Will Diablo be in Diablo 4? There’s no sign yet that the Lord of Terror makes an appearance, but he should
You would think a Diablo game would have to include the franchise’s titular character, but Diablo 4, with its focus on Lilith and Inarius, could be different. We’ve had minimal news about the Lord of Terror in the information released about the game so far. Will Diablo raise his ugly mug in D4, or will the game focus on Lilith’s rampages throughout Sanctuary?
Fair warning, reader: There are some story spoilers ahead. If you prefer to avoid all Diablo 4 spoilers until the game’s release on June 6, might I recommend our entire backlog of weekly cuteness? Or perhaps some Diablo lore.
But for now, let’s dig into the story of Diablo, and what — if any — role he might play in Diablo 4.
A brief history of the Lord of Terror
Diablo — more formally Al’Diabolos, Lord of Terror — is one of the three Prime Evils, the most powerful demon lords of the Burning Hells. Like his siblings, Diablo spawned from one of the seven heads of the dragon Tathamet — the original Prime Evil, cast off from Anu, who sought a state of total purity. He rules over the Realm of Terror in the Burning Hells, which players of Diablo 3 are ported to during their Act 4 fight against the Prime Evil himself.
Players are first introduced to Diablo during Diablo 1, when Archbishop Lazarus releases him from the soulstone hidden in the Tristram Cathedral. Diablo’s original attempts to possess King Leoric failed, leading him to use Leoric’s younger son Albrecht as his vessel — and the one we fight as the game’s final boss. D1 ends with the victorious warrior (Albrecht’s older brother Aidan, Leoric’s heir) slaying Diablo and removing the soulstone fragment from the demon’s forehead, revealing Albrecht’s dead body. Aidan then seats the gem in his own skull in an attempt to contain the Lord of Terror.
Unfortunately, Diablo rapidly begin corrupting him.
Aiden does not linger in Tristram and heads east under the new guise of the Dark Wanderer, seeking a way to truly contain Diablo… but it’s already too late. We spend the bulk of D2 in pursuit of the Dark Wanderer, fighting Diablo as the Act 4 boss at his seat within the Chaos Sanctuary and eventually destroying his soulstone. Without the soulstone trapping him, Diablo returned to the Black Abyss (the Void) and left a bit of his demonic essence in Sanctuary.
Twenty years after his defeat, in Diablo 3, Diablo’s servant Adria has been traveling Sanctuary to collect demonic essences of the slain Great Evils. The player unwittingly helps Adria, obtaining the Black Soulstone as the supposed key to defeating defeating Azmodan and Belial, the last remaining Lords of Hell, and containing the essences of all the Evils in this single, powerful Soulstone. But instead of locking the Evils away, Adria stabs Leah with the now-filled Black Soulstone to rebirth Diablo as the Prime Evil, with the powers of all seven Lords of Hell. We defeat Diablo in the Silver Spire of the High Heavens (and the Realm of Terror, as noted earlier) and return his essence into the Black Soulstone.
Diablo is the main antagonist in all three Diablo games. First as the final boss in Diablo, and then as the Act 4 boss in both Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 (making Diablo the final boss before expansions). The fact that he managed to bounce back does make one wonder — is he our Big Bad in D4?
Will Diablo show up in Diablo 4?
Diablo, from a lore perspective, is available for a fight. Per Blizzard’s official story guide, Malthael’s defeat at the end of Diablo 3 released all of the souls he consumed — including Diablo’s. But was Diablo released back into Sanctuary? The Burning Hells? Or did he return to the Black Abyss?
It may not matter. A small tidbit in a 2020 developer blog talking about the vast world of Sanctuary suggests that Diablo may have opportunity to escape:
Since we have everything from serene ocean cliffsides to the gaping maw of Hell itself, what does that mean for the bestiary?
And the Diablo 4 release date trailer, above, literally takes place in hell, as Inarius confronts Lilith.
So we know there’s a portal to the Burning Hells from Sanctuary… which means it’s possible that the Lord of Terror will step through it. Diablo could be in Sanctuary during Diablo 4... but will he be a major antagonist of the game, as he has been in the last three? Will we have a chance to kill Diablo for good?
Evidence suggests that’s unlikely. While Diablo may play a minor role in the upcoming game, everything we’ve seen so far presents Lilith as the main antagonist. In fact, it’s possible that Lilith defeats Diablo herself.
In Blizzard’s blog post initially unveiling Diablo 4, we see an image of Lilith holding a red demon skull with massive horns. Then the BlizzCon 2019 Art Studio panel featured a drawing of the Lord of Terror himself that looks very similar to the skull Lilith bears. Additionally, previews from the upcoming Book of Lorath include a page on Demonic Relics, referencing three powerful artifacts available on the corpses of the Prime Evils, one of which is the Horn of Diablo. The illustration of the horn shows an uncanny resemblance to Lilith’s prize. This can’t all be coincidence.
But the game’s achievements in the open beta suggests Diablo might not be there — or at least that we won’t be fighting him. There are achievements for killing the game’s “big bads,” including the brand new character Astaroth, the returning Lesser Evil siblings Duriel and Andariel, and the Blessed Mother Lilith herself. Heck, there’s even an achievement for killing the Butcher. Suspiciously missing? Diablo.
So where is all of this going? We know from the Diablo 4 beta that Lilith is pursuing her own agenda, part of which involves retrieving a key from her son Rathma to unlock the Burning Hells. We don’t know why yet, although we see a very demonic army surrounding her in the release date trailer (above). Reopening the Hells could serve two purposes: gathering her army and obtaining a powerful weapon such as the Horns of Diablo. Lorath describes the damage the horns can do thusly: “anyone so injured would be wise to pray the wound is swiftly fatal.”
That might make a fitting end for Lilith’s former consort Inarius, who killed her firstborn in the name of prophecy.
If Lilith is seeking the Horns of Diablo to use as a weapon — against Inarius or not — that could imply that Lilith (or someone else) kills Diablo. That would explain the art showing Lilith with the skull and the lack of an achievement for killing Diablo.
Then again, Lilith’s plans could be something else entirely, and the picture is just that — a picture.
Should Diablo have a role in Diablo 4?
Oh, was that anti-climactic? Sorry.
The game is called Diablo. Not having Diablo in a Diablo game is just confusing. As a sequel, there are specific elements to be expected. The Butcher and Diablo both show up in the first and third titles, with the rest of the Great Evils showing up in Diablo 2. Technically speaking, we don’t see Lilith in any of the previous games, despite her role in creating Sanctuary. She had been trapped in the Void for centuries by the first Diablo game. She was involved in the Diablo 2 Pandemonium Event, but as a manifestation. The player’s real introduction to Lilith in the games is found in the lore books scattered throughout Diablo 3, primarily in Pandemonium Fortress, with mentions in the stories of others throughout the game.
But the game isn’t called Lilith, it’s called Diablo 4. Whether we’re fighting alongside the Daughter of Hatred or against her, I fully expect Diablo to show up along the way in all his terrifying glory, and I look forward to stomping his demonic self back to the Burning Hells again.
What do you think? What should we see, if anything, of Lord of Terror in the next Diablo title? Or will Lilith’s shenanigans keep us fully occupied for the next 8-10 years?
Published June 19, 2020; updated April 17, 2023
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