PAX East 2017 Diablo III event -- Boston, MA -- Several fansites and gaming outlets were invited by Blizzard Entertainment to a press event about the Necromancer. The event took place at PAX East 2017 on Saturday, March 11 with senior game designer Matthew Berger and lead game producer Rob Foote.
Blizzard Entertainment gave us a shot at playing as a female Necromancer. While playing at the demo station, I was able to play in a Greater Rift environment. However, the inventory, and skills tab were disabled as the main focus was to give us a taste of how playing as a Necromancer feels like. I was literally obliterating everything in my path with little effort.
Once I completed the Greater Rift, a portal was opened to face the Rift Lord. The portal led me into a large hallway within the walls of the Temple of the Firstborn (located beneath the Shrouded Moors). For those who follow the lore, this is where Angel Inarius first set foot in Sanctuary, and where the original Nephalem were born at.
Inspired by the Diablo II hero, the Necromancer is a commander of the dead, and draws upon the power of blood and bone to eradicate those who threaten the balance. The Necromancer's main source is Essence, which you gather by slashing at enemies with your one-handed Grim Scythe weapon by pressing the mouse left-button. The Necromancer's weapon animation is ridiculously awesome slashing half-the-screen with a 20-yard-long green-hued ghostly scythe.
The Necromancer holds the scythe in the right hand, while on the left hand, hovering above, is the phylactery where the Essence is collected and stored by the Necromancer. However, you can also wield a two-handed scythe. Don't panic.
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The right-button casts an Essence spender named Blood Nova. This ability deals high damage to all enemies around you. In contrast with other heroes, this massive nova deals damage to the Necromancer. You can recover massive loads of health back by casting the Leech curse on enemies, and Devour.
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The (1) button casts Devour to consume enemy corpses near you instantly to restore Health.
The (2) button was an active ability that summons a Blood Golem pet. The Blood Golem attacks the target you command it to attack, and it drains blood from enemies to restore your health by clicking the button again. The Blood Golem can also teleport to the target.
The (3) button is named Blood Rush, which teleports the Necromancer forward by shredding the mortal flesh and passing through solid objects. The animation shows the Necromancer's body being disintegrated, followed by a flash of blood crossing the screen, before materializing back into his corporeal form at the targeted location. This comes handy to escape danger, or to quickly move across the map every few seconds.
The (4) button is named Leech. When pressing the button, a large rune circle is drawn onscreen. Click the desired area, and any enemy within the area is cursed, healing the Necromancer and allies. A red symbol is drawn above the enemy's head to signal they have been cursed.
These were the keybind buttons all of the abilities shown to us during the hands-on demo were assigned by default, but of course, you can custom keybind your favorite abilities at your leisure.
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At the time of this demo, none of the other skills were revealed. More accurately, the skills and inventory tab were disabled by default for the demo. However, during the Q&A, I asked the developers about Bone Spear. Nothing to be worried about. Bone Spear is part of the Necromancer's repertoire of abilities. Moreso, you can use Grim Scythe and Bone Spear simultaneously if you choose to.
Playing a Necromancer feels a lot like playing four Diablo III heroes in one: the Witch Doctor, the Barbarian, the Demon Hunter, and the Crusader. If you enjoy those heroes, then you will love the Necromancer. The Necromancer will have a choice of 4-5 different golems including the Blood Golem. So far Blizzard has finished development of three of them, and at least two more are in progress.
The developers decided to steer away from adding poison abilities to the Necromancer, to draw him apart from the Witch Doctor's kit. Blood Nova kinda fills the void of what former Diablo II Necromancer players loved from their Poison build. In Diablo III, the Necromancer is more focused on blood and bone as their source to deal damage or to self-heal.
The Rise of the Necromancer pack includes the new hero, an in-game pet, cosmetic wings, two character slots so you don't have to delete previous heroes to play a Necromancer, two additional stash tabs, a portrait frame, and a banner sigil. The Necromancer will also be able to collect new Necromancer-themed Sets and Legendaries.
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In terms of the story, the Necromancer interacts with other players and with NPCs with a strong and dark personality. The Necromancer sees things that other mortals don't. So expect some funny lines, and at times story-driven revealing interactions.
One of the abilities shown at BlizzCon 2016, the equivalent of the Army of the Dead, was not playable in this PAX East 2017 demo, but it is in development for the PTR testing. The developers have not yet decided how many skeletons the Necromancer can summon with this ability. They have been playing around with a 50 skeletons cap, but it might be reduced taking in consideration that players might explore teaming up to play as 4 Necromancers. That would put the body count at 200 skeletons onscreen under that doomsday scenario. So don't hold your breath on 50, but you can expect the number to be pretty high.
The good news is that the Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer pack content will be up in the PTR fairly soon. The Diablo III developers want players to test this content thoroughly before it goes live.
After I had the opportunity to play the female Necromancer demo, the developers resumed their presentation with a short Q&A session.
What happened to Bone Spear?
[bluepost]Rob: It is still there. All the skills we showed at BlizzCon are still there. They still exist. We just wanted to show the different set of skills, the different skills, the different builds, the different ways of playing the Necromancer.[/bluepost]
Can you use the Grim Scythe with Bone Spear simultaneously, or do you have to choose one or the other?
[bluepost]Rob: You could. You can have them both. It is important to point out that we feel that this class is on par with every other class we have made. So we made over 20 skills for the Necromancer, with all the 5 runes for every skill, and passives, and full sets that we have also made dungeons associated with them, as well as having Act I through V. Like with other passives, the Necromancer can have two-handed scythe weapons, or he can have a one-handed weapon on the off-hand.[/bluepost]
What kind of challenges did you face creating the Necromancer when the Witch Doctor was already in?
[bluepost]The advantage of having the Witch Doctor already in the game is that it created a set of things we knew that we had to step away from, or to change. So we had to differentiate the pets from what the Witch Doctor's pets were. The Witch Doctor steeps literally in poison so much. So we decided that the Necromancer was not going to have any poison. Now, those feel like restrictions, and in some way they are, but another way to look at it is that it creates a very defining set of things that you want to stay away, from the things that we want to do, which is important because the Necromancer has to feel familiar to you, you can play the Necromancer in Diablo II, and still surprise you. It has to feel different. It has to bring new things to the table, and Diablo III is a different game; and so we are always going to make certain decisions.
Also thematically a lot of the skills that the Witch Doctor uses, like the piranhas jumping on the screen, and dogs, and frogs -- things that are major to that class, whereas the Necromancer is a more serious, more darker class in terms of the content. Thematically, it feels very distinctive playing it than the Witch Doctor.[/bluepost]
Is the Journal going to get new scroll updates referencing the story of the Necromancer?
[bluepost]Rob: The Necromancer will be fully playable in Acts I through V, and there will be some lore books as well for the Necromancer to help flesh out his backstory; but even the way you will be interacting with various characters throughout the story, because the Necromancer has a different personality, a different vibe (each one of the characters bring their own sort of personality in their interactions with the other characters), and it will be true with the Necromancer as well.
Matthew: The story mode includes full VO (voice acting). So maybe you haven't played through the story, or because it was a long time ago, and you have been playing in Adventure Mode, it is a new class, and you'd have to go back and play through it again, and you will be pleased to see that.[/bluepost]
Does the new Rise of the Necromancer pack include a new zone, or are there plans for adding a new zone in the future?
[bluepost]Matthew: No, but there are two new zones that are coming in Patch 2.6 ... Temple of the Firstborn, and the Shrouded Moors; and they have new monsters, new quests, new events, which means new Bounties; we are also adding a new rift in Greater Rifts. At the end of the demo, you saw a portal appear and it took you to a section of the Temple of the Firstborn. A little bit of a tease. So those are coming; Act IV with new Bounties and places to go, new tilesets to help that feel more fresh to play.
Rob: It is also important to note that the Rise of the Necromancer pack also includes more than just the Necromancer. You are getting two new character slots, because we don't want you to have to delete a character to create a Necromancer; then additionally, you are getting two stash tabs, so that when you get the Necromancer set pieces you can store them, because your stash is full; and then also we are giving you a range of cosmetics as well: the Necromancer pet, Necromancer wings, portrait frame, pendant, so a lot of good stuff.[/bluepost]
Below you can watch 5 minutes of gameplay featuring the female Necromancer.
Will there be a PTR for the Necromancer?
Yes! The PTR for the Necromancer will be a little different from other PTRs—stay tuned for more information.
Is the Necromancer part of an expansion pack?
No, the Necromancer is part of a content pack which includes the class, an in-game pet, cosmetic wings, two additional character slots, two additional stash tabs (on PC), a portrait frame, pennant, banner, and a banner sigil.
It will, however, launch alongside a free major content patch that includes two new zones, Challenge Rifts, and more. These additional features will be available for all players with Diablo III: Reaper of Souls or the Ultimate Evil Edition.
How much will the pack cost?
We’re not ready to announce a price yet—we know you’re eager to find out, but we have a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross before we can share.
When is the Necromancer coming to Diablo III?
We are currently aiming for the second half of 2017; when we have an official release date, we’ll certainly share it!