In 2016 the Diablo series celebrated its twentieth anniversary. It is a testament to Blizzard Entertainment game’s strength that after so much time and only three main game releases it remains relevant and undefeated champion in the hack’n’slash action RPG genre.

Come for the loot…

Although it wouldn’t be apparent from gameplay videos and screenshots showing mostly a lone hero fighting against hordes of monsters, there is more to Diablo than just hacking and slashing your way through increasingly dangerous dungeons. Each of the available champions (the roster changes with every entry) has unique abilities and no two characters play the same way, even when they may seemingly cover a similar area of expertise, like casters or frontline fighters. Only the original Diablo game had characters with largely similar abilities, save for one unique skill.

There are also mountains of diverse loot: armor pieces, diverse weapons, magical trinkets and more. Some of these items may have slots for magical gems you can find in the world, significantly boosting the items’ effectiveness.

diablo video game

…stay for the story

Diablo’s storyline has been going for two decades, and what was merely mentioned and hinted at in the games was further expanded upon through licensed novels and comic books. As a result, there is a lot of lore to read through if you’re so inclined. Although there is too much to describe it here, much of it revolves about a primordial conflict between angels and demons. The titular Diablo is an immensely powerful devil locked in a crystal deep in the dungeons beneath a town of Tristram. But one day the prison failed, and one of the three greatest rulers of hell broke loose.

Three games were devoted to dealing with Diablo, who always managed to get the upper hand and return to wreak havoc. And that’s despite the help the really out-of-its-depth humanity receives from one of the angels, named Tyrael. There is of course much more nuance, including the origins of the world of Sanctuary and it’s a connection to the celestial and infernal forces, but that’s a matter for another article. For now, let’s move on to discussing the individual games of the Diablo (so far) trilogy.


Diablo

PC
Release year: 1996
Number of characters: 3+3 in the expansion.
Expansions: Hellfire (1997)

From the time perspective, the original Diablo was but a taste of things yet to come. It had three characters (three more were added later), but they differed mostly due to their single special skill and assigned attributes, making them more proficient in one type of combat over another.

diablo game

Crucially, Diablo had online multiplayer for up to four players, who could team up to descend through the dungeons and defeat Diablo unleashed, or duke it out among themselves. The Hellfire expansion added a Monk as a new character class (supporting the Warrior, Rogue, and Sorcerer from the base game), and a new quest. There are also 2 unfinished characters, Bard and Barbarian, who can be accessed by manipulating game files.


Diablo II

PC
Release year: 2000
Number of characters: 5+2 in the expansion
Expansions: Lord of Destruction (2001)

The champion from the original Diablo succeeded…mostly. Despite defeating the demon, they are now corrupted by the devil’s soulstone and spawn demons into the world. New adventurers find themselves in a position to stop the Dark Wanderer and prevent Diablo from freeing his brothers from captivity.

diablo 2 game

Diablo II introduced much greater diversity between each champion, who now have their own skill trees and specialties. There were five heroes initially:

  • The Amazon with an affinity for ranged combat
  • The Necromancer summoning minions, using dead bodies as weapons, and casting curses
  • The Barbarian capable of dual wielding and surviving large amount of damage
  • The Sorceress using the primal elements as her playthings
  • The Paladin who can invoke heavenly power to enhance his offensive and defensive powers

The Lord of Destruction expansion added two more fighters:

  • The Druid using shapeshifting and command of nature to defeat enemies
  • The Assassin who uses claw gauntlets, traps, and dark magic to outwit the demonic hordes

D2 also implemented a Hireling system, allowing the player to recruit an NPC filling the gaps in the chosen champion’s offensive and defensive tactics.


Diablo III

PC
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Nintendo Switch
Release year: 2012
Number of characters: 5+2 in the expansions
Expansions: Reaper of Souls (2014), Rise of the Necromancer (2017)

Launched over a decade after the previous entry, Diablo III boasted a new graphics engine, a new cast of characters (collectively called the Nephalem), and a more prominent story, which explored more of the Diablo series’ cosmology that has been explored ever before.

Diablo 3 PC Co-Op

With the two expansions installed, Diablo 3 boasts seven playable characters: the Witch Doctor, the Barbarian, the Wizard, the Monk, the Demon Hunter, the Crusader, and finally the Necromancer. In addition to unique abilities, each character also uses a different resource in place of generic mana. For instance the Crusader needs Wrath gained through attacking and being attacked, while the Necromancer gathers Essence with primary attacks and spends it on more specialized ones.

The future of Diablo

At the time of writing information about upcoming Diablo titles is limited. It is certain that Diablo Immortal is coming to mobile devices, as announced during 2018’s BlizzCon, and any news regarding Diablo IV is little more than rumors and hopes of the fanbase.

Between Heaven and Hell

That concludes a summary of the Diablo franchise. There have been many games to follow in Diablo’s footsteps, notably Titan Quest, Sacred, and the MMO Path of Exile, but none have managed to throw Lord of Terror from his throne. Between distinctive characters, a dark fantasy atmosphere, and well-tuned game mechanics and loot, Diablo is the apex hack and slash action RPG on the market is likely to stay that way for years to come.