SOE finally launched their latest update including a new race and starting area, now being a level 27 arasai, I have had plenty of experience dealing with it and thought I’d write my little review of it.
First of all, Neriak is a beautiful city. I heard a lot of complaints in the beta test that it wasn’t anything like the EQ1 version of it, and that may be, but it is still a great city on its own. However, it remains one of the more unique fantasy cities I have seen in some while. Not like other underground cities that are all big and blocky and look very typical of what you’d think of in an underground setting. This city is in an underground river cavern, so it is complete with water systems and waterfalls which add a lovely ambiance. In addition to this, there are wisps floating around everywhere, and in the Death Grotto (where the palace is) there are floating heads. In the middle of the city there is a small cave with a waterfall going down in it, in the waterfall is some strange picture of a raccoon. And the whole city has an oriental theme, which helps me understand another reason why they put part of the work on this over to their Asian team. All of these features of the city really mean that there is something interesting to look at nearly everywhere. To help you see it all, there is a helpful teleporter system which takes you to points throughout the city, not unlike the bells in Qeynos or Freeport.
These teleporters are one of my major irks with the city. This city has all the things that were complained about with Kelethin. They have a teleporter system which makes traveling through town easier, which Kelethin doesn’t even though it is bigger (granted this actually makes sense story wise why dark elves have it and fae don’t I guess). They have a teleporter that goes straight to TS or Nek, which has been one main complain of kelethin, this was softened by putting it to the spires in those zones, but in a way that is actually just as helpful as there is no spire at all in EoF.
In addition to this, there is a carpet not far into Darklight Wood that takes you to DoF which is another problem with Kelethin. Kelethin is so far away from the butcherblock docks. There is also a druid ring and a spire in Darklight wood, though neither seems to be functioning which points to a future event at getting new spires functioning and such. Both of them have teleporter trainers nearby but I see no way to actually use them.
Lastly, housing here seems to be slightly better, no round rooms, the big house has 5 small rooms instead of 4, is better laid out, and has long winding staircases that you can hang artwork in the hallways of. The only thing Neriak doesn’t seem to get is transmuting and tinkering guys the way that Kelethin has which I guess is one trade off but these aren’t that important of tradeskills where everyone needs them anyway.
Darklight Wood is ok. It is fairly bland, though it does look a lot like a less thick portion of Nek Forest. The forest is chock full of vampires, werewolves, and undead which will likely make it the place to go to get slayer titles and L&L since everything is below level 20. I had suspected that the zone would be off Nek Forest, but they also included an area that goes off to Commonlands as well, not a huge deal but does make traveling to Freeport fairly easy. The area is full of shinies, far more than usual I think, but they are all the old world newbie shinies, nothing new, or from EoF. It is basically bones, shards, and moths, but without the feathers and shells (those had gotten over used anyway).
There aren’t a ton of interesting features here, but there are a lot of names. There is a spring that has skulls floating out of it, a crack in the ground that I have yet to jump down but would expect death, and a crater full of undead. Quests are fairly routine, though not as good as EoF they are still decent. One quest in particular gives you an owlbear pet, and there are a couple other nifty house items you can get (like skull candle set). The zone itself is much smaller than any of the EoF zones, which is to be expected considering it is a newbie area, though I think it is still much smaller than either Antonica or Commonlands.
I’d also like to point out that besides the new city and race, there were a couple other nice little surprises. They gave every account 1 new character slot, which has been desperately need, though I thought it would come with the next expansion. So thankfully, I don’t have to shell out another 10 bucks a month to get a new character like I had planned.
They also overhauled the LFG panel, adding categories of roles that you think you would fill, as well as a note box for what type of group you are looking for. In addition, there is now a LFM tab in the panel which allows a group to tag themselves as looking for more, as well as what they are looking for and what they are doing. You can then search based on each, filter out groups/players that don’t match well, and find the role you need. It is fairly nice, though not many people use it still, it may take time… I always use it.
For a new area, probably not the greatest of additions, though for a free update this is an A+ and good job SOE. I never thought during EQ1 years that I would ever be satisfied with SOE’s service, but they have done a lot to make themselves more involved than what they once were and it is now a value to play their games.