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How Blizzard Created the Best and Worst Mom With Lilith

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Lilith, the daughter of hatred, takes center stage in Diablo 4. As mentioned in Diablo 3 through scattered documents found around the High Heavens, she has returned to Sanctuary to establish herself as the mother of all creation. Players were given a glimpse into her overwhelming presence in Sanctuary through the Diablo 4 open beta period and stress test, with several cutscenes illustrating how her presence has affected the world at large.

Sean Copeland, Senior Manager of Lore at Blizzard, took the opportunity to sit down with us at IGN to elaborate on what makes Lilith such a compelling antagonist for Diablo 4, and what her reappearance in Sanctuary means for the world of Diablo.

“Metaphorically, Lilith represents a threat,” says Copeland. “While I would say “That’s just life in Sanctuary!” this is one of those threats that you just can’t ignore.” Copeland elaborated, explaining just what Lilith’s reappearance means in the grand scheme of things.

“She’s not coming just to build a kingdom and establish dominance like we saw in West March… We’re seeing a threat that’s going to affect everyone, everywhere. This is like Reaper of Souls. No one can escape what’s happening here. So while it’s an amazing moment, yes, the creator has returned, but again it’s ‘What does this creator want from us?’ And what is the toll it will take on the world?” 

Her role as the primary antagonist in this entry of the Diablo series may be more multifaceted than Blizzard is letting on. While Lilith herself is an imposing figure, summoned forth from a horrific ritual witnessed in the “By Three They Come” announcement trailer, there was a glimpse into something more human, more tender than what we’ve seen in a Diablo antagonist thus far through the open beta period. 

Major spoilers ahead for Diablo 4 

In Diablo 4, Lilith mourns the death of her only child—Rathma, the founder of necromancy in Sanctuary—her intentions are driven by a core emotion: Hatred. Copeland stressed that hatred is part of Lilith’s DNA. But hatred in Diablo is more multifaceted than one might think and isn’t defined by conventional terms.

“When we talk about hatred, we’re not talking about anger. You know, something raw like two people against one another. We’re talking about the wrath of kingdoms going against one another.” And in Lilith’s case, her role as the daughter of hatred is integral to understanding her character. Even in the case of the conception of her children, and the creation of Sanctuary in and of itself.

However, once these children were born their lives were immediately threatened. Described as “God-level beings” by Copeland, the children born from the tryst of demons and angels were a threat to the High Heavens, which compromised the rebels that were hiding in Sanctuary to divorce themselves from the Eternal Conflict to begin with. In a panic, the leaders of this rebellion came together to try and decide the fate of what would become humanity, and if their lives were effectively worth their peace. And Lilith wasn’t going to have any of that.

“Demons are all about destruction and hatred.” Copeland said. “And when that creation was threatened, she shifted right back into being full of rage. She was described as being “fang” and “claw” and “pure fury,” going to the places where each rebel leader was hiding and denying them the decision to kill her children.” Lilith’s dedication to Sanctuary and her children is admirable to be sure. But nothing is ever so clean cut with Lilith according to Copeland.

“You think that’d make sense, a mother protecting her children. That’s very understandable, but she’s the daughter of hatred, and there is this DNA in her that has to play the bigger game and have this bigger part.. She found these weapons (her children) and thought of something no other demon had thought of. What if we win?”

Because this is one of the most integral pieces of the puzzle that makes up Lilith’s character, and her motivations as a whole. It’s about the Eternal Conflict and the role both Inarius and Lilith played. Diablo 3 provided an account from both parties, each with varying sentiments and creating unique narratives from the perspective of the creators of Sanctuary and humanity itself. Copeland describes Inarius as a “tool” Lilith used in her escape of the conflict, which paints a different picture than one might have imagined from previous bits of lore.

“When it comes to Lilith, there’s very little information about her in the world, unless you have the ability to know it. So there’s this unreliable narrator. While it’s not great for the people in history, it’s great for storytelling. Because when you see Lilith, there’s no denying what she’s for. And seeing more in act one, it only adds to that extra layer and complicates things.”

Lilith may be the mother of sanctuary, but more than that, she could prove to be one of the most interesting and dynamic antagonists the Diablo series has seen to date. While her motivations may not be entirely transparent, there is enough mystery there that begs the question just how far Lilith will go to see the end of the Eternal Conflict, and just how deeply the player character could interact with her. Could she end the centuries long war that has raged on in the Diablo universe since time immemorial, or will she turn into more of a benevolent figure, and despite her hatred shower us with the adoration a mother might upon an arrant child? That said, Copeland says it best:

“Mother knows best, but mother might not have the best intentions for us.”

Performing odd jobs around all sectors of the industry ranging from translation, narrative design, and consultation, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series as a VTuber on his Twitch channel, and raids with friends in Final Fantasy XIV and Lost Ark. You can find him on Twitter at @JusticeKazzy_.

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