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Diablo is an awesome trinity of dark fantasy dungeon-crawling games from Blizzard. Set in the world of Sanctury, they tell of the ongoing struggles of humanity against the backdrop of the eternal war between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, which has a tendency to spill into the mortal world. All three are some of the best examples of old-school "are you a bad enough dude to fight your way through the dungeon of evil?" hack-slash gaming you'll find outside of the tabletop.
In the beginning, there was the emptiness of creation, inhabited only by Anu, the Spirit of All. In pursuit of true perfection, Anu cast out those aspects of itself that embodied concepts of evil, only for them to become incarnate on their own as a monstrous seven-headed dragon called Tathamet, the Prime Evil. The two spirits fought to the death and ripped each other apart, creating the universe. Most notably, Anu's crystal spine became the firmament around which formed the High Heavens, whilst Tathamet's festering corpse becomes the Burning Hells.
From Anu's spine, now known as the Crystal Arch, were born first five Archangels, representing the Five Virtues of Valor, Justice, Hope, Fate and Wisdom, and then legions of angels.
From Tathamet's corpse, demons arose like monstrous maggots, whilst the dragon-god's decaying heads became mighty arch-demons; the three Prime Evils (Mephisto of Hatred, Baal of Destruction, Diablo of Terror) and the four Lesser Evils (Duriel of Pain, Andariel of Anguish, Azmodan of Sin and Belial of Lies).
Naturally, the two races took one look at each other and instantly wanted to eradicate each other. For untold eons, angels and demons butchered each other in the Eternal Conflict, until a small band of rebels and dissidents grew in the ranks of each side. Led by the angel Inarius and the she-demon Lilith, these dissidents banded together and fled the war, capturing Anu's crystallized eye - the Worldstone - and using it to forge a world in which they could hide from their fellows, a world they called Sanctuary. In time, they interbred, creating a new race of beings called the Nephalem.
Unfortunately, this peace couldn't last forever; Sanctuary was eventually discovered which just gave the angels and demons one more goddamn thing to fight over. To further complicate things it turns out the Nephalem had the potential to be even more stupid powerful than both angels and demons, which scared the shit out Inarius. Inarius and Lilith would have a falling out over what to do with the Nephalem, causing him to boot her off the fucking planet. The Burning Hells first tried to manipulate humanity onto their side, though Inarius noticed this and began to try to also manipulate them back to his side, which led to a stalemate. And then that ho Lilith came back, leading into the exact sort of debacle that generally happens when a bitchy ex-GF returns to haunt you. With all the fireworks the High Heavens now finally took notice, and it became a three-way clusterfuck called the Sin War. Through a convoluted sequence of events involving a Nephalem named Uldyssian, the Worldstone was used to bind their powers reducing them all to mere humans.
With the progenitors destroyed, the angels tried to figure out what to do with their bastard descendants. Humanity would have been destroyed if not for the deciding vote of Tyrael, Archangel of Justice, who had been so moved by Uldyssian's sacrifice that he now believed humanity had capacity to choose good. The angels came to a truce with the demons, and the two agreed to leave Sanctuary to its own devices now that the Nephalem were powerless and had their minds erased. The angels turned back to the main front of their conflict with the demons, humanity were left to find their own way, and the demons never, ever fucking lie...
Fast forward a couple of thousand years and humanity has built up typical fantasy societies, despite frequent attempts by demons to covertly manipulate them causing the occasional war and cultural ruination. Then one day in the Burning Hells, the four Lesser Evils, who were still butthurt over the perceived loss in the Sin War and sick of playing second fiddle to the dominance of the three Prime Evils, cooked up a scheme to banish them to Sanctuary. And it actually fucking worked!...Except that this was planned by Prime Evils in the first place... The Prime Evils were free to actively devastate Sanctuary, unleashing unspeakable evil. The angels took notice, and since he was the one who spared humanity they made Tyrael go fucking fix this. Allied with a group of mystics and sages called the Horadrim, they tracked and defeated the Prime Evils and bound their essence into magical crystal prisons called Soulstones, each a splinter of the Worldstone itself. The three Soulstones were hidden away, buried for generations. Naturally, the Prime Evils want out... which doesn't spell anything good for Sanctuary.
The First Game
The soulstone of Diablo, Lord of Terror, came to rest in a labyrinth hidden beneath the church of a town called Tristram in the land of Khanduras. The corrupt Archbishop Lazarus retrieved the soulstone and unleashed the weakened Prime Evil's essence into King Leoric of Khanduras, driving the king into madness and evil before ultimately abandoning his body to possess and subvert that of Leoric's younger son, Prince Albrecht. Leoric was ultimately slain by Lachdannan, one of his own knights, but too late; Diablo now roamed the labyrinth below Tristram, allowing the hordes of the Burning Hells to begin leaking through and ravage the countryside above. A player takes the role of one of three mighty adventurers who have come to investigate the darkness plaguing Tristram, with a single, simple goal: butcher their way to the dungeon's heart and kill Diablo.
As this was the first game, only three classes were presented as player options. This being early days, they were much less defined then they would be in later games. Though their strengths and weaknesses affected what they could do, theoretically, any class could be pushed into any direction; melee, ranged or magic.
The Warrior is your basic Fighter type. With the highest Strength and Vitality scores in the game, it's a classic tank, excelling at wearing heavy armour and using powerful weapons to crush and slaughter whatever stands in its way. It's the easiest class to play as, given it's your standard "get up close and hit things" character. His unique Skill is Repair, which lets him fix up damaged items at the cost of permanently lowering their maximum durability, allowing them to prolong their usefulness. Canonically, the Warrior is Prince Aidan, elder son of King Leoric.
The Rogue is the only female character, and hails from the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye, an order of female warrior-women that splintered off/descended from the Amazon warriors of the Askari. Consequently, the Rogue plays much like a precursor to the Amazon class in the second game. Rogues have the highest Dexterity in the game, start with a bow and have the unique ability to fire bows faster than either of the other classes. As a result, they're optimised for ranged combat, specializing in shooting demons down from afar and running away from melee fights, though they're better at magic use than the Warror is. Her unique Skill is Trapfinding, allowing a player a chance to avoid those pesky exploding barrels and projectile-launching chests. The canonical name of the Rogue is Moreina.
The Sorcerer is your magic-using class, capable of casting spells faster than any other and with the greatest Magic score in the game. The Sorcerer is the frailest character in the game, with the lowest Vitality score, but his powerful spells make up for it quite amply. It does make lower levels much trickier, as he will spend a lot of gold of health and mana potions to keep himself going. His unique skill is Recharge Staves, which allows him to re-imbue magic into staves so he can keep casting spells from them, though like the Warrior's Repair skill this does permanently lower the amount of magic a staff can store, until it becomes useless. The Sorcerer hails from the Vizjeri mage clan, the most infamous clan due to its long association with dark magics - they were the first mage clan to ever try and magically control demons. The canonical name of the Sorcerer is Jazreth.
In late 1997 there was also a very little known expansion for the first game, Diablo: Hellfire. The game was actually made by Sierra On-Line, and not Blizzard, so it is a curious offering to say in the least, and definitely not canon. It still takes place in Tristam; awful lot of evil for such a small town.
Hellfire implemented two new dungeons. One, the Festering Nests, is a slimy and oozing living nest of insectoid creatures, and the other is the Demon Crypts, am eerily beautiful demonic tomb that is the place where a great demon was sealed away. New spells and spellbooks, including the super quality of life spell Search (which would highlight items on the ground), new quests, new loot. And a new class: the Monk, who could perform sweeping attacks when armed with a staff. (And by editing the game's command text files you could discover two other classes, a raging but magically inept Barbarian and a two-weapon fighting jack-of-all-trades Bard). It also had a crude way to trade items between a single player's characters, the Cornerstone of the Worlds, where if you dropped an item on that one specific tile, it could be picked up by another character that went to that one specific tile.
The Second Game
Although Diablo was slain beneath Tristram, it wasn't without cost. Prince Aidan thrust Diablo's soulstone into his body in an attempt to contain the Lord of Terror, but was ultimately consumed from within; as the demon-summoning Dark Wanderer, he sets off to recover the soulstones of the other Prime Evils, allowing them to be free to crush Sanctuary and then return to the Burning Hells. Neither of the other adventurers from Tristram fared any better; Moreina was slain by the Lesser Evil Andarial, Maiden of Anguish, and resurrected as a demonic undead creature called Blood Raven, whilst Jazreth lost his mind and became a demon-binding mystic called the Summoner.
The player takes the role of one of the five classes, attempting to catch up to the Dark Wanderer and stop his evil plans, with designs of ultimately slaying Diablo and Mephisto alike by invading the Burning Hells and shattering their soulstones upon a mystical anvil. They succeed, but Baal remains free... until the expansion pack, Lord of Destruction, was released, which adds two new classes (who can fight through the entire game) and revolves around traveling to Mount Arreat to stop Baal before he can take possession of the Worldstone.
Wizards of the Coast liked this game so much that they did up a splatbook to play in the Diablo world using Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules, the now-obscure but pretty faithful Diablo II: Diablerie. Sadly, it came out before Lord of Destruction, so it only features the base Diablo II classes. Still, they work fairly well under the 3rd Edition rules, and manage to be surprisingly faithful to the actual game.
Diablo II Classes
Diablo II set new ground for the series by coming up with a new mechanic; skill trees. Each class has three unique sets of special talents that it can develop as it gains levels, making them far more flexible, whilst still having a coherent structure that made it easier to build around than the original game's Warrior/Rogue/Sorcerer trinity.
The Amazon hails from the warrior-caste of the matriarchal jungle culture of the Askari. As mentioned above, she builds on the talents of the Rogue and is a primarily ranged-focused fighter. Her skill trees are Bow & Crossbow (trick shots like fiery arrows, freezing arrows, homing arrows, etc), Passive & Magic (basic buffs like increased chance of criticals and spell-like effects like illusionary doubles to draw aggro), and Javelin & Spear (melee attacks and special projectiles).
The Assassin is a female warrior from the Viz-Jaq'tar, a martial order of elite wizard-killers specifically founded and trained by the Vizjerei Mage Clan in order to police the Mage Clans and ensure that they never fall into demonic corruption again. They favor claw weapons, wielding esoteric martial arts and deploying lethal enchanted traps in their duties. An assassin is a quick-moving, quick-hitting character that favors hit-and-run tactics. Her Martial Arts skill tree increases her lethality in melee, whilst Shadow Disciplines enhance her abilities to escape from danger and Traps, of course, allows her to leave all kinds of nasty surprises for anyone trying to follow her. They're one of the two classes added by the Lord of Destruction expansion pack.
The Barbarian hails from the lands surrounding Mount Arreat, where tribes of these savage warriors have defended the Worldstone for countless generations. One of the two melee-focused classes, alongside the Paladin, the Barbarian is a killing machine, plowing into the ranks of the enemy and leaving only piles of corpses in his wake. So not too dissimilar from Dungeons & Dragons, then. His skill trees are all straight-forward; Combat covers special attacks like Bash, Combat Masteries is an array of permanent passive buffs, and Battlecries act to temporarily buff the Barbarian and allies and debuff enemies.
The Druid hails from the lands of Scosglen (yes, we winced too) and is a distant cousin to the Barbarian, historically and culturally. Although magic users, the druids stand apart from the Mage Clans, forsaking the use of sorcery in favor of their own brand of nature-magic. They're pretty close to their Dungeons & Dragons cousins, being capable melee fighters, potent spellcasters and skilled summoners all at once. Their Elemental skill tree covers basic attack spells, like Firestorm and Tornado. Their Shapeshifting skill tree lets them turn into a werewolf or werebear and beefs up their skills in said forms. Their Summoning skill tree lets them call animals, killer plants and even nature spirits to fight alongside them. They're one of the two classes added by the Lord of Destruction expansion pack.
The Necromancer is not what you'd expect in a game like this. The Necromancers of Sanctuary are actually Mage-Priests dedicated to honoring and upholding the Balance, a mystical philosophy developed by their founder, Rathma, and embodied in the dracolich pseudo-deity Trag'Oul, which emphasizes the importance of equilibrium between life and death, as well as light and dark. Consequently, necromancers stand opposed to angels and demons alike, judging both to be dangerous to the existence of humanity and Sanctuary as a whole. Given everything angels have done in this setting, they have their heads screwed on right. The Priest of Rathma is akin to the Sorceress in being a caster class, but is a minion-master in contrast to the Sorceress' "blow shit up" focus. His skill trees consist of Summoning (minion-making), Bone & Poison (offensive and defensive spells) and Curses (debuffs).
The Paladin is a worshiper of the Zakarum church, a holy warrior who has managed to avoid succumbing to the rot that has eaten his religion out from the inside over centuries of guarding the soulstone of Mephisto, Lord of Hatred. A melee-focused class, the Paladin is a classic tank, specializing more in soaking up damage than in brutally hewing through enemies. Its magic manifests mostly in the forms of holy auras, both Offensive and Defensive - this means Paladins excel when they can fight in groups, as they naturally buff the rest of the party. Their Combat Skills tree covers various holy magic spells and attacks, such as their iconic Holy Bolt and Smite powers.
The Sorceress follows in the wake of the Sorcerer from the first game. Hailing from the Zann Esu clan, an Amazon Mage Clan (but not the same as the Askari people) dedicated to the mastery of elemental arcana, she specializes in blasting the hell out of enemies with Fire, Ice and/or Lightning magic.
The Third Game
Baal, Lord of Destruction, was destroyed, but so was the Worldstone to save it from his corruption. Now, two decades later, a falling star is seen as a grim omen. Striking the old Tristram cathedral and causing the dead to rise, it heralds the last coming of the last remaining Lesser Evils, Azmodan and Belial, who are marshaling their forces to crush Sanctuary once more in their quest to find an ancient relic: the Black Soulstone. A new brand of heroes must arise, fighting all the way to the High Heavens themselves, where they face the ultimate foe; the Prime Evil, the collective manifestation of all Seven Evils, reborn into a strangely creepy-sexy feminine form.
It built upon efforts from Diablo II, attempting to improve them. For the first time, you could choose the gender of your PC, instead of having it determined by your class. You also get three unique followers, allowing you to make your own adventuring party, rather than the generic mercenary hirelings of the previous game.
Like with D2, it got an expansion pack. Called Reaper of Souls, it revolves around Maltheal, Archangel of Wisdom, being corrupted into the Archangel of Death and attempting to wipe out humanity, proving once and for all that even the angels are no better than the demons in this world.
The game got large amounts of flak from players (including Blizzard fans) for how many of the elements that made Diablo II great were cut out and many of the systems simplified or dumbed-down. You can no longer chose which of your primary stats to add to, they just automatically go up when you level, there's nothing like stat requirements on gear anymore (like needing Strength to wear heavy armor or wield giant two-handed weapons), and you can change out skills and abilities nearly on the fly (as long as you aren't in combat). No wonder, since Diablo III was made by the same people behind World of Warcraft, and they wanted to keep it simple so they could port it to consoles later. The game also launched with the promises of both a gold and a cash auction house where players could buy and sell items they acquire to other players. This was met with mixed emotions. Although the idea of being able to actually make IRL dosh just from playing the game seemed appealing, the drop rates of good items that people would actually want to buy was abysmally low, however some entrepreneurial sorts did manage minor financial success. However, the auction house was eventually scrapped, which lead to much rejoicing as it allowed for the loot drop system to receive a major overhaul with increased drop rates and smart loot better tailored to the class you are playing. Still, with the simplified interface and removal of almost all RPG elements Diablo III is the least Diablo-ish game in the series and soured many fans of the series.
Diablo III Classes
The classes in Diablo III have a very different setup for their skill trees than those in Diablo II. They also have more fleshed characterization since they talk a lot more, contrasting in D2 where they only spoke a few times in the whole game.
The Barbarian is a survivor from the now-scattered tribes that once guarded Mount Arreat. Whereas many have fallen into despair and have forsaken their traditions, he or she still clings to them. The Barbarian is still a brutal killing machine, retaining many of its skills from the last game and specializing in getting into the fray quickly and chopping down whatever stands in its way.
The Crusader is an heir, thematically and in-universe, to the fallen Paladins of Zakarum. A tank's tank, capable of dual-wielding greatweapons or carrying a greatweapon and a shield, it's a heavily armored juggernaut that takes a beating and shrugs it off, all while bolstering itself and smiting foes with holy magic. It was added to the game with Reaper of Souls.
The Demon Hunter is a scarred vigilante who burns with one goal; the extermination of all minions of the Burning Hells. Mechanically, it owes its lineage to both the the Amazon, and Assassin of the last game, with a focus on ranged combat, traps and evasion.
The Monk hails from Ivgorod, Land of 1,000 Gods, which is sort of Russia meets India. Devoted to mystical martial arts, it proves quite adept at beating evil to death with its bare hands. Mechanically, it owes its lineage to the Assassin, specializing in agility and quick strikes.
The Necromancer makes a return as a DLC character requiring Reaper of Souls to play. Gibe moni plos. They still can raise squads of skellies and golems, use corpses and bones to power different abilities and debilitate foes with curses.
The Witch Doctor is a member of the jungle-dwelling Umbaru tribes, using its connection to the spirit world to cleanse the land of evil. It shares thematic ties with the Necromancer and the Druid, being a non-member of the Mage Clans, but is closer to the Necromancer in terms of mechanics, with a focus on creepy zombie and fetish summons and poisonous damage over time.
The Wizard is a voluntary outcast from the Mage Clans of Xiansai, forsaking the traditional methods of sorcery for more potent and dangerous spells, allowing it to wield raw arcane force and to control space and time. As you'd expect, it is heir to the throne of Blowsshitupistan, inherited from the Sorcerer and Sorceress.
A FUCKING PHONE GAME
With four years having passed since the release of Reaper of Souls with only a trickle of additional content released over the years -besides shit like finally porting a six-year old game to a Nintendo console- fans of the series craved something to look forward to. But, having learned nothing from what seemed like Activision-Blizzard's deliberate intent to run D3 with a skeleton crew in favor of games that provided more constant cash influx from micro-transactions, even those fans were flabbergasted by the lengths of Blizzard's stunning incompetence. At their own convention Blizzard announced the next entry in the franchise: Diablo Immortal! A FUCKING MOBILE GAME!
Set in the more immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Worldstone at the conclusion of Lord of Destruction, Immortal will likely serve to bridge the gap between the events of Diablo II and III. Shards of the shattered Worldstone have become a hot commodity across a ravaged Sanctuary and a powerful demon named Skarn seeks to gather as much of the corrupted shards as possible to use them to return the defeated Prime Evils to prominence. Classes revealed thus far are the Barbarian, Crusader, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer and Wizard.
Fan reaction was over-overwhelmingly negative out the gate. With most vidyagaymers being inherently distrustful of mobile games, it certainly did not help that this game would not even be developed in-house! Instead, this game would be developed and run by a Chinese company whose only other games were the typical micro-transaction schlock expected from the Chinese. Accusations were leveled that the game was just a re-skin of a different mobile game, and Blizzard's hamfisted attempts at damage control through media and social media (including deleting tons of thousands of negative comments and hundreds of thousands of downvotes on their video) only made shit worse. Blizzard employees were roundly booed at a Q&A when they announced no plans for PC, deriding the audience by asking "do you guys not have phones?" With fans and gamers once more being insulted and divided into camps, the future looks dark for Diablo with nothing but desperate rumors of a Diablo 4 in early production to keep the meager and weakening flames of hope alive.