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Flameseeker Chronicles: Of dungeons, stats, and transmutation

It's been quite a week for the Guild Wars 2 community. Kristen Perry told us about her amazing dye system; some made plans to head to the east coast to hang out with the ArenaNet staff; we learned more about the Guild Wars 2 Extended Experience; John Hargrove made a post on the ArenaNet blog about loot and armor; and PC Gamer in the UK scored an exclusive look at dungeons in GW2.

Looking at all that, I hardly knew where to start for Flameseeker Chronicles this week! Undoubtedly, John Hargrove dropped the biggest bomb on the community with one little sentence in his blog post: "With the transmutation system, you'll be able to acquire new items known as Transmutation Stones through our in-game store that allow you to customize your appearance. With transmutation, you take two items of the same type, pick one that is the most visually appealing to you, one that is the most statistically appealing to you, and then you simply combine the two items into what will hopefully become your perfect piece of armor or weaponry."

I was tempted to skip the whole mess, but it's been several days, and the debate is still raging. I want to have some fun too, and since Guild Wars 2 Guru forum member Lyssa got her awesome hands on the new PC Gamer and shared all the details, we'll talk about that too. Follow along after the jump!
Regarding Transmutation Stones, I've made my feelings abundantly clear. Since then I've been reading through pages and pages of forum posts to see what the other opinions are and where they stem from, and I find I can get on board -- partially -- with some of them. While I strongly disagree with accusations of greed, semi-hidden announcements of fees, and sneaky business practices, I can see how it felt like a throwaway comment the way it was presented. Unfortunately, the whole thing feels like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. If the developers waited on that information until later, the outcry would have been even worse.

The other big issue with this is the possibility that the stones will be temporary. I can understand a certain reluctance to pay for a temporary item, but since we have no clue what they will cost, how many of them a purchase nets you, or even for sure whether they are single-use, it seems a little premature to be railing about how wrong the system is. My personal thought is that it's similar to a makeover pack in GW1, and that makes perfect sense to me. You wouldn't go to a tailor and say, "But I paid you last time for altering that other shirt. What do you mean you want more money to alter a second shirt? That doesn't seem very fair. Don't you think you're being kind of greedy?"

Finally, I can almost get on board with the argument that ArenaNet is saying "You can have great customization, but you'll have to pay." I can see how people would dislike that, but try as I might I can' t make it apply in this case. We don't even know what all the armor will look like, therefore we have no idea if we'll even want Transmutation Stones more than once or twice. We do know, however, that there will be much more armor and clothing than we have now. We know that crests allow us to fine-tune our stats on several different fronts. We also know that character customization itself is an extremely detailed process, and we know that the dye system is nearly unparalleled in terms of variety and the ability to give yourself a unique look.

All of those things are free. Buy Guild Wars 2 and you get all of that included. I think it's safe to say that players will enjoy extensive customization without spending a dime in the NCsoft store, should they wish. Should you wish for a cosmetic change that you can't get through all of the above free things, you are welcome to visit the in-game store. But this is absolutely not a case of our being forced to pay for customization. There are simply too many free options for that to hold true.

Now, let's move on to something much more fun -- dungeons! PC Gamer lucked out with a ton of exclusive information, but only in the UK. Thankfully, the Guild Wars 2 community in the UK is awesome, and one member shared the scoop on the forums. While there were some small mistakes and typos -- seemingly due to the author's unfamiliarity with the Guild Wars world -- there was a lot of new information about dungeons in Guild Wars 2.

I'm very excited about the way this is being implemented, even though I am still less than thrilled with the 5-man party size. Everything in Guild Wars 2 has been done on such a grand scale that I'd hoped the limited instancing would allow for larger parties. Sadly, it seems like that's not to be, but the new information from PC Gamer more than makes up for it.

We've known for a long time that part of the Guild Wars 2 storyline involves reuniting the scattered members of Destiny's Edge in order to fight the great dragon at the end. According to PC Gamer, each of the dungeons -- a new one at roughly every 10 levels -- will begin with a story mode in which various members of Destiny's Edge appear as friendly NPCs. Your progression through story mode will be part of your overarching quest to reunite them.

Here is where it gets exciting for me. These dungeons are designed for replayability, so once you have completed the story version, explorable mode is unlocked. It's a harder version of the same dungeon in which you'll experience different follow-up stories. This mechanic is such a relief to me, because frankly, I could do Heart of the Shiverpeaks with my eyes closed at this point. Changing it up and keeping me on my toes? Good stuff.

The cherry on top of this sundae is the history and lore. ArenaNet gave some details on a dungeon available around level 30, and it's set in the Ascalon Catacombs. We'll run into Warmaster Grast, Necromancer Munne (and if she pelts us with honeycombs while screaming that she's sick of making candles, it would serve us right), Master Ranger Nente, and finally King Adelbern.

The ArenaNet team seems to be putting so much effort into bridging that gap between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2, and each time I hear more I am further impressed. This is a different world than we know in Guild Wars 1, and things have changed a lot, but all of these touches assure us that it's still our Tyria. It's a world we're familiar with and care about, and we begin our story already invested in it. Thumbs up from me.

Finally, if you're curious about what the MVOP guild is up to this week, make sure you visit the forums for the latest post!
Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.