Diablo (series)

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Diablo series
Diablo logo.jpg
Original Diablo logo
Genre(s)Action role-playing, hack and slash
Creator(s)David Brevik[1]
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, macOS, PlayStation, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
First releaseDiablo
January 3, 1997
Latest releaseDiablo III: Rise of the Necromancer
June 27, 2017

Diablo is an action role-playing hack and slash dungeon crawler video game series developed by Blizzard North and continued by Blizzard Entertainment after the north studio shutdown in 2005. The series is made up of three core games: Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo III. Expansions include the third-party published Hellfire, which follows the first game, Lord of Destruction, published by Blizzard and released after the second game, and Reaper of Souls, which follows the third game. Additional content is provided through story elements explored in other media forms. Diablo IV was announced at BlizzCon 2019.

The series is set in the dark fantasy world of Sanctuary, and its characters are primarily humans, angels, and various classes of demons and monsters. The first three games in the series take place in similar geographic areas, with several common areas including the town of Tristram and the region around Mount Arreat. Other notable settings include the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, two separate realms with ties to Sanctuary. The series primarily focuses on the ongoing conflict between the humans living on Sanctuary and the demon hordes who are led by Diablo, the series' overarching antagonist. The humans are occasionally aided by angels, notably the Archangel Tyrael.

The video game series' popularity and success has resulted in the publishing of several books relevant to the Diablo setting, covering a wide range of the timelines of the universe.[2] There are also comics that explore various stories within the world of Sanctuary.

As of May 30, 2012, the series has sold over 24.8 million copies worldwide.[3][4]


The origin of the first Diablo came from David Brevik while at Condor Games around 1994. Brevik was heavily inspired by the roguelike genre with turn-based combat, but with simplified role-playing game elements and a more expansive loot system.[5][6] The name Diablo was based on Mount Diablo, which was where Brevik lived when he conceived of the game idea.[6] Condor was working alongside Blizzard Entertainment at the time on a separate title. Blizzard offered to help develop Brevik's idea as it shared concepts with their recent Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, but strongly urged that they convert the game from turn-based to real-time combat, as well as later urging the including of multiplayer over their new Battle.net service. Over the course of development, Blizzard acquired Condor Games, with Condor, located in San Mateo, California, becoming Blizzard North while Blizzard's main offices in Irvine, California became Blizzard South. Diablo was released in January 1997.[6]

Diablo was a top selling game in 1997 with over a million copies sold that year,[7] leading Blizzard to announce its sequel, Diablo II. The sequel, while retaining much of the same gameplay as the original title, used very little of the original code, and had no formal design approach.[8] Released in June 2000, Diablo II sold over 2 million copies within a month and a half of release,[9] and reached four million a year later.[10]

Work on Diablo III started in 2001 at Blizzard North, but around 2003, several key figures from Blizzard North, include Brevik and the studio's founders, Max and Erich Schaefer, left the company over a dispute with Vivendi Games, the parent of Blizzard Entertainment.[11] While the remaining staff of Blizzard North continued to work on their version of Diablo III, Blizzard closed down the studio in August 2005 and scrapped most of the work on the existing Diablo III' title and restarted its development within its own teams. Even after restarting development, Diablo III had a protracted development, but eventually was released in May 2012. Its initial launch was met with some criticism for changes from the prior Diablo formula, as well as requiring players to be connected to the Internet to play, but over ongoing patches and updates, Blizzard has been said to have improved the game from this initial take.[12]


Release timeline
Diablo: Hellfire
2000Diablo II
2001Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
2012Diablo III
2014Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
2017Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer
2021Diablo II: Resurrected
TBADiablo Immortal
Diablo IV


The setting of Diablo is the town of Tristram, the de facto capital of the Kingdom of Khanduras on the world of Sanctuary. The actual fighting takes place beneath the town in a maze of dungeons, catacombs, and caves that lead into the depths of Hell.

The plot of Diablo centers around a player character undertaking a series of quests to free Tristram from Hell-spawned evil, descending through twelve levels of dungeons into Hell itself (the final four levels), where the player battles the title character, Diablo, Lord of Terror — one of the seven "Evils", demon lords who once ruled Hell.

Diablo offers three character classes and the Hellfire expansion offers three more. Players can play as Warriors, Rogues (archers), or Sorcerers. Each class has its own place in the game's history, and all three classes make appearances as non-player characters in the sequel. All three classes have the same general skills and access to the same spells. Each of them has a class-specific skill (Item Repair, Trap Disarm, and Staff Recharge, respectively) that has as many drawbacks as benefits, except for Trap Disarm.


Diablo: Hellfire offers an additional character class: the Monk, in addition to two hidden character classes: the Barbarian and the Bard. The Monk fights best with staves or his bare hands and gains bonuses from wearing light or no armor. The Barbarian can wield two handed axes with only one hand but is entirely unable to cast spells throughout most of the game. The Bard is a character with relatively balanced statistics who can wield two single-handed weapons simultaneously. The Barbarian and the Bard can only be played using a file tweak, as they were unfinished. They utilize the art of the Warrior and Rogue, respectively, and have no lore. Additional quests and multiplayer capabilities (although not over Battle.net) are also unlockable through this simple tweak.

Hellfire added two new dungeon environments on top of the four in the original Diablo: the Nest and the Crypt. Each of these environments contains various new monsters to fight, but they contain no random quests or bosses and the generated levels contain no shrines or libraries. The final boss of Hellfire, Na-Krul, is found in the last level of the Sacred Crypt.

Hellfire's development was started by Blizzard but later passed to Sierra to finish.

Diablo II[edit]

At the end of the first game, a warrior tried to contain Diablo's soul within himself. The warrior was unable to do so, and, by the beginning of Diablo II, The Lord of Terror had taken control of the warrior's body and begun the process of freeing his two brothers, Mephisto and Baal. Players can choose from five distinct characters (seven when including the expansion) to control in their quest and explore the world of Sanctuary through four acts. At the end of each of the four acts, players face different devils, with Diablo at the end of the game.

The character classes in particular were received much better than the previous game's. Unlike its predecessor, Diablo II provides an explanation for each character class to pursue Diablo:

  • The oracles of the Amazons foretold that the final battle when mankind would at last be free of angelic and demonic manipulation was at hand.
  • The Barbarians also expect a "final battle", in which they would be key players in deciding the fate of the world.
  • The Necromancers determine that the Evils have grown too powerful and thus ally themselves with the forces of Light to restore balance to the world.
  • The Paladins, wracked with guilt over their actions during the Inquisition, seek justice upon Mephisto, the true cause of the bloody crusade.
  • The Sorceresses join the battle with their mighty spells to stop the corruption of magic by the Evils.

Characters from the previous game are also present in Diablo II. The Rogues (as NPCs) are the hostesses of the player during Act I, and Sorcerers are seen regularly in Acts II and III. Unlike the original, each character has three distinct sets of skills/spells that they can use in the game. Several of the characters can also conjure magical minions, such as a Valkyrie (Amazon) or Skeletons and Golems (Necromancer). All players also have the option to hire a Rogue (Act I), a Warrior (Act II), or an Iron Wolf (a type of melee Sorcerer, Act III) to accompany them and help slay monsters. These "hirelings" have a few of their own skills and can be a great benefit to the player.

Lord of Destruction[edit]

Blizzard released Diablo II: Lord of Destruction on June 29, 2001. In the expansion, set after the events of Diablo II, players seek to destroy Diablo's brother, Baal. The expansion includes a new act, new items, and two new character classes:

  • The Druids are descended from the Barbarians and have come out of hiding in preparation for the final battle between mankind and the Evils.
  • The Assassins have policed the mage-clans for centuries. Now, with news that Terror and Destruction (Diablo and Baal) roam free, the Assassins unleash their fury on Hell itself.

Barbarians can also be hired in the new Act. The summoned units of the expansion characters are called "minions". Hirelings can be resurrected in Lord of Destruction and can be equipped with armor and weapons.

Diablo II: Resurrected[edit]

A remaster of Diablo II, entitled Diablo II: Resurrected will be released in 2021 for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, and Nintendo Switch and will support cross-progression between the different platforms.[13] The remaster includes updated graphics and rerendering of the game's cutscenes, and does not change any of its item systems or game balance.

Diablo III[edit]

Diablo III was announced at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational on June 28, 2008. Diablo III takes place 20 years after Diablo II.[14]

Five character classes are present in Diablo III:

The only directly returning class is the Barbarian. The Barbarians have a variety of revamped skills at their disposal based on the use of their incredible physical prowess. The Barbarian is able to Whirlwind through crowds, cleave through swarms, leap across crags, and crush opponents upon landing.[15]

The Witch Doctor is a new character reminiscent of the Diablo II Necromancer, but with skills more traditionally associated with voodoo culture. The Witch Doctor has the ability to summon monsters, cast curses, harvest souls, and hurl poisons and explosives at enemies.[16]

The Wizard is a version of the Sorceress from Diablo II or the Sorcerer from Diablo, though it is much more than a mere elementalist. The Wizard's abilities range from shooting lightning, fire, and ice at their enemies to slowing time and teleporting around enemies and through walls.[17]

The Monk is a melee attacker, using martial arts to cripple foes, resist damage, deflect projectiles, attack with blinding speed, and land explosive killing blows.[18]

The Demon Hunter is a ranged rogue class. It was the last class to be introduced, and specializes in ranged attacks, setting traps for enemies, and evasion skills.[19]

The combat system was redone as well. Instead of the previous skill selection system used in Diablo II there is an action bar at the bottom of the screen. This change replaces the area where the potion-belt used to be in Diablo II. For the first time in the series, players are able to choose the gender of their characters upon creation. The gender of the characters affects only visuals and voices. Diablo III's release date was announced on March 15, 2012 and the game was released worldwide on May 15, 2012.

Reaper of Souls[edit]

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is an expansion pack for Diablo III. It was revealed at Gamescom 2013.[20] It was developed for the PC and Mac versions of Diablo III and released on March 25, 2014 for those platforms. Reaper of Souls has been ported to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One consoles. The Diablo III expansion includes a new character class, the Crusader, similar in style to the Paladin from Diablo II.

The game takes place after Diablo is defeated by the Nephalem protagonist and sealed in the Black Soulstone, leading to a brief period of peace. Diablo's essence, however, still lingers and cannot be destroyed. Therefore, Tyrael hides it, even from the angels in Heaven. Right as the Soulstone is being placed so that none may touch it, a death wind passes and Malthael is revealed as the "Grim Reaper". He used to be the Archangel of Wisdom, but became the Archangel of Death after the Worldstone was destroyed and he was corrupted. He kills almost everyone in the scene, except Tyrael (it is unknown why he does not kill Tyrael, though it is suggested that his motivations are to cleanse Sanctuary of evil, including mankind, as they are born of angel and demon. Tyrael, being an angel who became mortal, contains no part of a demon) and one survivor of the Horadrim, who is able to escape and, at Tyrael's orders, relay the event to the Nephalem hero. Malthael takes the Soulstone and exits; even now that he is corrupt, he is still trying to eradicate evil. However the issue is that humans are descendants of angels and demons. Even though the demon lineage has been diluted through millennia, Malthael still views all humans as evil. He then sets out to use the power of the Black Soulstone to eradicate humans and demons, and end the Eternal Conflict forever. The enemies that the hero fights throughout this Act are a mixture of angels, persuaded by Malthael and the Soulstone, that almost seem like demons, as they are murdering thousands of innocent humans. Malthael is able to absorb the soul of every human that is killed as a result of the Soulstone and continues to grow stronger with every death. In order to finally fight Malthael, the Nephalem hero must become death, just as Malthael had become. This is why Tyrael's sword passed through Malthael in the opening scene of this Act. Tyrael was unable to kill death because he was now a mortal. The Nephalem hero is able to absorb the souls of his deceased brethren towards the end of the Act in order to fight death (Malthael). During the last battle, Malthael merges with the Black Soulstone, possibly believing he can contain Diablo's essence inside of him as well. Eventually Malthael is defeated by the Nephalem hero but this indicates that Diablo's essence has been released from within Malthael and can once again wreak havoc on the world of life.[21]

Rise of the Necromancer[edit]

Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer is a second expansion for Diablo III. It was announced at BlizzCon 2016.[22] It was released for the PC, Mac, and console versions of Diablo III on June 27, 2017.[23] It introduces the Necromancer class, which prefers to strike from a distance, unleashing destruction from afar. The skeletal undead under their command overwhelm enemies before they have a chance to strike, and the horrific curses the necromancers employ cripple even the most resistant of demons. Necromancers can use their throngs of undead to create diversions, or to simply open a path for their master to escape to safety.[24]

Diablo Immortal[edit]

Diablo Immortal is the fourth installment in the Diablo franchise and is currently in development as an MMORPG for iOS and Android by Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase. It was announced during BlizzCon 2018. It takes place after the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.[25] It was met with negative reception from fans upon its announcement.[26] The criticism has been particularly hard in social media where Blizzard has been criticized for removing comments from their YouTube trailer.[27][28]

Diablo IV[edit]

A fourth title in the series was announced at BlizzCon 2019.

Cancelled projects[edit]

Diablo Junior[edit]

Diablo Junior was the working title for a cancelled single-player-only prequel to the original game. It started development after the release of Diablo II and was intended to be released on Game Boy Color and/or Game Boy Advance. It was planned to be released in three different cartridges in the style of the Pokémon games, each featuring a different class from original Diablo (warrior, rogue or sorcerer). The project was eventually scrapped due to high production costs.[29]

Project Hades[edit]

After the release of Reaper of Souls, a development team lead by Josh Mosqueira began work on a game that would be similar to Dark Souls, code-named Hades. The project was developed from 2014 to 2016 and featured an increase in difficulty and an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective, rather than the isometric style of previous Diablo titles. The cancellation of Hades coincided with Mosqueira leaving Blizzard.[30]


There are many recurring features in the Diablo series. Point and click means that the mouse is mainly used for moving and using abilities. Diablo heavily relies on a constant search for better weapons and armor, known as loot. Items are randomly generated and usually have many attributes assigned to them. Various maps in the Diablo world are randomly generated in each game, which increases the replayability.

Due to its procedurally generated maps and "hack and slash" nature, Diablo may be loosely considered a roguelike, though with real-time gameplay, graphics, and sound. It was in fact originally conceived and pitched to Blizzard as what amounted to a graphical roguelike.[31] The adventurer being based in a town above the dungeon and being able to use "scrolls of town portal" is a specific influence from Moria.

Setting and characters[edit]

The universe of Diablo is divided into three realms: the High Heavens, the Burning Hells, and the human world of Sanctuary. Ever since their creation, the angels of the High Heavens and the demons of the Burning Hells have been at war with one another. Sanctuary was created by rebel angels and demons tired of the war, with their first children being dubbed Nephalem. The descendants of the Nephalem are humanity, and become a focal point for both angels and demons who wish to influence them for their own goals due to sharing angelic and demonic heritage.[32]

The series' title character and main antagonist is Diablo, the Lord of Terror. In the beginning of the story, he functions as one of the seven Great Evils presiding over the Burning Hells. Diablo eventually becomes the Prime Evil after absorbing the six other Great Evils, including his two brothers: Baal, the Lord of Destruction, and Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred.[33] Two key characters who oppose Diablo in the series are Deckard Cain, an elderly scholar and the last descendant of the original Horadrim who serves as the core narrator of lore in the first three Diablo games,[34][35] and Tyrael, a member of the High Heavens' ruling Angiris Council who is sympathetic to humanity.[32][36]

Due to the ending of Diablo 2 and the events of Diablo 3, some humans begin awakening their Nephalem heritage.[32] This awakening allows them to challenge the final Evils and eventually Diablo himself, after he manipulates events to become the Prime Evil. Though initially imprisoned, Diablo escapes and the Nephalem are perceived as a threat due to felling both angels and demons.[37]

Other media[edit]



Tales of Sanctuary by Phil Amara, Dave Land, and Francisco Ruiz Velasco is a comic book released on November 9, 2001 by Dark Horse Comics. It features three stories:

  • Rage is about Azgar, a Druid in his struggle against Baal's minions.
  • The Hand of Naz is about Renit the Dark Stalker, a Barbarian who allies with the Necromancer Cairo to find the titular artifact.
  • Hatred's Bride is about Hale, a Paladin who saves a girl, Bay, from demons and seeks to protect her.

In November 2011, DC Comics started producing a five-issue miniseries (Diablo III: Sword of Justice) by Aaron Williams with art and covers by Joseph LaCroix.[38][39]


Action figures for the Barbarian character class, the Unraveller monster, and the Diablo character were sold in Blizzard's online store and at retailers to complement the release of Diablo II.[40]

An 18-inch collectible statue of Diablo III's Barbarian class has been produced for sale by Sideshow Collectibles.[41]

Crossover appearances[edit]

Heroes of the Storm[edit]

In 2015, Blizzard released Heroes of the Storm, a crossover multiplayer online battle arena video game, in which players can control over 15 characters from the Diablo universe as playable heroes. All character classes from Diablo III, popular classes from Diablo II,[42] as well as notable characters from the franchise, including Deckard Cain, Diablo, Malthael, Mephisto, and Tyrael are represented within the game.[43] Heroes of the Storm features two Diablo-themed battlegrounds, Battlefield of Eternity and Infernal Shrines.[44][45] Various soundtracks from Diablo franchise, such as Jungle (Act III) and Ancients from Diablo II, and Reaper of Souls from Diablo III, are present as background music in the game.[46]

World of Warcraft[edit]

Characters from the series have also appeared in World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game created and developed by Blizzard set in the Warcraft universe, usually as easter egg references or in-game "pet" companions. Examples include miniature versions of Diablo and Tyrael, a flying mount usable by the player character called Tyrael's Charger,[47] and a composite character named Murkablo.[48]


Aggregate review scores
As of September 25, 2012.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Diablo (PC) 89%[49]
(PS) 80%[50]
(PC) 94[51]
Diablo II (PC) 89%[52] (PC) 88[53]
Diablo III (PC) 88%[54] (PC) 88[55]

The games in the Diablo series have been well received by critics and were financial successes. Diablo II sold 4 million copies in the year it was released. Diablo III sold 3.5 million copies in the first day and 6.3 million copies in the first week.[56] Another 1.2 million copies were given to subscribers to Blizzard's Annual Pass service. The Diablo III release was the fastest-selling PC game of all time.[57]

The title character of the series has been well received as the franchise's overarching antagonist. GamePro ranked Diablo #14 on its list of the most diabolical video game villains of all time, noting that he "corrupts the soul of the hero of Diablo I in order to reincarnate in Diablo II".[58]IGN ranked Diablo 74th in their list of "Top 100 Video Game Villains",[59] as well as their pick for the 3rd best Blizzard character in a list published in 2017.[60] Complex staff ranked Diablo 7th in their list of the 50 coolest video game villains of all time, describing the character as the "epitome of all evil comes in the form of a giant red behemoth that resembles the classic image of Satan as portrayed in most Judeo-Christian imagery, and he's one bad muh." [61] Diablo placed #44 on a list of top 50 video game villains featured by Guinness World Records in 2013.[62]


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External links[edit]