Diablo fans diving into this weekend’s closed beta were treated to their first look at Lilith, the often-mentioned but never before seen daughter of Mephisto. She’s taking a central role in the events of Diablo 4, and fans may have seen a slightly more nuanced approach to being evil, as she wins over the hearts and minds of a small church in the game’s opening cinematic.
Antagonists in Diablo have often been more classic big bad fare, likely related to the fact they are actual demons. However, the team working on Diablo 4 is trying to do something different with Lilith, who despite being part of that demonic pantheon should feel like a more human character.
“It’s a very deliberate choice to change the way Lilith comes across because we want to tell a story that people can relate to,” says Joe Shely, the game director for Diablo 4. “Even when we have big antagonists that are supernatural angels and demons, they need to have relatable human motivations”
Shely ties this into the fact that Diablo 4 is going to be a much darker game in tone than Diablo 3, thanks in part to the fact that darker storytelling like Game of Thrones, Squid Game, and even The Walking Dead has shown that there’s an appetite for darker fictional worlds.
“Characters need to be able to have a depth that you care about, so that players can understand how they could feel like their objectives are justified versus just a paper character that wants to do evil because they’re evil.”
Rod Fergusson, the general manager of the Diablo franchise, compares her to Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
“She’s not a moustache twirling villain, right? We wanted Lilith to have motivations where you could have that sort of Star Wars conversation where people talk about the character and say stuff like ‘Vader’s right, there should be order, there would be far less death.'”
“This is what we have with Lilith, there are discussions to be had around ‘is this the right thing or not’ and that shows how she is able to gain followers as she’s going through the game.”
As a result, Lilith is now something like Diablo 4‘s own Darth Vader. “It makes for a stronger character, but it’s also about that strength that we’re trying to put into the world,” adds Fergusson. “What we found for the first time during the beta and our earlier tests is that we’re finding people saying ‘I actually care about the villagers and what is going on in this town, and I’ve never felt that before in a Diablo game.’ So, depth like this is not just because we’re trying to create richer antagonists and protagonists, but we’re trying to create a richer world in general.”
Elsewhere the pair talked with NME about how this weekend’s Diablo 4 closed beta server issues would lead to a better launch for the game. Fergusson also talked about how not every class in Diablo 4 will feel balanced all of the time, saying that the team is looking to balance the full curve, so characters will feel more powerful at different times.