Here's your short Diablo 4 lore primer before launch

As it goes with any long-running RPG series, Diablo is crammed full of proper nouns—Inarius and the Horadrim and the Nephalem and so on. If Diablo 4 is going to be your first crack at the series (or hell, if you understandably need a refresher) Blizzard has a new video in which its developers set up the story for you with a bit of context from the series origins and the end of Diablo 3.

For starters, Diablo 4 kicks off 50 years after the events of Diablo 3's Reaper of Souls DLC during which half of the population of Sanctuary (the mortal realm between the heavens and hells) was killed off by the archangel of death, Malthael. Sanctuary's original creators, the angel Inarius and demon Lilith have both returned and, wouldn't you know it, that's not really going to go well for humanity. 

Blizzard's senior lore manager, narrative designer, and writers go on to explain foundational word events like Sanctuary's creation and the origins of the Horadric Order that were meant to protect Sanctuary from outside forces. But I needed more, so I went and did a bit of wiki diving to brush up on the details—specifically the relationship between Inarius and Lilith, which is a bit more complex than the "he locked her in a realm of darkness" broad strokes that Blizzard leaves it at in the video above.

I took Act 1 of Diablo 4's story at face value with no preparation during the first two beta weekends, so here's a few high points from my lore dive that I wish I'd known before:

  • Inarius and Lilith originally created Sanctuary together because they were both sick of participating in the forever war (the Great Conflict) of Heaven versus Hell.
  • They had kids—the unexpectedly powerful Nephalem—which they rightfully assumed neither the High Heavens nor Burning Hells would approve of. (Rathma, the first necromancer, who you'll see in Act 1, is one of them.)
  • Lilith's solution to protecting their special race of offspring was to kill any of her fellow deserters from the Great Conflict who would want to expose them.
  • Inarius was not chill with that, but instead of killing his lover he locked her away (not for the last time) and took his own protective measure: magically dooming the Nephalem to decline over generations until they became the mortals who now live in Sanctuary.
  • Their attempts to keep Sanctuary a secret don't last and after even more conflict Inarius gets packed off to Hell for a spot of torture, a bit of his history you'll hear referred to in Diablo 4's first act.
  • Inarius is the founder of the Cathedral of Light, part of his play to get back into Heaven. As of the start of Diablo 4, he's returned to take the reins once again.
  • Lorath Nahr, who you'll meet early in Act 1, is a returning character from Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, a member of the much declined Order of Horadrim who were once scholars and mages protecting Sanctuary from the demonic influences of Diablo, Mephisto and Baal.

Blizzard says "the story between Lilith and Inarius is the darkest we’ve ever told in a Diablo game," and based on some bits of the first act of the story I'd believe it. Mom and Dad are back and they still do not agree on how to handle the kids. Lilith may still have a soft spot for humanity but, well, she's a demon. Meanwhile Inarius seems to now resent the descendants of his children and be more concerned with stepping over them on his way back to the High Heavens. The Horadrim certainly have their work cut out if they make a comeback.

Diablo 4 launches officially on June 6 with early access for pre-order players beginning on June 1. That's plenty of time yet to do your own digging through Inarius and Lilith's messy history if you want more. Blizzard started an even deeper video series today as well, the Book of Lorath lore readings beginning with Episode 1: Creation.

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.