Diablo has always been kind of goth, with its dark and moody dungeons, focus on the undead, and decidedly depressive overtones. A game that dark deserves a properly dark hero. Diablo II knew this, with its inclusion of the deadly and oh-so-gothy Necromancer character, but sometime in the intervening years between sequels, the poor bugger got lost in the cracks.
Diablo III has been out since 2012 and the closest thing it had was vaguely socially questionable Witch Doctor who could collect and control pets to unleash on the undead hordes. But this Witch Doctor was no Necromancer, and fans clamored for the return of the classic character. For $15, the Rise of the Necromancer expansion provides the ultimate moody and macabre Diablo III experience by adding the ultimate sorceress of the dead back into the fray.
Black mascara and lipstick are still extra, though.
I should stop for a moment with a confession: I’ve never actually liked Diablo. The original PC games were billed as role-playing games, but really they were just slightly more advanced versions of Gauntlet–the classic four-player arcade game where adventurers hacked and slashed through a monster-infested dungeon and got hungry a lot. Except in Diablo, all you did was point and click over and over with your mouse. It was like a really violent version of Windows Desktop for all the depth of play it had.
The intervening years haven’t managed to change my mind much, but Diablo III was undeniably a beautiful game when it came out, making all that point and click violence look better than ever. Most people didn’t care if the game was overly simplistic or not, and the Diablo series remains beloved for its ability to bring players together online for a few hours worth of destructive togetherness.
So, it’s odd that this particular expansion should force the biggest shift in my perspective toward the overall Diablo motif. Maybe it’s my secret love of goth girls, but more likely it’s the way this particular character elevates the absurd levels of horror-themed violence and ambiance to true B-movie cheesedom. With her vague Eastern European accent and dramatic one-liners, the Necromancer takes her role in this organ grinding absurdity so seriously I couldn’t help but fall in love. Or, at least, temporary virtual lust.
Her actions speak to a gleeful joy of cartoonish violence. Her base attack, for instance, is a ring of spikes that shoot up from the ground, impaling all in their way. Later on, it can be be traded up for one giant murder spike. She can summon a veritable dance line of skeletons to do her dirty work, creating a hilariously cartoonish sight of bleach-white skeletons just chasing after her like eager puppies. Upgrade a little more and you can instead have a hulking flesh golem lackey who will happily leap upon nefarious foes with the press of a button.
Funnily enough, if you go back to the main hub full of shopkeepers and sad-sack citizens, no one blinks an eye at goth girl and her horror-show companions, which is a big miss. (Honestly, you’d think someone would notice the ten-foot-tall, twitchy mass of bone, claws, and flesh just hanging out behind her. Maybe everyone is just too drunk to notice.)
Ground spikes and minions are one thing–and frankly not that unusual in Diablo–but the Necromancer really manages to elevate the otherwise mindless action when she learns to not just make lots of corpses, but use them as explosives. Being a veritable hell on earth, Diablo III’s world is littered with grisly corpse matter, so combat becomes a mini-game in itself to lead the scores of undead monsters to a corpse-laden spot, then make said corpses explode, thus creating more explosive body parts I could, in turn, detonate to kill their friends.
If my sheer joy over this tactical pursuit makes me a bad person, I fully accept and embrace such a label. My creepy virtual dream girl can also suck the bloody life out of her enemies, even from afar, and consume the dead to gain strength, so she’s pretty much the ultimate party vamp. I suppose it should be mentioned that you can pick a guy Necromancer, but really, who can stand male goths?
If you haven’t already picked up Diablo III, Blizzard was kind enough to release a complete package (including the Necromancer and previous additional content) quaintly titled, the Eternal Collection. For old or new players with a biting sense of humor and love of late night horror fare, Rise of the Necromancer manages to make Diablo III required gaming.