The story is not exactly an ARPG’s strongest aspect, but at some point in Diablo 4, you’ll eventually ask, “where’s the titular antagonist?” Can’t make a game titled ‘Diablo‘ now without the Diablo, can we? Well, Blizzard Entertainment disagrees.
The big bad in Diablo 4 is none other than Diablo’s niece, Lilith. Diablo is only mentioned as a lore exposition and revealed in a statue.
So for those planning to buy the game in hopes of getting to fight Diablo again in his most graphically updated version, you might be disappointed a bit. Diablo is nowhere to be found in the story and won’t personally appear in the main quest or any side quest.
However, it only makes sense for the franchise to treat its quintessential villain that way.
Diablo is indisposed at the moment
It’s worth noting that for Diablo to appear in the game as per the lore, he would need a host to corrupt.
Because in the first Diablo game, he was squarely defeated. In Diablo 2, he only managed to appear in Sanctuary again after gradually corrupting the Warrior class from the original Diablo (he was the canon vanquisher).
In Diablo 3, Diablo also was only able to manifest again after corrupting Leah in a rather campy plot to gradually resurrect the Lord of Terror.
Now, in Diablo 4, the developers picked a different direction for the game and decided to make Lilith, Mephisto’s daughter, the main villain. Diablo is absent in this game (for now) because he never managed to maneuver a vessel to corrupt and it seems his power has waned over Sanctuary– even weaker compared to his brother Mephisto.
At the end of Diablo 3, the players defeated Diablo during his attempt to invade the heavens. Diablo was then imprisoned on a Black Soulstone which could be seen falling from the High Heavens. Apparently, the Black Soulstone was still intact, meaning Diablo was still imprisoned by the time Diablo 4 took place.
That’s why the most present among the three Prime Evils in Diablo 4 is none other than Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred, standing in for his weakened brother.
Will Diablo be absent in the future?
We’re not betting on that.
Remember that Diablo 4 is now a live-service game like Hearthstone and the developers could add any content they want in the future. There’s also a report that Blizzard Entertainment (which has merged with Activision) is planning two– two expansions for Diablo 4. That’s a lot, especially since most games in the franchise have had at most, just one expansion.
So there’s huge hope and possibility for Diablo to be brought back from his incapacitated state. You can expect him to appear likely sooner or later– perhaps even as early as the first expansion.
There’s also a less likely chance that they might unveil Diablo in one of the Seasons or seasonal content which rotates out every three months. The upcoming Season of Diablo 4 is expected to start sometime around July.
Of course, let’s not discount the fact that Diablo is essentially overused even in his own game and that the game’s creators might be experiencing creative fatigue. There’s also the possibility that Diablo might truly be shelved permanently in favor of other Prime or Lesser Evils.
Blizzard has a lot of choices here, after all, and they can get versatile with the options. Speaking of which, there’s no shortage of absent demons or agents of Hell that might make an appearance in Diablo 4’s future content.
Who else is absent in Diablo 4?
There are a lot of demons both Prime and Lesser Evils who haven’t introduced themselves formally or personally in Diablo 4. Along with Diablo, expect some of these names to drop in an attempt to join the fray and wreak havoc and suffering in Sanctuary once more.
Again, they might arrive in the form of expansions, DLCs, or seasonal content.
As we stated earlier, the only Prime Evil that was present in Diablo 4 was Mephisto and even he was under an indignified state since he could only manifest as a phantom wolf. He was too weakened after the players defeated him in Zakarum during the events of Diablo 2.
Baal, meanwhile, was also defeated in Mount Arreat in the Diablo 2 expansion, Lord of Destruction. He hasn’t made himself available since that devastating defeat.
Baal, after all, was the last ditch effort from the three Prime Evils to take control of Sanctuary and gain an advantage against the High Heavens. There’s still a chance that Baal could appear, but seeing as his character was fleshed out well enough in Diablo 2 and he received a dedicated expansion all for himself, don’t count on it too much.
Azmodan is one of the initial main villains of Diablo 3 along with another one who’s also absent in Diablo 4. He’s a Lesser Evil and is known as the Lord of Sin.
As far as the Lesser Evils go, Azmodan is considered the most powerful among the four of them (the other three being Belial, Duriel, and Andariel). That’s because Azmodan led a rebellion against the three Prime Evils and also waged a civil war for supremacy against Belial and won.
In Diablo 3, however, he stood no chance against the Nephilim or the players and naturally lost. He was promptly imprisoned in the Black Soulstone with Diablo. Still, you can expect him to be forever plotting and scheming. He’s a master manipulator that surely has some tricks up his sleeve and is always poised for a re-appearance.
Belial is the most secretive among the Lesser Evils and despite his penchant for deception as the Lord of Lies, Azmodan still easily defeated him during their civil war for the control of the Burning Hells.
Belial relishes controlling others and distorting their perception of reality. Like Azmodan, he undeniably has some plans up his sleeve. Like Azmodan as well, he was defeated by the players in Diablo 3 and imprisoned in the Black Soulstone.
Tathamet only appeared in the lore because having him in-game would basically mean the end-times for the whole of the Diablo universe. He’s the sum of all the seven Great Evils (Prime and Lesser). Tathamet manifested as a seven-headed dragon.
In the lore, Tathamet had a morally good counterpart that killed him, and from the corpse of his seven heads arose the Prime and the Lesser Evils, each representing a dark aspect of the universe and one of Tathamet’s abstract dominions.
It would be interesting to see Tathamet as a fully-formed amalgamation of the Great Evils once more perhaps so that the game’s creators could up the stakes again, especially after they repeatedly kept treating Diablo and his brothers like punching bags, as is the case with most media about demons.