Blizzard’s Diablo recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the last installment — Diablo III — has been going strong for five years now. Our “Rise of the Necromancer” review takes a look at the latest addition to the Diablo III class stable to see if it’s a worthwhile addition.
Before we begin, this review will be slightly different than our previous game reviews. Because Diablo III is an established game, we’re not going to be covering elements that we typically do like graphics. As such, instead of a score derived from an average of multiple categories, we’ll be assigning a single overall score to the “Rise of the Necromancer” DLC pack. With that out of the way, let’s begin!
Priests of Rathma
For the past five years, Diablo III purveyors of Sanctuary have been playing as Barbarians, Crusaders, Demon Hunters, Monks, Witch Doctors, or Wizards. One class that was notably missing from the start was a fan favourite from Diablo II — Priests of Rathma, the Necromancer. While the previous classes simply hack, slash, and spellcast their way through the various Acts, dungeons, bounties, and rifts, the Necromancer gets to utilize the corpses of those he or she slays to wreak even more havoc and destruction on the living and surrounding environment in order to maintain Balance in Sanctuary. Check out the Necromancer Campaign Cinematic Intro before we continue for a quick back story, which unfortunately is most of the Necromancer story in the game.
Playing the Necromancer
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at just how the Necromancer plays. The primary resource of the class is Essence. With enough Essence, you can curse enemies, raise skeletons, skeletal mages, and golems to fight by your side. Your Essence generating abilities include utilizing bones in a number of ways, using a summoned scythe, or siphoning blood from the living. There are other abilities you can use as well that cost no Essence, but some will cost between 5% – 25% of your remaining health, which can make for some interesting and hectic scenarios.
Once I unlocked the Corpse Explosion ability, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something I was told often as a child – “stop playing with your food!” I know corpses aren’t food but in a way utilizing the recently deceased to create bloody explosions that take out the living was strangely satisfying and, well, kind of felt like playing with your food. Other Corpse abilities include shooting lances out of corpses, devouring corpses to restore Essence, and reviving corpses to fight alongside you for a short time. I won’t get into all the abilities, as, of course, Blizzard has that covered in their Necromancer overview. With the right combination of abilities and curses, however, you can garner quite the semi-permanent army to fight alongside you.
So far, I have leveled two Necromancers. The first I played on PC, the second on Xbox One. My PC Necromancer really took no time at all considering I was sitting around 650 Paragon at the time, not to mention the various gear and gems I already possessed. I was tempted to go the story route but once I read the Xbox One achievements that were added for the Necromancer pack, I decided I’d hit that up on the console instead.
As such, I dove right into Adventure Mode and in no time was corpse exploding my way through Sanctuary with ease on Torment V in not time at all. It didn’t take all that long to get to Level 70 (a few hours at best), and once there running rifts seemed much easier than some of the previous classes I played — but no less fun. At times my screen was so filled with blood and corpse lances and risen skeletons it was hard to see anything and resulted in, simply put — a big bloody (but satisfying) mess.
Xbox One Gameplay
Playing the Necromancer on the Xbox One was a bit different for a couple of reasons. For starters, I decided to finally give Hardcore mode a chance again after losing a Crusader at level 67 ages ago. As such, I had no gold, no gems, no gear, no Paragon points, nothing to give me the boost I got in the PC version. Even though I played it safe on Normal difficulty, there were still a couple battles which caused brief alarm further in the game but after about 10 hours or so (the Double XP Weekend event helped a lot), I was able to complete the story mode and hit Level 70.
While the PC leveling was fast and allowed me to dive quickly into the end game, the Xbox leveling gave me a chance to play with the various skills a bit more although I still ended up relying mostly on Bone Armor, Frailty curse, and Corpse Lance with my trusted Command Skeletons. Of course, I was driven to choose talents that would help me complete a few Achievements along the way (kill 1000 enemies with corpses, kill 5000 cursed enemies, and of course getting a Necromancer to Level 70 and a hardcore character to Level 70).
The second difference, of course, is playing with a controller as opposed to a keyboard and mouse. With classes like the Necromancer, the difference is more apparent when you are using skills which allow you to target enemies. On the PC, it was super easy to target the Champion/Rare/Elite mobs with Command Skeletons or Corpse Lance. Even being able to apply curses and Bone Spikes to the right area on the ground was effortless. On the Xbox One, however, you can’t target a specific area or enemy with a cursor and instead simply point in the direction you want to send your skeletons, Corpse Lance, or apply the curse or Bone Spikes. Because it’s directional on the console, I often found that I’d miss my mark and target another enemy instead. While it didn’t result in any catastrophic results (namely a death in Hardcore mode), it was a bit annoying at times and made some battles slightly longer than they had to be.
After about a week playing on and off on the PC, I managed to get full Bones of Rathma. At first, I started off with a build based on the Bones of Rathma and Jesseth Arms set. Largely a ranged build, it relies on quickly filling your Essence and then emptying it to summon a powerful skeletal mage. While it was fun, it seemed to be missing something and I focused on getting the Grace of Inarius set. Once I had the complete set, I switched over to a melee Bone Storm-focused build with a healthy dose of the Frailty curse and Corpse Lance skill.
While the Rathma/Jesseth build was fun, it felt a bit too safe. With the Inarius build, things definitely got a lot more hectic and close-quartered, and not to mention more satisfying. The build is pretty strong as well and I was able to breeze even more easily through Greater Rifts and using the speed farming variation for Adventuring and regular Rifts gives you insane armor fast — I’ve seen it peak at 78 billion toughness… yes BILLION.
There are definitely some other builds available that suit different play styles and the Icy Veins website has a great rundown of the Necromancer for leveling and end-game builds.
The “Rise of the Necromancer” pack will set you back $14.99USD (it does require the “Reaper of Souls” Expansion) and not only grants you the Necromancer class but also two more character slots, two stash tabs (PC only), Wings of the Crypt Guardian, a Half-Formed Golem Pet, and a Banner Sigel, Banner Pattern, and Pennant. In addition, once you complete all the Necromancer Class achievements, you’ll be rewarded with a second set of wings — the Trag’Oul’s Wings which look deadly with the Trag’Oul set.
If you’ve been avidly playing Diablo III for any amount of time, the Necromancer pack is definitely a fun, albeit bloody, and welcome addition which injects a bit of new life and gameplay into a well-established classic.