Diablo II was one of my all-time favorite games. I poured literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of hours into it. Before I was done, I had taken many characters through the game, but my favorite was always the Necromancer. (The Druid and Assassin were probably #2 and 3, respectively.)
Since Diablo III was released just over five years ago (incredible, isn’t it?!), I’ve played it on PC, PS3, and PS4, and gotten all classes up to level 70, and until this week, my new favorite has been the obvious choice: the Necromancer’s spiritual successor, the Witch Doctor. (Demon Hunter was #2.) But now, the Necromancer is back, and the new version of the class has captured my heart just like the old one did.
Necromancers’ skills in both games involve summoning, curses, and bone-based attacks, but the skills aren’t a one-to-one match between games, and many adjustments have been made to the skills that do reappear. For example, if you choose to have skeletal minions, they are passively summoned every couple of seconds, up to a total of seven. Your active use of the skill instead commands them to focus on a target, and the skill’s runes determine the type of bonus damage they do while they’re focused. Corpse Explosion, a favorite of many Necromancers past, also makes its return, and it is glorious. In keeping with most Diablo III skills, its damage is now based on your character’s weapon damage rather than the monster’s HP as it was in II, providing much more consistent results than it used to and thus removing what I didn’t like about it before.
This change also means that for a Necromancer, trash mobs aren’t an annoyance that simply serves to keep you from attacking more powerful enemies. Instead, they are your favorite thing to see. They’re easy to kill and explode for the same damage as anyone else. And bosses who summon their own trash mobs? They’re your new best friends, whether you prefer to revive their minions’ corpses or blow them up.
In Diablo II, my main character used a “zookeeper” build, with as large a retinue of followers as I could manage. Before patch 1.13, you couldn’t re-spec characters, and even after you could, it wasn’t as easy as it is in Diablo III, so I didn’t do a lot of experimenting. In Diablo III, on the other hand, one of the joys I’ve had has been in trying different builds for my Necromancer. She started as a zookeeper, and that worked. Then I switched to throwing curses and bone spikes, and that worked. And most recently, I collected up all of the pieces of a class-specific equipment set called Grace of Inarius that makes her Bone Armor not just protect her, but also deal ridiculous amounts of damage to foes, and that works too. In fact, it works so well that I expect this set to get nerfed in the next patch.
I also hope that the cooldowns on a couple of the skills are tweaked in that next patch, as they are currently so long that I won’t even consider using them. For example, Army of the Dead’s base damage is 12000% weapon damage in a 15-yard radius, which is pretty incredible, but with a cooldown of 120 seconds, I can’t bring myself to commit a button to it and spend precious time in rifts checking over and over to see if it’s usable again, knowing that I’ll only have time to use it a handful of times while I’m in there. The issue doesn’t change my overall feeling about this DLC — every Diablo III class includes more good skills than you could assign to your buttons at one time, so this just makes a hard choice a little easier by eliminating a few possibilities. It’s just sad to feel like there are tools in my toolbox that I can’t afford to use.
The Rise of the Necromancer DLC includes the Necromancer class, a new “Half-Formed Golem” pet (who will pick up gold for you, but won’t do any fighting), a set of wings and related cosmetic items, and crucially for PC players, two new character slots and stash tabs. It costs $15 alone, or you can get it on console as part of a full bundle with Diablo III and the Reaper of Souls expansion for $60, although it looks like buying the pieces separately will save you some cash.
If you liked the Diablo II version of the Necromancer, this DLC is a must-buy item, but even if you didn’t like the original class or didn’t play it, I’d still say this is worth adding to your collection. If you’ve been away, you may not know it, but Blizzard has continued adding content through patches over time, and this could be just the thing to suck you back in and try it out.