I spent some time this week playing on the Elder Scrolls Online public test server. I’ve explored quite a bit of Northern Elsweyr. I played through the prescribed first questline of the new chapter. But really, I spent most of my time slaying dragons; I talked about that in my first impressions piece for Elsweyr. But I don’t think I spent enough time there talking about the new class, the Necromancer, so I’d like to do that today.ZeniMax Online Studios has created a unique class here. Although some of the abilities are traditional and expected when it comes to a ranged class, there are some abilities that should both discourage players from touching the class and at the same time intrigue them – maybe even encourage them because of the challenge.
The Necromancer stands a class apart from the others for a couple of major reasons. The first reason is obvious when creating a Necro. A warning in red text appears under the class description: “Using certain Necromancer abilities in town is a criminal act. Citizens and guards will react accordingly.” The second reason is less obvious: Some abilities actually harm the player even as they help the player’s group.
I’d like to spend time talking about each of the sub-classes within the Necromancer class and some of the abilities that go along with them. Fair warning to readers: I will spoil nearly all the class mechanics. Do note that even though I might be critical of some of the choices that ZOS made regarding class abilities, I give the team my respect because of the boldness in it’s shown in its unique choices.
Although I recommend that you mix and match class abilities with other skill-tree abilities, each of these sub-classes can be weighed on its own merit and how it would perform if taken on its own. For instance, if we look at the Grave Lord sub-class on its own, then we have a class that focuses on pets, more or less.
The Necromancer as a whole handles pets differently than the existing Sorcerer and Warden classes. Both of those classes use pets more permanently, whereas the Necromancer treats pets as something that can be thrown away, literally in some cases. After all, the pets are already dead, so it makes sense that they could be easily thrown away.
For instance, the most temporary of the class abilities is Blastbones. First of all, this ability is one of those criminal acts that I mentioned before. Essentially, the Necro draws a corpse from the ground and sends it running toward an enemy, at which point it explodes, dealing flame damage. I’ll talk more about stamina abilities shortly, but this one can be morphed to a stamina ability, causing disease damage and reduce healing received.
The most permanent pet ability in the Grave Lord arsenal is the Skeletal Mage. I’m especially fond of this ability because it works as great DPS, and it lasts a lot longer than you would think. According to the description, it lasts 16 seconds, but it seems to last quite a bit longer than that. It could be that just by calling it the enemies drop faster. The stamina morph on this one is interesting, too, but I’ll talk about that in a bit.
I wouldn’t call the Bone Tyrant a pure tank, but combined with the right armor, it could be a very survivable class. Many of the abilities center around healing yourself as you do damage, like Death Scythe, one of the first abilities you can earn. In fact, you do about 50% more healing to yourself with each strike than you do damage and that goes up by 33% each time you use it.
Other abilities for the Bone Tyrant give defensive buffs, like the Bone Totem, which serves dual purposes. Initially, it reduces overall damage by 8% to anyone within the totem’s radius, and then it will root enemies in place after 2 seconds.
My favorite ability for the Bone Tyrant has to be the Bone Goliath transformation. Besides just looking very cool, players can use all of their existing abilities in this form; they become nearly invincible for 20 seconds, and their aura drains health from enemies while healing themselves.
The sub-class Living Death is a healing-and-debuff role, but for a Necromancer, it has a cost. Let’s talk about Expunge. Those who have played many MMOs will know what this ability does: It removes negative effects from the player. In this case, the ability draws its strength from the health pool. When it’s morphed, a player can also restore magicka and stamina, but it will always drain health, which means Necros need to be extra careful when using this ability.
Even simple healing abilities like Render Flesh have some kind of debuff placed on them. A player attempting to heal himself or an ally will receive a Minor Defile debuff, which reduces the effective healing on him by 15% for 4 seconds. It doesn’t stack, but it does renew each time it’s used.
Although it’s very fitting for a necromancing healing class, I’m interested in seeing how it actually plays out in Trials or PvP. It would seem to me that Necro Healer will likely have to have someone protecting him specifically or have his own healer, which would kind of defeats the purpose of building a healer in the first place.
The base abilities for a Necromancer all use magicka as its resource, but many of them can be morphed into stamina-focused abilities. I’ve not personally ever tried one of these stamina-converging classes, but it would be interesting to really only have to focus on one resource pool. And the Necrostamancer, which no one is calling it, focuses quite a bit on DOTs and debuffs, which are generally abilities that I like in my classes.
Most of the stamina morphs are from the Grave Lord sub-class. Flame Skull, Blastbones, and Shocking Siphon convert to poison DOT abilities named Venom Skull, Blighted Blastbones, and Detonating Siphon, respectively. The Skeletal Mage becomes a Skeletal Archer dealing physical damage, and the Death Scythe from the Bone Tyrant sub-class becomes Ruinous Scythe helping to prevent enemy healing. There are more than enough abilities here to round out an interesting melee Necro that might, for instance, dual-wield blades. I will have to try this kind of build out myself.
All in all, the Necromancer has intrigued me more than any other class and even more than any other skill tree, really. I’ve had only a short time of first-hand experience with the class, but it has enough bells and whistles to keep me interested. And the challenge of the class only adds to my interest, but I can see where it could turn some people off.
If you’d like to try it out for yourself, the Necromancer is currently live on the PTS along with the rest of Update 22 and Elsweyr.