When I first started playing the Diablo series all those years ago, the Diablo and Diablo 2 lore was never something I delved into too much. After writing about the series for 25 years, it’s something I started paying more attention too, especially when pulling together content for the site.
With Diablo 2 Resurrected out next week, there are a lot of players coming to the game for the first time. I know that may seem odd for us old-timers but it’s a fact. There’s a lot to be had from actually following the story, it really brings the world of Sanctuary to life so it’s no surprise Blizzard has created a lore post this evening explaining the Diablo 2 backstory.
With game manuals now a thing of the past, players these days have a lot less to go on and newcomers rely on sites such as PureDiablo to become au-fait with the backstory and game mechanics. This Diablo 2 lore post today should help players get to grips with what’s actually going on in the game’s timeline which of course ties into the Diablo IV timeline and the presence of Lilith. It’s worth a read if you’re coming to Diablo 2 for the first time.
The Eternal Conflict
Since the Beginning, light and darkness engaged in an eternal war called the Eternal Conflict, each vying for the power to hold sway over all creation. On one side of this Conflict were the angels of the High Heavens, warriors led by the Angiris Council of Archangels who believed that only absolute order could govern the realms; on the other, the demonic denizens of the Burning Hells led by the Prime Evils, Diablo, Baal, and Mephisto, who claimed that darkness and chaos were at the center of all things.
Yet, despite the length and sheer magnitude of the battles between these factions, neither could gain dominion over the other for long. The archangel Inarius, exhausted by the endless conflict between the Heavens and Hells, sought to create a peaceful world devoid of the strife that had consumed both realms for so long. To this end, he joined forces with the demoness Lilith, Daughter of Hatred, and gathered renegade angels and demons sympathetic to their cause to create the mortal realm of Sanctuary. Inarius utilized the Worldstone, a powerful artifact that had long been fought over by both factions, to conceal Sanctuary from the prying eyes of Heaven and Hell.
The dissident angels and demons of Sanctuary gave birth to the forebears of humanity: the nephalem. When it was found that the power of these entities could eclipse that of their progenitors, some were concerned that their strength might draw the attention of the High Heavens and Burning Hells. When Inarius left to contemplate this revelation in solitude, Lilith, fearing for the safety of her children, rampaged through Sanctuary and butchered every angel and demon residing in the realm. Inarius was forced to banish her to the Void and tampered with the Worldstone to curtail the power of the nephalem. Each generation grew weaker, their lifespans diminishing over time until they fully transformed into a race of mortals who possessed little knowledge of their forebears.
The Sin War
For a time, mankind led a peaceful existence in Sanctuary; but, as with all good things, such was not to last. The lords of the Burning Hells unearthed the mortal realm that had been hidden from them, enkindling the great Sin War. This struggle saw Inarius pitted against the forces of Hell, each attempting to subtly coerce and manipulate the humans to their respective sides. Both vied for control over mankind, the demons seeking to brandish the mortal denizens of Sanctuary as weapons in the Eternal Conflict, while Inarius sought to keep control of the perfect world he had created.
To influence humanity, the Prime Evils of the Burning Hells founded the Temple of the Triune. This cult was comprised of three branches devoted, unbeknownst to the mortals, to alter egos of the Prime Evils: Mefis, Dialon, and Bala. The Triune slowly and subtly seduced humanity to the side of sin, growing in number as the decades passed and the influence of the Prime Evils went unchecked. In an attempt to offset the Triune’s growing power, Inarius adopted the guise of the “Prophet” and created the Cathedral of Light to preach the tenets of the High Heavens.
The stalemate between light and dark continued in Sanctuary as it had in Heaven and Hell. Both the Triune and the Cathedral of Light spread their respective gospels throughout the lands and amassed swathes of believers until their game of chess was upset by the return of humanity’s First Mother: Lilith.
Lilith weakened the inhibitions put upon the Worldstone by Inarius, allowing the nephalem to regain their former powers. She then manipulated a farmer, Uldyssian ul-Diomed, into weaponizing his reawakened nephalem abilities. Uldyssian led his fellow nephalem in a revolt against the Triune and the Cathedral of Light, further manipulating the Worldstone to amplify the nephalem’s otherworldly powers and drawing the attention of the High Heavens to Sanctuary in doing so. A triplicate war broke out, ending only when Inarius banished Lilith to the Void once more and Uldyssian realized that the unchecked nephalem could spell doom for all of Sanctuary. He sacrificed himself to once more suppress the power of the Worldstone, divesting his fellow nephalem of their regained abilities in the process.
Following Uldyssian’s sacrifice, the Angiris Council and Mephisto convened to decide the fate of Sanctuary. Both sides of the Sin War came to an eventual agreement: in exchange for Inarius’s eternal imprisonment in the Burning Hells by Mephisto, Heaven and Hell would refrain from interfering in the affairs of Sanctuary and would instead allow humanity’s future generations to walk the paths of light or dark of their own unbiased accord. Thus, mankind’s memories of the Sin War and of the demons and angels that had once walked amongst them were erased, and the entire affair faded quietly into history.
The Dark Exile and the Horadrim
The agreement Mephisto had made with the Angiris Council drew the ire of the four Lesser Evils of the Burning Hells, who began to question the authority of the Prime Evils. They believed the three to be unfit to continue the fight against the High Heavens and began an uprising that consumed all of Hell. The Lesser Evils emerged victorious and exiled the Prime Evils to the mortal realm. Mephisto, Diablo, and Baal swept through Sanctuary, ravaging its eastern lands for decades and leaving immense suffering and chaos in their wake. Their presence was eventually noticed by Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice. To combat the Prime Evils, Tyrael formed the Horadrim, a faction of powerful mages who devoted themselves to the destruction of the demon lords. The Horadrim pursued the three throughout Sanctuary, armed with soulstones fashioned out of the Worldstone’s shards by Tyrael that were capable of imprisoning the Prime Evils.
The Horadrim succeeded in capturing two of the three demon lords within the Soulstones and locked them away. After a lengthy pursuit, Jered Cain and his fellow Horadrim sealed the last of the three Evils, Diablo, and hid his soulstone beneath Tristram Cathedral. With the threat of the Prime Evils no longer looming over the land and the duty entrusted to them by Tyrael accomplished, the Horadrim slowly faded away. Once more, the people of Sanctuary knew peace.
The Darkening of Tristram
Years later, a well-liked monarch named Leoric came to Tristram and named the town his seat of power. Unbeknownst to Leoric, the soulstone that had been sealed beneath the Cathedral long ago had become corrupted by Diablo’s power over time. Leoric’s adviser, the Archbishop Lazarus, found himself drawn to the soulstone and the energy emanating from it. Diablo corrupted Lazarus and compelled him to free the demon’s weakened spirit. To manifest himself once more, Diablo sought a mortal body to house his ephemeral soul; he tried, first, to possess Leoric, but was unable to fully dominate him, leaving the King a maddened and senseless husk of his former self.
Diablo turned, then, to Leoric’s son, Prince Albrecht. The demon forced Lazarus to embed the soulstone in Albrecht’s forehead, thereby allowing Diablo to seize control of the Prince’s body. Leoric, driven mad by Diablo’s failed possession, accused the people of Tristram of masterminding his son’s disappearance and began executing those he deemed guilty. Leoric’s knights were forced to slay their king, leaving Tristram with neither ruler nor heir to guide them through the encroaching darkness.
Lazarus took advantage of this uncertainty and united the people of Tristram to rescue Prince Albrecht, luring them into the catacombs beneath the Cathedral. Townsfolk rallied en masse, but the lies of Lazarus led them only to their gruesome deaths at the hands of the monstrous Butcher. Diablo, fed by these sacrifices, grew in power and began summoning demons to terrorize the countryside as he continued to regain his strength in preparation to free his brothers, Baal and Mephisto, from their own prisons.
From the darkness emerged an unlikely hero, one of many drawn to Tristram seeking to put an end to the plague of demons. He delved deep into the labyrinthine bowels of the Cathedral, slaughtering fiends and uncovering Diablo’s nefarious plot before coming face-to-face with the Prime Evil himself. The hero succeeded in besting Diablo but was forced to embed the soulstone within his own forehead to contain the Lord of Terror once more.
Though the hero had prevailed over Diablo, the power of the soulstone overwhelmed him. A broken man who had been hollowed into little more than a vessel for Diablo, the hero took up the mantle of the Dark Wanderer and began journeying eastward.
Thus, in the wake of destruction, does the story of a humble new hero begin: your story. Embark, if you dare, upon a journey into the suffocating darkness of Sanctuary where you’ll unravel the mysteries of the Dark Wanderer and unearth the fates of the Prime Evils. . .