Diablo III tells a dark and gothic story about overcoming demons small and great alike.
Like its predecessor, Diablo III's story line will develop within and between a set of acts. Cutscenes and cinematic videos will add to the plot, in addition to the dialogue and quests.
We've got the story line in three convenient formats: Blizzard Entertainment's summary, a condensed recap of the whole series, and an extended edition below.
A Brief Summary
Two decades have passed since the demonic denizens, Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal, wandered the world of Sanctuary in a vicious rampage to shackle humanity into unholy slavery. Yet for those who battled the Prime Evils directly, the memory fades slowly and the wounds of the soul still burn.
When Deckard Cain returns to the ruins of Tristram's Cathedral seeking clues to new stirrings of evil, a comet from the heavens strikes the very ground where Diablo once entered the world. The comet carries a dark omen in its fiery being and it calls the heroes of Sanctuary to defend the mortal world against the rising powers of the Burning Hells ? and even the failing luminaries of the High Heavens itself.
A Condensed Recap of the Series
Ever since the beginning of time, the angels of the High Heavens and the demons of the Burning Hells have fought an eternal war. Parties from both sides of the conflict began to grow tired of its futility and the constant battles, and together as a refuge created the world Sanctuary and its demon-angel hybrid inhabitants - Humans.
This refuge remained untouched for a time. Humans grew and spread, learning to unleash their inner abilities as a result of their demon-angel hybrid origin. The Burning Hells, however, exiled their own supreme rulers into Sanctuary, where with the help of the angels a group of magi hunted down and imprisoned the demons.
Enters Diablo I
Buried underneath the grand cathedral of Tristram and trapped in a Soulstone, Diablo, the Lord of Terror, was the first of the three to escape by manipulating the minds of nearby humans. Great terror spread across the land until a warrior hero slayed the demon and took it upon himself to suppress and contain its soul within the confines of his mind. Before long he weakened, and traveled to the east in search of solace.
Enter Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
Diablo grew strong and overtook the warrior's mind and body, and set on a mission to free his brothers Baal, Lord of Destruction, and Mephisto, Lord of Hatred. Sought after by stronger heroes and heroines, the demon managed to free his brothers and escape to the Burning Hells. The adventurers, however, quickly conqurered Mephisto and followed into the Burning Hells to kill Diablo once and for all.
Baal, the Lord of Destruction, escaped to Mount Arreat to find and corrupt the Worldstone, the key to Sanctuary's essence. Though the heroes and heroines managed to find and slay him as well, the demon had already corrupted the great Worldstone. The Archangel Tyrael, who had been assisting in their fight against the demons, quickly destroyed the Worldstone to prevent further damage from the Hells.
Enters Diablo III
Twenty years have passed since the end of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, when the third and final Prime Evil, Baal, Lord of Destruction, was slain and the Archangel Tyrael destroyed the precious Worldstone corrupted by the demon.
Most of the heroes responsible for the deaths of the Prime Evils and their minions, since then, have gone mad with insanity. Witnessing the horrors wrought on the people and land of Sanctuary has its side effects.
The Barbarian, for instance, is the same barbarian from Diablo II but 20 years older, and so Blizzard went about deciding what happened to him over the course of that time period. "[These characters] are not generic. They're not an empty void in the middle of a story," said Boyarsky. Players will find the barbarian looks worn in Diablo III and bears multiple battle scars, supposed evidence of his hardships during the time gap.
The people of Sanctuary left after the demon scourge was wiped away, especially those who did not witness the terror, hatred, and destruction firsthand, have grown to think of those events as myth; and now the forces of Hell have returned to their lands.
Can you give an overview of Diablo III's storyline?
It has been twenty years since the events of Diablo II. Of those who faced the Lords of Hatred, Terror, and Destruction in the battle over the fate of Sanctuary, there are few still living who can bear to remember the horrors that the Prime Evils wrought upon the world. And of those who did not witness the terrible events firsthand, most believe the stories to be little more than myth. But something evil is stirring once again in Tristram, and it may already have claimed its first victim: Deckard Cain.
Official Diablo III FAQ, 2008
Extended Edition - A History of The Great Conflict, The Sin War, and the Games
* Spoiler Warning: This contains plot details from The Sin War trilogy by Richard Knaak.
Since the beginning of time, the angels of the High Heavens and the demons of the Burning Hells have endlessly warred for dominion over all existence in what is referred to as The Great Conflict. The motivation of the battles are unclear, as the sides seek only to conquer each other. This dilutes the sense of good and evil, though later events show demons to be ruthless and cruel. Neither side has ever fully crushed the forces of the other, and it is a struggle bound to last through all time.
Eventually, dissent grew in members of both sides of the eternal battle. Demons and angels who questioned the incessant chaos banded together and created an entirely new plane of existence, which they named Sanctuary. This crudely designed world, a jumbled mix of climates, was quite literally a sanctuary away from the eternal war of the High Heavens and Burning Hells. The existence of this new world was kept secret from the battling forces, who would only destroy it or use it for the purposes of the war.
Along with the creation of Sanctuary, the race of humans was created by the Angel Inarius and Demoness Lilith. They were the star-crossed lovers from two planes of existence. Humans were literally their mutual creation, so the blood of angels and demons flowed through the bodies of humanity.
Inarius and Lilith disagreed on the future of humans. Lilith desired to create superior beings by awakening the powers of both angels and demons in humanity referred to as the nephalem. The nephalem could, then, overtake the Heavens and Hells and end the eternal war. Inarius cared only to keep Sanctuary secret and distinct from the other cosmic planes, and banished Lilith to the Endless Void to prevent her from awakening the nephalem, which would alert the High Heavens and Burning Hells to Sanctuary's threat.
Lilith, cunning as the temptress demoness was, found a way to return to Sanctuary and continued her efforts. Centuries later, following the defeat of Baal at the World Stone, she would restore the Prime Evils, Duriel, and Izual to the mortal realm through the Dark Summoning referred to as the Pandemonium.
As The Great Conflict came to a standstill, at least the Burning Hells became aware of Sanctuary and sent servents of the Prime Evils to corrupt mortal souls and establish reign over the realm. These servents included Mephisto - Lord of Hatred's son Lucion, Diablo - Lord of Terror's favored demon, and Baal - Lord of Destruction's mindless demon Gulag. Lucion, the brother of Lilith, created the three Triad religions of the Temple, worshipping fake gods Mefis (God of Love), Dialo (God of Determination), and Bala (God of Creation), seeking to thus reign over humanity and use it for the purposes of the Prime Evils.
The Angel Inarius, who remained in Sanctuary, created the Cathetral of Light, a competing religion that was more represenative of the High Heavens. This was, in part, a response to the Temple and also to maintain his sense of ownership of Sanctuary. Inarius took the guise of a human as The Prophet of the Cathedral of Light.
The religions of the Temple and Cathedral spread throughout Sanctuary and gained legions of followers.
Many years later, in the town of Seram, Lilith found a host to awaken the nephalem. She chose the strong and simple farmer Uldyssian Ul-Diomed, the son of Diomedes who had suffered terrible losses as his family died from disease, save for his brother Mendeln. The demoness awakened abilities in Uldyssian likened to magic, allowing him to heal and fight beyond any means imagineable to a mere human and led him on a quest to supposedly free the world of the Cathedral and Temple. However, along the way Uldyssian was made aware of Lilith's true demonic nature by her brother Lucion. He escaped Lilith's grasp for a time and slayed Lucion.
Though plagued again and again by Lilith's treachery, Uldyssian managed to awaken the abilities of the nephalem across the lands of Sanctuary and formed an army he called the Edyrem. This army marched on the Triune first, destroying its temples and ultimately the entire false religion. In each town the Edyrem indoctrinated willing new followers into their army while sparing those who did not get in their way of destorying the temples. Uldyssian encounters the favored servants of the Prime Evils in each of the primary temples and slays them, before marching on the Cathedral of Light to face Inarius.
Uldyssian's friend Achilios was murdered but resurrected as an undead servant to Inarius' and Lilith's original son Rathma. Rathma, an original nephalem, was in league with the ethereal being Trag'Oul that appeared as a dragon. Trag'Oul's sole purpose was to maintain what it referred to as The Balance, equality in the ancient fight between the demons and angels, equality in human allegiance to each side, and protection of Sanctuary in the midst of this everlasting war.
As Uldyssian marched on the Cathedral, the High Heavens become aware of Sanctuary's existence. Though the demons would only use Sanctuary as a strategic asset in the fight against the High Heavens, the angels would seek only to destroy it since they perceived Sanctuary and its human race as abominations poisoned by the blood of demons.
Achilios was forced to obey the Archangel Tyrael and his orders to murder Uldyssian and nearly succeeded.
As matters came to a climax, Uldyssian's army destroyed the Cathedral while it became clear that the angel Inarius was insane. The destruction of the Cathedral upset the time/space fabric of Sanctuary, and in order to preserve its existence Uldyssian sacrificed himself in the last great use of his powers.
The Angiris Council entered Sanctuary, captured the insane Inarius, and met the forces of Uldyssian to decide the fate of Sanctuary. Mephisto appeared in parley to negotiate a common-interest pact for both the High Heavens and the Burning Hells to exit Sanctuary and allow it to continue to exist untouched by demons and angels. Mephisto's price was to take Inarius to Hell as a demon-servant.
The Angiris Council agreed to the pact but mandated that it was necessary to wipe the memories of the nephalem - the hidden powers within everyone - from all humans in Sanctuary except the few remaining original humans like Rathma. Trag'Oul managed to also save the memory of Mendeln, and renamed Mendeln as Kalan, a name meaning teacher in Trag'Oul's language. Kalan's purpose became to reawaken the edyrem and educate the world about the Balance to preserve Sanctuary as a neutral party if ever the war between the High Heavens and Hell were to spill into the land again.
The established story line in previous Diablo games follows.
Meanwhile, a civil war raged in Hell as the Lesser Evils Azmodan and Belial forged together armies to overthrow the rule of the Prime Evils. They were unhappy with the plot to corrupt the mortal realm, wishing to return to The Great Conflict with their fierce strategy to overtake the High Heavens. The plan was to banish the Prime Evils to Sanctuary, causing chaos and terror to shift the legions of angels to focus on protecting the mortal realm, leaving the High Heavens vulnerable to attack. Azmodan and Belial succeeded in banishing the Prime Evils to Sanctuary, but turned on each other, once again causing a lasting civil war in the Burning Hells.
Sanctuary soon descended into chaos as the Prime Evils wreaked havok on the mortal realm. Those who would not directly follow them were turned on their bretheren through their demonic forces, causing civil wars throughout the land. The Lord of Terror, Hate, and Destruction sought only to cause pain and suffering.
The Archangel Tyrael gathered together a secret order of sorcerers named the Horadrim to hunt down and imprison the Prime Evils for all eternity. The magi came from various mage clans in the East, surrounding the kingdom of Kehjan. They were able to capture Baal and Mephisto and bind them into artifacts referred to as Soulstones, and buried them deep beneath the deserts of the East.
For many years, the continued search for the last of the Three continued, as Diablo evaded their attempts. In the lands of what would become Khanduras they finally captured Diablo and buried his Soulstone in the caves near the river Talsande. The Horadrim construted a monastery nearby to keep close watch over the constrained demon and passed on its secrets for generations until the order all but slipped out of existence. From then, the game of Diablo I begins...