When Diablo II launched back in 2000, I couldn't stop playing. A few friends and I would hop in on a weekly basis, trying to master a run, getting the best loot all the while playing as our favourite class. In all those hours lost to Blizzard's dungeon crawler, no character got more playtime than the Necromancer. He fit the universe so well as a warrior that uses the power of death to fight against the forces of hell with a story that even Vertigo Comics at its most outlandish could not top. Despite my love however, when Diablo III launched, there was no sign of the Necromancer. There where characters added in compensation —The Witch Doctor, for example, played the role rather well — but even with all the basic roles filled out, they lacked a something special this class brought with it. Thankfully, I was apparently not alone, and Blizzard heard fans requests. So, at Blizzcon 2016, they announced the release of Rise of the Necromancer DLC. This new paid DLC for Diablo III will re-add the much-beloved character to the "new" Diablo III world, bringing all his death loving, minion controlling, blood-soaked glory to a new and improved platform.
At Pax East 2017 I got some hands-on time with the character in a short gameplay demo. Showing off a fast paced build of the Necromancer, the demo showcased what the new character class would play like, how it would stand up in a fight, and how he will differ from the other characters already in the roster when he releases later this year on consoles and PC.
There was a rush of nostalgia taking the reins of the new Necromancer after all these years, and Blizzard did a fine job recreating that fast and fluid gameplay from Diablo II. The summoning —i in this case, a blood golem— was easy, and utilizing the powers of the minion felt like second nature. Blizzard clearly spent some work building a new character, so it takes full advantage of the new modern game design found within Diablo III. Spells and abilities managed to have a strong synergy, allowing the Necromancer to control the battlefield even when playing solo.
Even with that familiarity, there are some noticeable changes to how the character plays. The new way the game handles abilities ensures you can chain attacks in ways you never could in Diablo II while also allowing the Necromancer to be much more melee-centric, which I did not expect. In my gameplay demo, I plunged right into the fight, using my Scythe to cleave through enemies. When I felt I was in danger, I used the corpses scattering the battlefield to regain health with the devour spell, and rain blood and death on enemies with the Blood Nova just for good measure. It was a new kinetic way to play the character I know and love, and yet with all these new abilities; Blizzard managed to make them feel familiar, something I did not think possible.
Blizzard has managed to walk that fine line between offering something people know and giving them something new and exciting. The Necromancer, while a callback to Diablo II, offers players a new way to play the game. After playing the demo it is evident that the Necromancer is not just a redundant class despite its similarities to the Witch Doctor. It gives players a playstyle that fits the dark, gothic nature of the game, and provides a fast and interesting new character to explore.
This DLC pack also points to a new way these beloved franchises keep fans coming back. Though it released back in 2012, Diablo III is still going strong. This addition not only adds a new character, but all the bells and whistles that come with it. A new set of dialogue and story cinematics come along for the ride. Players will not only see how the Necromancer plays in single player, but how they interact with the other characters of Sanctuary, and the world at large. If Blizzard can manage to bring this sort of DLC to the Diablo III, there is no reason to believe that Diablo III will need a replacement anytime soon.
Though it is hard to say how long Diablo III will last, the Necromancer is a sign that Blizzard is still invested in this world. The new DLC is poised to bring more of what players love about the Diablo franchise while mixing in some nostalgia for good measure. The Necromancer is a character that was a blast to play, and feels at home in the Diablo III universe. While not a full new expansion pack, the Rise of the Necromancer DLC should give players a reason to jump back into Diablo III for some good old fashion demon slaying.