Skip to main content

Diablo 4 almost had one of the best twists in any game, until it pulled a Star Wars

For daring to interrogate Diablo’s own fiction, Lilith’s penalty is death.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the most divisive films in series history. It left me frustrated and confused the first time I watched it. I thought it tried to stretch Star Wars’ thin fiction beyond its means, just so it can be taken seriously enough to warrant the film’s criticism of it. I also hated it for what it did to one of my favourite characters in all of fiction.

But, it turns out, my initial response to it was wrong, and it took the disaster of The Rise of Skywalker for me to realise that, and properly appreciate TLJ for what it attempted to do. Even if I still don’t quite agree with how it did it.

Diablo 4 ending spoilers follow

I hadn’t thought of either of those movies for a while. Not until I finished the Diablo 4 campaign. Diablo 4’s narrative is about a rebel whose methods are questionable, but whose ultimate goal is one any reasonable person (that’s you, player) can agree with. Even if you didn’t start out that empathising with them, you likely found yourself agreeing with Lilith as you made your way deeper into the story. Character dialogue reflects that on a few occasions, too, when uncertainty about the point of the fight is raised.

Maybe Blizzard’s writers thought they were creating a Thanos; a villain who identified a valid problem, but went about solving it in the most callous, ruthless way possible. But that’s not what I took away from it. Not at all.

Diablo 4 gallowvine: A large woman with thick horns and a jagged black dress is depicted in relief against a pale light shining through a stained glass window
I accept the Mother's embrace.

Lilith is not Thanos. For one, she exists in a grim, Satanic world made up of a smattering of pseudo-Judeo/Christian beliefs and concepts. The rules of this world are anything but grounded. Diablo’s lore was never a commentary on actual religion, nor was it ever interested in being one. It really only borrowed enough elements to give its lore some believability and establish itself with some credence. It’s got the devil in it, after all!

In the fiction, Lilith is the daughter of Hatred. The way she is perceived by everyone was decided long before she existed. No matter her actions or intentions, she’s the offspring of a Prime Evil, a Demon born in Hell – the evil place full of definitely bad characters because, well, reasons. Usually, that’s the end of that story. Evil person, born in an evil place, does evil things and must be stopped. No mess, no fuss.

But Lilith is also the Mother of Sanctuary – effectively what we’d identify as Earth in Diablo. The normal realm (to a degree, at least). She, alongside a rebellious Angel, grew tired of the Eternal Conflict between the High Heavens and Burning Hells, and gave birth to human’s progenitors in an act of defiance, hoping to break the cycle and create something that servers a purpose other than endless war. And this plan succeeded, until it didn’t.

An act of true rebellion, meant as an escape from the Eternal Conflict, never truly managed to.

Humanity was born, and a third realm was created, establishing a new battleground for war and influence by both entities. But the Angel, Inarius, had a change of heart, and convinced himself that there’s still a place for him in Heaven, and that the way to get there was to defeat a demon, Lilith. It didn’t work.

Lilith never faltered. She still sees herself as the guardian of Sanctuary, and the one who truly wants to uplift humanity rather than collect worshipers. The thrust of her argument is that humanity needs to prepared for the coming war with the Prime Evils, effectively working with her offspring against her own kind.

It’s a twisted, harsh view of the world, but it’s not one worthy of opposition – at least by the standards of this fiction. And yet, the heroes fight her at every step, for the sole reason that she’s the Daughter of Hatred, and that even if her goal isn’t unreasonable, she must be playing a long game that would eventually make things bad, somehow.

One of the best/worst moments in the game is when your character gets trapped in a dream where Lilith argues her thesis one last time with the player. She doesn’t palliate the severity of what she’s asking, and she tries to appeal to the logical side of the protagonist. Though away from any influence by the heroes, the protagonist has been radicalised by that point, refusing to even entertain what she’s offering, and defaulting to the standard ‘rah-rah, you’re evil and must die, rah-rah’ drivel the rest of the team has been peddling.

As illuminating as it was, that's the moment I like to think Blizzard just gave up and dropped the pretence. There was never any chance the hero of the story was ever going to align with the villain, or even reach a compromise. So why spend all this time creating a compelling villain, and giving her time to make an argument (enough to sow doubt in my heart) - only to pull a Star Wars and say that actually, evil is bad because it’s bad and that’s not about to change.

Diablo 4 quests: A man in a ragged black robe with a black hood is rising in the air, surrounded by arcs of brilliant white light
A misguided Angel we're supposed to believe is the good guy in this tale.

The first character you meet in Diablo 4 (who isn’t trying to kill you) is Iosef. He saves you from being sacrificed, but you never see him again for the entire game. He returns at the end, however, at the head of an execution squad to kill Lorath, your companion (and new Diablo's Deckard Cain). You have no choice but to fight them off, and Iosef ends up dead.

I like to think their death is some subtle commentary on the banality of the whole ordeal. Because even he – a seemingly helpful, kind character – was turned against you because you did things differently from what the tenets of the all-good, infallible religion he follows says you must do.

The Church and its Angel-obeying followers are presented as the good guys in this story. Despite sharing the same goals with our heroes, they object to how things ended – even if Lilith is dead, all the same – and thus brand us heretics.

It’s a reminder that there is no “good” or “evil” in this world. It’s all relative, and you picked the wrong side. There’s room for the narrative to continue in Season 1, so it’s possible that this may not be the end of the story. I would like the heroes to wrestle with their choices and maybe take things into a less-predictable territory.

Read this next