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June 6, 2007
EverQuest II Arasai and Neriak- A New Twist On An Old Evil

By Linda "Brasse" Carlson

Almost from the moment that the Fae race made its appearance in EQII's Echoes of Faydwer expansion, players have been wishing out loud for "evil Fae." We all knew they had existed, but that they mysteriously disappeared some time in Beta, leaving only faint impressions and shadows that folk eagerly sought.

At last they reappear, right by the gates of… Neriak! What better place for the newest children of darkness than by the almost mythical citadel of ancient evil?

Long thought lost to Norrath, Neriak was merely sealed off from the rest of the world when their great Queen, Cristanos Thex, brought the gates crashing down upon the invaders (and a great many defenders) during the last war. No one knew, though some suspected and the faithful hoped, that the bulk of the grand city of shadow was still hidden in the deep heart of the Ashfall Crags.

Neriak now re-emerges, unscathed by the passage of time and cataclysms that rent the rest of Norrath asunder, protected by the blackest magics and the steely will of its ruler.

One can only guess why this time was chosen by Queen Cristanos, and how Lucan D'Lere will react to the rise of a stronghold within an area he considers his. It is certain that many dark elves, the Tier'dal, formerly aligned with Freeport, will switch allegiance to their ancestral ruler.

The new "dark Fae" are called Arasai, and are only dark in word and deed - character creation offers them a wide and splendid array of bright colors, using palettes not available to their good-hearted kin in the Faydarks. True reds and vibrant purples contrast and meld with appropriately malevolent blacks and greens. A number of brand new wing styles are available as well, which was a pleasant surprise to all who expected them to simply re-use the Fae wings.

A male Arasai by the Wellspring of Nightmares:

Arasai gain racial traits similar to those of their cousins. Take my advice and choose "Glide" at level 10, for it increases the distance that the character can fly. "Flight" for these races is like a power-jump done in slow-motion and cannot be performed in combat; it is extremely useful, not to mention fun!

"Game Update 35" is not a grand title to place upon such a worthy release, but it is free! This, together with the release of the Estate of Unrest, fulfills the promise made back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January: that EQII would release additional free content when possible and aim for larger expansions at slightly longer intervals. We have already heard about the ambitious Rise of Kunark expansion looming on the autumn horizon, but this free update gives all EQII aficionados something shiny to play with in the interim.

Best of all, the free Game Update includes an additional character slot to enable you to make an Arasai without deleting an existing character. Players who subscribe to the Station Pass will gain two additional slots! I advise setting one of those aside for Kunark, as you will want to try a jewel-eyed Sarnak (yes, another new race!) when the expansion releases. Standard EQII subscriptions increase from 6 to 7 character slots. Station Pass subscriptions increase from 10 to 12 character slots.

Neriak is a massive city, deeply evocative of (but not the same as!) the original from EQ - very satisfying for those of us who have followed the franchise from EQ to EQII. The architecture is impressive and well designed, and the citadel offers every amenity one would expect in Qeynos, Freeport or Kelethin.

A female Arasai crossing the bridge to Neriak:

The surrounding Darklight Forest is the setting for the Arasai's starting village of "Hate's Envy", and is perfect for all level 1-20 characters. On par with Greater Faydark, Antonica and Commonlands, it is the perfect breeding grounds for the dark Fae.

It is well worth the time to make a deliciously evil Arasai and set out to explore the lands. The forest is wide ranging and varied in level; a good rule of thumb as a young adventurer is to follow where the quests lead you.

The Darklight Wood features a few creatures heretofore only seen in Echoes of Faydwer, such as the werewolves that lurk among abandoned houses to the north in the Nerian Highlands. Are they invaders or the former residents of the ruined homes?

The Tower of Bone is sure to offer some mysteries, surrounded as it is by Briarthorn devotees:

Strange rites take place in the Sableflame Crater, involving the eventual release of an uncontrollable fire elemental who devours his willing worshippers.

Do be careful not to stray too close to the edges of Innoruuk's Scar. While any Arasai worth its wings can survive the fall by gently floating down, it's a bit of a climb to get back up!

These are but a few of the interesting areas available to explore in the Darklight Wood. The zone connects to Neriak, the Commonlands and Nektulos Forest. In the south-central part of the zone is a Warpstone spire, indicating that Wizards and Druids may be able to create portals to this place.

Outlanders coming to the region should be wary of the Dread Guards that patrol the pathways. It is really best to leave it to the creatures to whom the territory belongs: Tier'dal, the Arasai and other creatures of the night's edge.

Here a few Tier'dal chat at Wanderlust Fair, found in the center of the Darklight Wood:

An important note for EQII players: Due to the sheer size of the files, the free Neriak and Darklight Wood patch is designated as optional content, so that you can download it when you are ready. When you launch the game, before hitting "PLAY", click on Preferences in the left column and check to make sure that the box beside "Additional Live Game Content" is selected!


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