. Whether or not the likes of Diablo Immortal will give dedicated fans a new way to enjoy the series, fans at least have Diablo IV to look forward to for a return to its traditional roots.
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