Blizzard is spectacular at treating its games as a service. That’s a rather dry way of saying that it keeps on giving, adding, tweaking and balancing – and the fact that it does this for free (for the most part) is staggering. The company has constantly maintained that it will keep updating its games for as long as there’s an interest – you might know that if you’ve ever checked out its library on PC. World Of Warcraft still has a juggernaut status with millions of subscribers, and Overwatch is the dev’s darling, but even three-year-old Diablo 3 benefits from this ethos. And it is ruinous to my health.
The irony is high. As Diablo 3 gains more life, my mana depletes. The latest character class, the Necromancer, is unusual in that it’s both forward-thinking and it looks to the past, hoping to scoop up lapsed players while still remaining relevant, new and exciting in the Xbox Games Store.
I definitely cannot recommend you start as the Necromancer if you’ve never played Diablo 3 before, as you won’t get a good idea of what the game’s about. Here’s a character who raises dusty skeletons from the ether to form an unholy squadron, and sucks health points from corpses littered on the ground to feed herself. (Or, if you want to really get the most out of her, makes them explode like landmines – more on that later.) She’s a bit like a witch doctor, but with better fashion sense. Originally found in Diablo 2, this new-old character feels turbo-charged compared to the other classes. Funnily enough, there are only two Xbox One games that were released in 2014 that still enjoy luxurious updates from their creators: Grand Theft Auto 5 and Minecraft.
Diablo is all about the numbers. Specifically, one important number: damage. As the digits on screen show off the damage inflicted on enemies, rattling higher and higher, time ticks on with similar, unstoppable ferocity. 5,000dmg bouncing off the head of a Necromatic Minion and it’s 11pm. 6,100, 11.30pm. 7,300, 12am, brief unconsciousness and then the alarm rings and it’s 10 crippling hours until I can get home and dive back in. The numbers sing, man, a tune with a tempo that begs for more, more, more. The Necromancer delivers.
As I mentioned, the Necromancer in Diablo 3 is reminiscent of the ‘Mancer from Diablo 2, though I only know that because I did the barest amount of research possible for this piece, and that’s only because I’m too busy enjoying raising an army of the dead.
I never played Diablo 2, but my time sink example shows that I got horribly addicted to Diablo 3 just after its release – I reviewed it for OXM. Eight out of ten I gave it, which is a lowball score in some ways, as it’s become one of my favourite games of all time and could be literally conceived as being endless. I had to give it up because I was in danger of losing my job, ironically for doing my job. There’s never been a point in my life where I’ve really considered taking up cosplay, but thinking about it, if I’d I flushed a grey wash through my hair and painted my nails black I would’ve looked a lot like the Necromancer does right now in the promotional artwork.
I’ve learned that a lot of the ‘Mancer’s powers in Diablo 3 are either the same as those from the PC game released in 2000, albeit with a slight nip and tuck. Take, for instance, the ability to slaughter a ghoul, and then if the bingo wheel that forms the game’s random number generator decides to turn that dead baddie into a corpse, you can then blow it up. Guts akimbo, the splash damage then kills other nasties, who then turn into more corpses, and so on and so on. If you’ve ever seen the YouTube clip of a poor, deceased, sperm whale literally erupting all over the Faroe Islands and scaring the living piss out of the guy sent to dissect it, firstly, my condolences because it’s harrowing, but secondly, it’s that.
Meanwhile, seven armed skeletons permanently surround me like a king’s guard, cutting sick at whatever they collide into while we storm through a cathedral, or across the Stinging Sands. With a stab of the Y button they launch like a Trident 2 missile at my target. More numbers, more corpses. Mash RT and a skeletal mage appears, but keep mashing until essence runs out and more of them manifest onto the screen.
It is a cacophony. A legendary weapon spawns a minotaur, and an active skill gives me a golem that’s basically a walking pile of corpses. His lot in life is to die, depositing a gooey, mushy equivalent of chunk of C4 wherever I so deign. I have a dozen spectral bodies, who all look like they’ve worn the same costume to a particularly brutal Halloween party hosted by accountants thirsty for numbers.
So it’s clear that the Necromancer is outrageously overpowered. Anyone with a couple of hours free Saturday afternoon can reach level 20, solo, and have unlocked the bulk of the active skills. You’d be bored within seconds if you put this on anything lower than expert difficulty, but if you and your crew are deep within greater rifts running at a decent Torment level then you’ve found your showman. Perhaps that’s at the expense of your cohorts missing out on the fun, though, because you and the bone heads are too liberal at blowing everything up.
So is it worth it? For a shade over 13 quid, yeah, it is, in the same way that you’d spend the same money on bootleg fireworks and watch the whole thing go bang in a spectacular light show. You don’t get any new story acts here, just a character, rolling with her boneys, who feels dangerous, unrefined – and a lot of fun.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.