There was, apparently, some hub bub about the Necromancer being cut from Diablo III. The fact was that they already had a curse and pet using type with the Witch Doctor. Was there room for two? Maybe… just not at initial release. And there are questions about how the Necromancer can vary against the Witch Doctor.
Having played Diablo II and III, the two classes are indeed similar, coming from the same thematic vein. But there are mentionable differences as well in the game play styles. First off, the Necromancer was capable of raising an army. Besides his golem, he could raise skeletons, magi skeletons and ressurrected monsters. All at the same time. I believe the maximum cap of each kind of pet (besides the single golem) was nine, which meant a possible total of 28 (9 skeletons, 9 magi, 9 monsters and the golem) summonings, discluding the hireling.
Granted, skeletons couldn’t hack it in later levels, but the use of magi skeletons for range and ressurrected monsters for fodder was a common build.
The Witch Doctor has some summonings, but few are lasting. I got a little excited for a moment when I started spamming corpse spiders all over the place. Then I realized they weren’t really pets but a kind of short lived spell. They had no hit points and didn’t survive long. The summonings of the Witch Doctor include Zombie Dogs, the Zombie Wall, the Gargantuan and Fetishes. The Fetishes are only around for 20 seconds.
I suspect that the structure of Diablo III‘s gameplay is not conducive to spamming summonings. In II one could hotkey up your skills, switch, summon, switch back. In III, that’s a pain. It takes time to reset the skill and one is limited to six skills available at any time. Not to mention that having 28 monsters on your side during a fight can be a bit murderous for slower machines. Nor is there always that much available screen space.
The Necromancer and Witch Doctor also greatly differ in the way they focus curses. To be honest, I don’t feel the Witch Doctor has that many curses available to him, but those that he does have focus on crowd control, such as Horrify and Mass Confusion.
The classic Necromancer curses, Iron Maiden (reflect damage) and the parasitic Life Tap, remain (correct me if I’m wrong) untouched and unused in III. This suggests that they have been reserved for the time being. Thus while the Witch Doctor’s curses strike me as more defensive than the Necromancer’s.
Finally, there are the differences in the spells themselves. The Witch Doctor has always struck me as being more interested in the spiritual aspect of death, and also more flavorful of his jungle homeland. Thus he has relied on wild jungle animals like spiders, frogs and bats. His interest in death has been more spiritual. The Necromancer however, feels more inclined towards the physical. Many of his spells actually involve the use of bones, such as the Bone Spear and Bone Armor.
Perhaps the aspect which can change the Witch Doctor from the Necromancer is the one thing that is the most difficult to compare. Diablo III handles skill ability costs differently, in that each class has its own “thing” from the Barbarian’s fury to the Hatred and Discipline of the Demon Hunter. The Witch Doctor uses mana, but the Necromancer could probably rely on something else. Perhaps a connection to the dead that accelerates whenever he’s near a body.
Will we see the Necromancer again? Probably. I’ve heard that Blizzard has no intention of releasing an expansion for three years. Given how long Heart of the Swarm is taking, I believe it. But they haven’t forgotten everyone’s second favorite Diablo class. Like Natalya hinting the Assassin in II, the Necromancer shows up at least twice in III, first as the foe Jondar. Then as the friendlier Mehtan, pictured above.
But personally? I kind of hope we see the Druid first. Come on werewolf form!