The full story of Diablo: Timeline, lore, and history summarized

Diablo Lore: Diablo 

The first in the Diablo games, is where we are introduced to King Leoric, a reoccuring character/foe in the game series.

King Leoric was responsible for converting the old monastary into a cathedral, which we now know as Tristram Cathedral. Over the centuries, Diablo trapped underneath this cathedral continued to corrupt the soulstone and hatch a plan to escape, but for this he required a human host. As his corruption of the soulstone grew stronger so too did his influence across the surrounded land of Tristram, until he was able to corrupt King Leoric's archbishop Lazurus.

With the intention being to possess King Leoric, Diablo manipulated Lazurus to instruct his king to start a war with the neighboring kingdoms, which made him an unpopular ruler. Ultimately the will of the King proved too strong for Diablo to control, and whilst King Leoric was drove to madness by the corruption, Diablo decided to possess his much weaker son instead. Prince Albrecht found himself lured into the catacombs underneath the cathedral to be used as a vessel for Diablo.

Upon insertion of the soulstone into Albrecht's forehead, he became Diablo who continued to lure people into the cathedral to their slaughter, helped by The Butcher who you will come to know and fear.

The Butcher in Diablo 1

Fresh meat! (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

King Leoric, accusing the townspeople of his sons disappearance, starts executing innocents in his madness. Eventually he is put out of his misery and slain by his own knights. You as the player are summoned to Tristram to control the demon spawns erupting from the cathedral and investigate the cause.

After going 16 levels deep throughout the catacombs, and fighting off the Butcher, you eventually find and kill the games Big Bad, Diablo. Removing the soulstone from Diablo's head reveals the dead body to be that of Prince Albrecht. Then in a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, you plunge that soulstone deep into your own forehead.

We are then left in the dark about what becomes of the player character until the release of Diablo 2, where they are named the 'Dark Wanderer'. More on them later.

Diablo Lore: Diablo 2

The opening cinematic of Diablo 2 is one of Blizzard's finest cut scenes, and I highly recommend you watch it below. 

We are introduced to Marius, a man driven mad by the horrors he has witnessed. Marius recounts to, who we believe is Tyrael, his tale of escaping a demon attack on the Rogue Monastery. After his escape, he meets The Dark Wanderer who is controlling Diablo's soul within his body, and losing the battle. Slaughtering everyone in the tavern, he continues East with Marius in tow.

As the player, you choose your class and fight your way through five acts in total, to clear evil from the surrounding lands, aided and instructed by Deckard Cain, last of the Horadrim and descendent of Jered Cain — one of the founders of the order. It is implied that though you play one character, you are fighting as part of a band of heroes and not alone (trust me this is relevant later.)

During your travels, you fight both Andariel and Duriel, two of the lesser evils we spoke of earlier. During a stay in Lut Gholein you learn that the Dark Wanderer is Diablo and seeking the Tomb of Tal Rasha, however, after fighting your way to the resting place of Baal, you instead find Tyrael in chains. The Dark Wanderer was one step ahead all along and freed Baal with the help of Marius, and now Diablo and Baal are making their way to Kurast to free Mephisto from his soulstone imprisonment. 

Diablo 2 Mephisto boss fight

Mephisto and his gang are a tough fight in Diablo 2 (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

As Diablo was able to corrupt the surrounding lands of Tristam, so too was Mephisto able to corrupt the surrounding grounds of Kurast with his soulstone. The Children of Zakarum, entrusted with protecting his temple prison, are now demonic and overrun the jungle, leaving death in their wake. The High Council have since freed Mephisto, who embedded shards of the soulstone in each of the priests and use the high priest as his vessel. Our player character must defeat and kill all of the priests, and eventually Mephisto himself as he tries to stall our hero from following his brothers through a portal to the Pandemonium Fortress. 

Diablo 2 Resurrected Boss Fight with Diablo

Face off with Diablo in the Chaos Sanctuary in Diablo 2 (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Act 4, the final act of the launch version of Diablo 2, is where our heroes face off with Diablo. Upon entering Pandemonium, the final outpost before Hell, they are tasked with one last side quest from Tyrael.

Tyrael requests that you rescue his lieutenant Izual who has been captured by the minions of Hell and wanders the Plains of Despair. When rescued however Izual is not as grateful as you would expect, and in fact reveals to the player that it was him who helped the Prime Evils all along. He masterminded the Dark Exile and consequent capture of the brothers into the soulstones, having previously taught them how to corrupt the stones and use to their advantage. This is one of the hugest plot twists in the Diablo story, as we learn that the Prime Evils always intended to be captured, and Tyrael and the Horadrim were always just puppets in their long term plans. As they were trapped in the stones they could never truly be destroyed, as their spirits would forever be bound to these shards of the World Stone. 

Mephisto's soulstone is later destroyed within the Hellforge by the only weapon capable of destroying such a powerful artifact, the Hellforge Hammer. The heroes continue on deeper into the Chaos Sanctuary to face off against Diablo, and ultimately succeed.

Later though, concluding his tale, Marius gives Baal's soulstone to Tyrael for safekeeping, only for the Tyrael in the asylum to be revealed as Baal, that darned trickster. The game ends until Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction was released adding and Act 5 and resolution to Baal's story.

Lord of Destruction

Lord of Destruction opened with Baal leading an attack on Mount Arreat, which we know to be the home of the Worldstone. The barbarians that protect the Worldstone are slaughtered, and their fortresses are left in ruins. The final battle for control occurs in Harrogath, where our player is sent to aid the pushback on hell's forces. Baal appears defeated at first but ultimately gains control of the Relic of the Ancients, which allows him access to the Worldstone Chamber.

Upon the Arreat Summit, not having the benefit of the relic, our heroes must undergo the Rite of Passage to enter the chamber and fight the spirits of the Ancient Ones. These Ancient Ones are in fact spirits of the Nephalem, the first generation of humans, and it's here we initially learnt about the Nephalem's powers.

Fighting through the best of Baal's minions, you eventually face Baal for a final showdown in the Worldstone Chamber and take him out (and if you are farming XP, you will do this again and again and again). The battle is far from won though, as Tyrael reveals to you that Baal was successful in corrupting the Worldstone, which now weakens the boundaries between our mortal realm and the Burning Hells. To prevent us from being overrun, Tyrael destroys the Worldstone. Seems smart? 

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Diablo Lore: Diablo 3

Diablo 3 Boss encounter

Fancy seeing you here? (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

The consequences of the destruction of the World Stone, would not come to be known until twenty years later, in Diablo 3. The story in Diablo 3 is rather controversial in the community as being rather rushed and nonsensical, and randomly retconning some previous facts in the lore, so bear with me while we try get through this.

The game begins with a fallen star crashing into the old cathedral near the town of New Tristram (old Tristram now being complete ruins). The player character arrives to investigate the fallen star and meets Leah, the niece of Deckard Cain. Cain has been missing since the collision and she requests the player's help to rescue him.

Together they recover Cain from the cathedral and find that the fallen star is, in fact, an angel, Tyrael. Tyrael has renounced his place in Heaven and become mortal to warn us of a new threat, the Black Soulstone.

The Black Soulstone is a dark version of the Worldstone, created by Zoltun Kulle, a renegade Horadrim who sought to harness the power of both angels and demons. He was killed by his fellow Horadrim before he could finish his work, but his spirit remained in his hidden archives. The Black Soulstone has the ability to trap the souls of the Prime Evils, and the lesser evils. Tyrael reveals that Azmodan Lord of Sin, and Belial Lord of Lies are plotting to use this Black Soulstone to claim the power of their fallen brethren and wage war on Heaven and Sanctuary.

The player character agrees to help Tyrael stop Belial and Azmodan, and travels to various locations across Sanctuary to find clues about the Black Soulstone. Along the way, they encounter allies such as Adria, Leah’s biological mother and a powerful witch; Maghda, a leader of a cult called the Coven that serves Belial; Zoltun Kulle’s spirit; and various other characters from previous Diablo games.

The player character eventually finds and obtains the Black Soulstone with Zoltun Kulle’s help, but he betrays them and tries to take it for himself. He is killed by the player character and Leah. They then confront Belial in Caldeum, where he has been posing as Emperor Hakan II and manipulating the people. They defeat him and trap his soul in the Black Soulstone. They then travel to Mount Arreat, where Azmodan has launched an invasion with his army of demons. They breach his fortress and face him in his lair. They defeat him and trap his soul in the Black Soulstone as well. 

With all seven Prime Evils captured in the Black Soulstone, Tyrael plans to hide it away where no one can find it. However, Adria reveals herself to be a traitor who has been working for Diablo all along. Remember the 'Dark Wanderer' from the previous games? Here it is revealed he fathered a child with Adria whilst possessed with Diablo's soul, oh and he was also the second child of King Leoric, oh and that child he fathered is Leah (I told you this story was bonkers).

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Leah’s body is used as a vessel for Diablo’s soul, Diablo then absorbs all the other Prime Evils’ souls from the Black Soulstone and becomes the Prime Evil, the ultimate incarnation of evil. He then opens a portal to Heaven and begins his assault on the High Heavens.

Diablo 3 could have just knocked? (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The player character follows Diablo to Heaven and fights their way through his minions. They meet Imperius, the Archangel of Valor and leader of the Angiris Council, who blames Tyrael for Diablo’s invasion and refuses to help. They also meet Auriel, the Archangel of Hope and Itherael, the Archangel of Fate. Malthael, the Archangel of Wisdom has gone missing.

They manage to restore hope to Heaven’s defenders and reach Diablo at the Crystal Arch, where he intends to destroy Anu’s remains and end all creation. They engage him in a final battle and manage to defeat him once and for all.

So what exactly were those consequences of the World Stone's destruction? Well for one, as previously mentioned it took a whole group of heroes to succeed in the battle against evil in Diablo 2, but in Diablo 3 you are seemingly an untouchable force who can take on enemies of all size and power completely solo. This is because the World Stone is no longer supressing the innate power of humans, and we can call on our nephalem ancestry once again. For the first time in Diablo 3, we are able to access our full potential again.

Reaper of Souls


The most emo of all the Angels (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The Diablo 3 expansion gave us a fifth Act to the story, and another villian. Maltheal, that Angel of Wisdom who went missing? He returns as the Angel of Death.

Maltheal takes the Black Soulstone, which contains the souls of the Prime Evils, and plans to use it to annihilate all humans, whom he sees as demonic hybrids. During the course of the story he slaughters thousands of innocent people and basically has a 'Hold my beer Thanos' moment where he kills 90% of the population in Westmarch.

Tyrael, who has taken Malthael’s place as the Aspect of Wisdom, sends a Horadrim named Lorath Nahr to find the Nephalem and stop Malthael. The Nephalem goes to Westmarch, a kingdom that is under attack by Malthael’s Reapers. The Nephalem saves the people and joins forces with the local defenders. The Nephalem also meets Adria, the traitorous witch from Diablo 3 base game and reveals that she is his servant.

The Nephalem chases down Adria and slays her, but she tells them that Malthael is in Pandemonium, the realm between Heaven and Hell. The Nephalem pursues Malthael to Pandemonium and discovers that he wants to use the Black Soulstone to destroy the Crystal Arch, the origin of all creation.

We battle through Malthael’s army and face him at the core of the Pandemonium Fortress. We defeat Malthael and break the Black Soulstone, freeing the Prime Evils’ souls back into the world.

Tyrael comes and commends the Nephalem for their courage, but also cautions them that they will have to deal with their own inner darkness someday. Will Nephalem fall prey to corruption? Maybe Diablo 4 will answer this question.

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather. 

  • Samuel Tolbert
    This is utterly fantastic work, Jen.
  • Ron-F
    Really good article! I only played the first one to the end and thus I wasn't aware the story was so deep.