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Diablo 3 for WoW Players Part 3: Diablo 2 Lore

May 11, 2012
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Welcome to Part 3 of my multi-part series explaining the lore of Diablo to WoW players.

  • Part 1 gave a synopsis of Diablo lore prior to the events of the original Diablo game, as well as a brief discussion of some of the similarities between the lore of Diablo and the lore of Warcraft.
  • Part 2 gave a synopsis of the lore of the first Diablo game and discussed more similarities between Diablo and WoW.
  • This installment will cover the lore of Diablo 2, bringing us up to date and ready for Diablo 3.
  • Future installments will cover the Diablo 3 class system and basic gameplay.

Fun fact: Did you know that if you type the word Diablo often enough it starts to look like you’re spelling it wrong?

Part 3: The Lore of Diablo 2

As I said in the previous posts, I’m not an expert on Diablo lore.  However, I’m on firmer ground with D2 because I’ve played through it.  Additional information was taken from the Diablo wiki.

A lot happens in D2, but I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.

SPOILER ALERT!  If you intend to read the books or play the earlier games and you don’t want the story to be spoiled for you, do not read anything below the cut.


Act 1: The Sightless Eye

Aidan, hero of Tristram, was greatly tormented.  He set out into the east, driven by the dark force within him.  Those who encountered him began referring to him as the Dark Wanderer.

Soon, the Dark Wanderer arrived at the Rogue Monastery, home of the Sisters of the Sightless Eye and guardians of the pass to the east.  In response to the Wanderer’s presence, the Lesser Evil Andariel appeared.  Andariel had been part of the rebellion against the Prime Evils, but she had gained little from her treachery as it was Azmodan who had risen to rule the Burning Hells.  Andariel was willing to assist Diablo’s return to power in the hope that he would reward her.

Andariel drove the Sisters and townsfolk from the monastery, killing many of them.  She then took up residence there, preventing anyone from following the Dark Wanderer.  Andariel also managed to corrupt a rogue named Blood Raven, turning her into a servant of evil.  (This Blood Raven was actually the rogue hero from Diablo 1.  Although she successfully battled Diablo, she was destined to be corrupted and destroyed, just as the warrior was.)

The Dark Wanderer journeyed on, arriving at a tavern.  Although he struggled within himself, he could not prevent Diablo’s powers from being unleashed.  Demons overran the tavern and burnt it to the ground.  The only survivor was a refugee from the Rogue Monastery, a man named Marius.  The Wanderer beckoned to the terrified Marius, who followed in spite of himself.

Meanwhile, the surviving Sisters built a new home, the Rogue Encampment, which attracted other refugees and wandering adventurers.  New heroes arrived and rescued Deckard Cain from the ruins of Tristram, then managed to defeat Blood Raven and Andariel.  Suspicious of the Dark Wanderer, Cain convinced the heroes to travel east in pursuit.

Act 2: The Secret of the Vizjerei

Marius followed the Dark Wanderer across the desert until they came at last to the tomb of Tal Rasha.  However, the Archangel Tyrael had been warned of Diablo’s escape and was waiting in the tomb when they arrived.  Tyrael attacked the Wanderer while the confused Marius hesitated.  Tal Rasha was ravaged by his long struggle with Baal, but still very much alive.  He begged Marius to free him from his torment.  Confused and feeling sympathy for the pathetic figure, Marius removed the soulstone from Tal Rasha’s chest.

Immediately Tyrael turned and seized Marius, berating the man for a fool.  Tyrael ordered Marius to take the soulstone and destroy it at Hellforge.  Marius ran for his life while the Dark Wanderer and Tal Rasha battled Tyrael.  Soon Tyrael was overpowered and bound in Tal Rasha’s place.  The Dark Wanderer and Tal Rasha summoned the Lesser Evil Duriel to guard Tyrael while they made their escape.

Meanwhile, the heroes arrived in Lut Gholein, a city that was once a Vizjerei fortress.  The Vizjerei had been a powerful mage clan; however, they had dabbled in demonic magics and destroyed themselves.  Upon arriving, our heroes found and assembled the key to Tal Rasha’s tomb, battled demons within the sultan’s palace, and defeated a powerful sorcerer who had gone insane.  (Just as the Dark Wanderer is the warrior from Diablo 1 and Blood Raven is the rogue, so too is this the sorcerer.  Fate was not kind to the original classes.)  The heroes arrived at Tal Rasha’s tomb too late to stop Baal’s escape, but they were able to kill Duriel and rescue Tyrael.

Act 3: The Infernal Gate

The Dark Wanderer and Tal Rasha finally arrived at the Zakarum Temple of Light where Mephisto had been impatiently waiting for them since the beginning of Diablo 1.  Once there, all pretense was cast aside and Diablo and Baal assumed their true forms.  The three Prime Evils then created a portal to Hell.  Diablo and Baal passed through the portal on a mission to overthrow Azmodan and reassert their authority.  Mephisto remained behind prepared to ambush the pursuing heroes.

Poor Marius attempted to do as Tyrael asked.  He secretly followed Diablo and Baal to the temple and witnessed their transformation and the opening of the portal.  But he could not bring himself to follow the demons to Hell.  Still carrying Baal’s soulstone, he fled in terror and took refuge in an insane asylum.

A short while later the heroes managed to reach the temple and defeat both the Zakarum council and Mephisto.  They then crossed through the Hell portal and set up camp in the Pandemonium Fortress, the last bastion of Heaven before the gates of Hell.

Act 4: The Harrowing

Tyrael told the heroes that the angel Izual had been captured and corrupted many years before, forced to betray the secrets of Heaven and become a servant of Hell.  The heroes were tasked with ending Izual’s torment, either by freeing or killing him.  As Izual died the fallen angel mocked the heroes, revealing that he had not been captured at all, but had rather betrayed Heaven.  Izual had helped the Prime Evils orchestrate their own exile into Sanctuary, and had taught them how to trick Tyrael into using the soulstones against them.  Binding each Prime Evil to a soulstone gave the Evils an avenue to access the power of the world stone.

Moving on, the heroes confronted Diablo and managed to defeat him.  They then smashed both Diablo and Mephisto’s soulstones at Hellforge, destroying them.

Diablo 2 Epilogue

Unfortunately, Baal eluded the heroes and escaped.  Discovering Marius’ hiding place, Baal disguised himself as Tyrael to convince Marius to give him the soulstone.  Baal then killed Marius and burned down the asylum.

Act 5: Lord of Destruction

Because Baal had been imprisoned in the body of Tal Rasha he had access to Tal Rasha’s vast knowledge.  This gave him the location of the Worldstone which was hidden inside the summit of Mt. Arreat to the north.  The Barbarian tribes were the guardians of the Worldstone, protecting it for generations beyond recall.  Baal made war against them, bringing a demonic army to lay seige to the mountain.  Facing defeat and the failure of their most sacred duty, the elders of Harrogath sacrificed their own lives to raise a protective ward around the city.  Still, the war seemed hopeless.  Nihlathak, the last remaining elder, betrayed his people and handed over the Relic of Ancients to  Baal, in exchange for the safety of Harrogath.  The relic allowed Baal to open the path to the Worldstone.

Fortunately, the heroes were hot on Baal’s trail.  They broke the siege of Harrogath and killed Nihlathak.  Without the relic the Nephelim guards would not let allow the heroes access to the Worldstone, so the heroes defeated them too.  Finally our heroes confront Baal and defeat him, but not before he managed to corrupt the very essence of the Worldstone.  The corruption could not be removed, so Tyrael shattered the Worldstone instead.  This was momentous decision, as no one knew what the consequences would be.

Similarities to WoW

I only have a couple of points to add here, having covered most of them in previous parts.  But the second point is a major theme that Blizzard returns to over and over again.

1. Important Mountains.

Mount Arreat and the Worldstone vs. Mount Hyjal and the World Tree.  What is it with powerful “world” artifacts and mountains?

2. Being corrupted by the evil you are fighting to destroy and becoming evil yourself.

This is a major theme in Blizzard’s games.  (I don’t even play Starcraft, but I’m immediately thinking of Sarah Kerrigan as an example from that franchise.)  The most insidious danger heroes face is not death but corruption.  There are a few common ways that characters become corrupted, and usually one character experiences a combination of more than one of them.  Also, once you become corrupted there is very little chance that you will be redeemed — generally you have to be destroyed.

Becoming that which you most hate.

Characters become that which they most hate generally out of either pride, despair, or by succumbing to the temptation of using ends to justify means.  Either way, these are the people who start out with good intentions and gradually fall from grace.  They are usually responsible for their own fate, in the sense that being possessed or magically manipulated is not the primarily reason for their descent into evil.

Examples from Diablo include the traitorous angel Izual and the Barbarian elder Nihlathak.  Examples from WoW include Archbishop Benedictus, Nozdormu/Murozond and Illidan.  Characters at great risk of falling into this type of corruption possibly include Sylvanas and Garrosh.

Corrupted after defeating an evil or being its jailor for a long time.

As I’ve said before, it’s best to make sure your enemy is dead.  Especially because defeated enemies have this distressing tendency to use you as their next host so they can come back through you.  Likewise, capturing an enemy is dangerous, as the people charged with guarding the prisoner are very likely to be corrupted.

All three of the player characters from the first Diablo game were corrupted, despite successfully defeating Diablo.  Tal Rasha’s will was not strong enough to contain Baal.  The Zakarum were corrupted and the Horadrim dwindled into near irrelevance.  In the Warcraft universe, anyone living near the prison of an old god is in danger of being corrupted or driven insane.  Aegwynn, the mother of Medivh, believed she had defeated Sargeras, but Sargeras had transferred a part his essence into Aegwynn’s body and then transferred himself again into her unborn son when she conceived.

Corrupted by psychic or magical manipulation.

This is one of the most common methods of turning a hero to evil.  It often goes hand in hand with other methods.  If an evil entity can whisper suggestions into your mind or drive you insane you can bet that they will.

Examples of this abound.  In Diablo the Zakarum priests, King Leoric and Aidan were corrupted in this manner.  In WoW, Fandral Staghelm, Deathwing and Arthas suffered from this form of manipulation (and then often went on to inflict it on others).  Anyone near an old god is going to have his or her mind messed with.

Corrupted by absorbing an evil object into one’s self.

This is a uniquely Blizzard twist that shows up time and time again.  Blizz loves to have characters insert evil objects into themselves.  This is never a good idea, and the poor character essentially rots from the inside out.  Very unpleasant.

In Diablo, this is obviously what happens whenever someone stabs themselves with a soulstone.  Tal Rasha, Aidan, and even young Prince Albrecht were corrupted by demons in this fashion.  WoW is a bit more creative with the use of evil magical MacGuffins.  Deathwing absorbs the Demon Soul.  Illidan the Skull of Gul’dan.  Grom leads the Orcs into drinking demon blood.  Even Arthas is primarily corrupted by Frostmourne, and his helmet also has corruptive powers.  (Does Arthas’ helmet have a name?  You’d think it would, but I can’t remember it or find any reference at the moment.)

Given the above information, is it any wonder that I think Blizz is planning to corrupt Bolvar?  Wearing an evil hat, check.  Has to listen to the thoughts of previous Lich King’s in his mind, check.  Volunteers to wrestle with evil for all eternity, check.  Yeah, Bolvar’s going to snap at any moment.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 9:24 am

    Thanks! Now I’m ready to play for the first time and I’ll have some idea of the history now. Bring on the demons!

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