The Diablo 3 Necromancer Beta began just a couple days ago, unlocking the Necromancer class for a select number of testers to play. Although I wouldn't be able to enjoy the class for a little over a day due to a well-known error, I've since spent several hours playing as a Necromancer in Adventure Mode.
In this article I'll go over my initial impressions to better outline what the class is like to play, as well as share whether or not I think it will be a good addition for Diablo 3, one of my favorite games.
Classical Meets Modern
One of the greatest questions posed to the Diablo 3's Necromancer is how it stands compared to its Diablo 2 incarnation. While there are plenty of new skills, and Diablo 3's build system simply doesn't support a similar experience to Diablo 2, what's here is respectfully familiar.
For the most part, Blizzard has followed the footprint that the Necromancer left in Diablo 2 more than a decade ago. There's an emphasis on raising minions in large numbers, and supporting them with dark magics including curses. Thematically, it accomplishes its feat of making you feel like a corrupted wizard who is able to communicate with the dead.
It also looks the part. Necromancer armor and character models are reminiscent of the golden days of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. Tailcoats are still a thing in the world of necromancy, and so are bony spikes. Four endgame sets have already been revealed, and they're quite spectacular, especially the one called Grace of Inarius.
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Though, Diablo 3 is really starting to show its age, and this is obvious when you look at the characters on the main menu. They weren't impressive in 2012 when the game launched, and they sure as heck aren't impressive now. Diablo 4 couldn't come soon enough.
Exhuming The Abilities
One of the first abilities you unlock is the popular Corpse Explosion. It might require you to hover your cursor over a corpse before it can be used, but it manages to control incredibly well. Explosions are massive, and in its current form is probably way too powerful for the sake of balance. While it might be AoE oriented, Corpse Lance functions similarly but focuses its damage on a single target. With this, corpse skills can be utilized in any circumstance successfully.
Bone Spear is also unlocked early on, and is an ability that functions precisely like it did in Diablo 2. For all intents and purposes it is the same as any other straight-line ranged attack, but its Runes allow it to specialize in ways that make it feel appropriate for the class. The same can be said of other fairly generic skills, including Bone Spikes
There are no poison abilities to be seen here, as they have instead been made exclusive to the Witch Doctor. While this may prove disappointing for fans of the original Necromancer, at the very least its ability to command minions is unrivaled.
The Necromancer can summon an incredible number of skeletons and golems. Between Army of the Dead, Command Skeletons, and Skeleton Mage you can command a formidable army that far surpasses the quantities of the Witch Doctor. You can even subjugate a group of fallen enemies using Revive, resulting in a spectacularly evil sight. This proper representation of the original Necromancer's minion capabilities is a huge accomplishment that was likely difficult to implement given the restrictions of Diablo 3's engine, but Blizzard made it happen.
An Undertaker's Cocktail
Despite its specialized appearance, the Necromancer is perhaps the most flexible class in the game. I spent most of my time using a ranged build that emphasized burst damage to bring enemies to their knees before they could even touch me. However, I could have just as easily swapped to a pet-focused build, a build that strictly used blood magic for sustainability, or even the fan-favorite Meleemancer.
I did dabble in Meleemancer, and if anything it felt like an evil version of the Crusader. Instead of holy maces and righteous flails, it commands a sycthe that would make the Grim Reaper jealous, and destroys anything nearby with Death Nova.
Blood magic is highly desirable for higher level play due to its self-healing options. The Necromancer is admittedly a rather squishy class that doesn't survive long when out of position, so skills like Siphon Blood and Devour go a long way toward keeping it alive in sticky situations.
This variety makes the Necromancer a tremendous addition to Diablo 3, as it isn't focused on pleasing the tastes of any specific type of player. Instead, anyone who is open to playing a class with a deeply evil composition will find a way to build one and probably enjoy it along the way.
It's No Witch Doctor
My primary concern is that the Necromancer would feel too much like a crossover with Witch Doctor given they both have a similar type of ranged magic playstyle. Although both are capable of amassing armies of pets, the similarities really end there.
Functionally speaking, there is plenty of overlap, but the same can be said of any other ranged class in Diablo 3. The real difference here is in how the abilities are adjusted in seemingly minor ways to thematically fit the Necromancer. For example, while something like Command Golem might be just like a Gargantuan, its ability to be instantly reduced into a stack of usable corpses and modified in other ways using Runes to suit the mechanics of the Necromancer makes it distinct.
The biggest deviation between the two is in how they present themselves. The Witch Doctor is humorous and outrageous, capable of making its environment rain frogs and summoning piranhas to bite at the feet of enemies.
The Necromancer has no interest in humor. It is dark and grosteque, utilizing corpses and evil magic to impose its will on opponents. This might be a put-off for some players, but at the very least it doesn't forsake the design of the original Diablo 2 class. And ultimately, I really like how it's been designed. I know I'll be playing one to max level once it hits the live servers.