With the much anticipated release of Diablo III, it's the ideal time to catch up on the storyline that's led us to this grand finale of the memorable trilogy. For many, it'll be their first experience of the series given the time that's lapsed between installments and, while gameplay will be intuitive, it's going to be useful to understand the background behind such games without having to play through the previous two games and expansions packs.
The timeline behind the trilogy is a convoluted tale full of intrigue and lore that could cover hundreds of pages of information. Indeed it has, thanks to the many novelizations of the series. While we can't quite go into that level of depth here, we can provide a perfect introduction to the main storyline to ensure that new and lapsed players can catch up with exactly what's going on.
It feels like a life time ago since the original Diablo was released. The Olympics were in Atlanta and Bill Clinton was still President. Gamers didn't care about anything like that though. They were too busy discovering the world of Sanctuary for the first time.
Sanctuary is the setting for all of the Diablo games. In the original adventure, players took the role of a lone and unnamed warrior who sets out to defeat the Lord of Terror, Diablo, but there's plenty of backstory involved before the events that players can affect.
Diablo was one of the Prime Evils of the world, alongside Mephisto, Lord of Hatred and Baal, Lord of Destruction. The Lords were captured by the Horadrim, originally created by the Archangel Tyrael in order to prevent these lords of the Burning Hells from taking over the world. Things get even more complex due to the battle between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells that forms the basis of this classic conflict of good versus evil and in turn created the world of Sanctuary.
Long before the adventures of the unnamed hero, Sanctuary was created through the union of an Archangel from the High Heavens, Inarius, and a Prime Evil, Lillith. Falling in love, there was an union of demon and angel for a brief time. Inarius, having the foresight to see it would never last, created Sanctuary as well as a huge crystal known as the Worldstone, which would protect the world from the threat of the High Heavens and Burning Hells. This proved wise as the union of angels and demons led to incredibly powerful and dangerous creatures known as Nephalem. Much conflict ensued amongst Inarius, Lillith and their minions which eventually led to the Prime Evil Lords being thrust into the human world of Sanctuary. Fortunately, the creation of the Horadrim, a brotherhood of Magi, by Archangel Tyrael, trapped the three Lords into soulstones before burying each of them in different locations.
The events of the first Diablo game are set into motion due to the disruption of Diablo's burial plot, previously underneath a monastery. Long forgotten, the town of Tristram is established next to it and the monastery destroyed in favor of a cathedral for the highly religious king Leoric. Diablo was then able to use his powers to control the archbishop Lazarus in order to make the man destroy the soulstone and unleash Diablo's true power. Possessing Leoric and his son in order to spread chaos and destruction throughout the realm, it's left to the unnamed hero to save the town and trap Diablo once more in a soulstone.
Unfortunately for the hero, things don't quite go according to plan. In his efforts to contain the Lord of Terror, and as the conclusion to the first game, he forces the soulstone into his own skull to trap Diablo once and for all. This leads to the shock ending of the hero being possessed by evil, thus forming the basis for the second game.
Once back in control of a human, Diablo uses this power to set out and track down his demonic brothers, Mephisto and Baal in order to wreak havoc on Sanctuary. Storytelling switches to a narrator's perspective as they explain to a group of adventurers, who stumble across the chaos, just what's happening. By doing so, they venture out to stop the destruction and pursue the Dark Wanderer, previously known as the hero of the first Diablo game.
Much of Diablo II is focused on tracking down Mephisto and Diablo, alongside weaker demons, Andariel and Duriel. Adding to the lore, it's explained that Diablo is able to release his Prime Evil brothers from their soulstones, through being taught the corruption process by a fallen angel, Izual. It's also revealed that there are seven Greater Evils, comprising of the three Prime Evils and four Lesser Evils, of which Andariel and Duriel, form the basis of. Not all seven feature in Diablo II or its expansion pack, Lord of Destruction, with the noticeable absence of Belial, the Lord of Lies, and Azmodan, the Lord of Sin, set to feature in Diablo III.
Diablo II ends with the defeat of Mephisto and Diablo and the destruction of their Soulstones, ensuring they can't return from the Burning Hells. Baal, however, is unharmed and uses his powers to coerce Marius into handing over the last soulstone. Thus an epic battle ensues, leading into Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, as Baal seeks out the Worldstone in order to conquer the mortal realm and eventually defeat the High Heavens.
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction follows Baal's efforts to destroy Harrogath and the Barbarians who defend the Worldstone there. The player takes the role of someone attempting to gain the trust of the fighters, while also uncovering corruption. It's revealed that one of Harrogath's Elders, Nihlathak, has co-opted with Baal, sacrificing access to the Worldstone Keep and its contents, in order to save Harrogath. Such betrayal leads to his death at the player's hands, and a huge final battle in the Worldstone Keep. The story ends with Archbishop Tyrael destroying the Worldstone due to its corruption by Baal and the risk of invasion from The Burning Hells.
We pick things up 20 years after the conclusion of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, with an air of suspicion as to why The Burning Hells haven't invaded. It's promised that Lesser Evil, Belial, and Prime Evil, Diablo, will return, despite the latter's earlier death. Sanctuary will be under threat once more with both new and old settings and NPCs to entice players.