The Necromancer was one of the most powerful and popular classes in Diablo II, and fans were understandably disappointed when the character didn’t make the cut for Diablo III. Now, five years after the game’s initial release (and three years after its major expansion, Reaper of Souls), the Necromancer is finally coming back to the world of Sanctuary, and this time she can get up close and personal with enemies. Just be warned: It’s kinda icky.
I went hands-on with a melee build of a female Necromancer at GDC 2017. Even though I wasn’t too familiar with the class when I played Diablo II (I was more into the Paladin and the Assassin), I knew that “Necromancer” and “melee” were not traditionally words that went together. Still, Blizzard wants to give fans plenty of variety with the upcoming class. While you can still play a Necromancer by summoning legions of undead minions, you can also just deal with foes yourself.
To that end, we had six new skills to play with. Grim Scythe swings an enormous, ethereal scythe to damage all enemies in a wide arc. Blood Nova deals huge area-of-effect damage, but at the cost of both Essence (mana) and health. In order to keep her health up, the Necromancer could Devour nearby corpses, Leech health from nearby enemies or summon a Blood Golem, which would sacrifice itself to restore health on command. She could also transform herself into a mist of blood with Blood Rush to evade enemy strikes. Told you it was gross.
On the other hand, the Necromancer’s skill set, while macabre, is incredibly fun, and appears to be just as viable as any other class in Diablo III. I ran the Necromancer through a Nephalem Rift (basically a late-game standalone dungeon) and pitted her against hordes of minions, along with a few tougher minibosses and a standalone boss at the end.
If you’ve played Diablo III before, you know how it works: I used my basic attack (Grim Scythe) to deal with a few enemies at a time, and Blood Nova to decimate larger groups. When my health ran low, I could restore it with one of the Necromancer’s many curative abilities. Granted, it was a demo tailored specifically to a melee Necromancer’s skills, but everything worked smoothly, and I carved a bloody swath to the boss in no time.
I asked Blizzard why the Necromancer had taken so long to make an appearance in Diablo III, given its massive popularity in the previous game. Broadly speaking, Blizzard had been more interested in trying new classes than old ones, and the Necromancer — while fun — was not necessarily the most accessible class. But when it came time to pick a new class for Diablo III, the developers insisted — it was time for the Necromancer to (appropriately) return from the dead.
The Rise of the Necromancer downloadable pack doesn’t have a solid release date or price yet, but since it’s not a full-fledged expansion, it almost definitely won’t cost as much as Reaper of Souls ($40 upon release). However, campaign-focused players can rest easy. Although Rise of the Necromancer doesn’t add any new story content, it does provide new Necromancer-appropriate cutscenes and dialogues for the game’s main narrative.