With Diablo 4‘s release now here, it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile that Diablo III is over a decade old. Its release was polarizing for a number of reasons, but its evolving formula of action role-playing endured, enjoying a resurgence with its post-launch expansion that carried through years of ongoing seasonal updates. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that each of those years helped inform the design of Diablo IV, a game which confidently delivers gameplay that has been carried forward and refined from both Diablo II and III, while also establishing a strong foundation for the franchise’s future.
Diablo games have always contained stories for their single-player campaigns, but you’d be forgiven for thinking of past storylines as merely contextualization for the game’s primary focus: dungeon-crawling. That’s where Diablo IV makes one of its most striking changes: It not only takes its story far more seriously, but it tells one that’s far more engrossing than ever before. As a traveling wanderer, you come across a small town of villagers on a snow-capped mountain range looking for some aid. After killing some creatures and returning, you’re welcomed as a hero and given food and shelter, only for the villagers to try to use you in a ritual sacrifice to Lilith, co-creator of Sanctuary and recently resurrected antagonist of this tale, moments later. This encounter links you to Lilith, driving you forward on a quest to stop her plan of amassing an army for her own nefarious purposes.
Much of that sounds like standard Diablo fare. There’s a big, bad demon, and you’re the only one who can stop it. But Diablo IV makes intelligent use of Lilith, layering her motivations slowly to the point where you can’t help but consider her side of the argument. She’s not driven solely by the lust for destruction. Instead, she’s grieving, with the place she once created to escape the endless cycle of war between heaven and hell now being used as a staging ground to continue it. She’s an antagonist that has been slighted by those she trusted at every turn, and while her means of exacting justice provide the reason for your entire crusade in the first place, it’s surprising and equally welcome when Diablo IV forces you to slow down and consider the true goal of your struggle.
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