TL/DR - Istan and Thunderhead Weapons cost too much comparatively to every other released set. Map Rewards for S4 and PoF are too low. Let's have PvE Reward tracks like WvW for dead maps.
Long story short, I just came back from maybe 8-12month break from the game, and have been running my MC and alts through the game and LS maps, to catch up and clear them all. A few things come to mind from that experience so far.
Living Story 4 maps seem to be almost empty minus maybe the last 2 story maps, and a few things that seem somewhat out of balance compared to LS3 and HoT maps.
Domain of Istan - Before I left, Istan was a hive of activity, commanders would lead players around the map completing events, and successfully clearing the meta, everyone was having a pretty chill time enjoying the content, being rewarded for their time spent. I'm not really sure why the rewards were nerfed. Looking at the rewards vs time spent to satisfy the conditions of the meta chains, and then completing said metas, both great hall and palawdan is about on par with dragons stand or octovine, yet somehow the effort placed in Istan is not worth the same rewards for the time spent. Surely the map was being played as intended? Working as intended. Since back, the map is empty, there is maybe groups of 2-5 players now and then at a stray meteor, but atm I have 6 of my alts camped in Istan waiting for something as simple as the great hall to get the last PoI for completion.
Reward rebalance - The structure of Istan has been changed to the point of making it not even worth visiting, and the rewards that were readily available have now become a slow grind. Which brings up a considerable problem for new and returning players, Astral and Stellar Weapons.
Currently we need - 9190 Kralk Ore and 9025 Powdered Quartz for the complete set of Astral weapons (for basic exotic weapons)
- 7900 Kralk Ore and 7075 Powdered Quartz, 15 Vision Crystals, 88 Deldrimor Steel, 87 Spiritwood Planks, 6 Elonian Leather for the Stellar Set.
I find it a little strange that the quantities needed for simple sets have reached such an astronomical (pardon the pun) height. Kralkatite Ore is not necessarily difficult to farm, if you had the standard 8 characters on your account (you know, 1 for each class), you can get 25 ore per heart per character daily. The problem comes from the Rose Quartz that currently has no means to obtain outside of meteor events, and you don't get alot of rewards or even successful meteors if not enough people are present. 483g is the current cost for just the rose quartz to cut the time needed.
Solutions: This is tough, we have a range of players that have completed and probably equally as many who haven't started. One of the first things I did notice was there is no other options for rose quartz to farm, There is no reward track in WvW for astral weapon selection crate which has been a common trend even in PoF. Even map rewards doesn't reward rose quartz. If anet intends to maintain the current state of the map, and not rollback the nerf, which we have no reason to believe they will. Perhaps halving the actual costs is the change that is needed. Another Issue to be resolved is stat typing. Most of the living seasons have worked towards the trend of maintaining stat selectable equipment as an incentive to farm on maps, Istan and a few of the LS4 maps don't follow that much more reasonable trend. Another option could be allowing the option of creating the Ascended weapon and unlocking in the process the exotic, so we don't have to double handle everything.
Thunderhead Peaks - Follows much of what I mentioned above about the Istani Weapon series. Dragonsblood weapons are even slower to farm than Astral/Stellar and require more time limited items, I am sure you can see a trend.
Currently we need - 80 laurels, 8k volatile magic, 48 serp. jewels, 960 branded mass. (For the Exotic Set)
- 2400 Branded Mass, 48 serp. jewels, 80g, 16 visions crystals. 88 Deldrimor Steel, 87 Spiritwood Planks, 6 Elonian Leather (For Ascended)
Solution: Mostly the above, unfortunately farming hearts is less efficient than Istan for Branded Masses since they give only 5 per heart completion, and Exquisite Jewels, are gated behind the treasure hunting mini-task, which is ONLY once a day per acc, instead of per character regardless of how many times you do the meta etc. It also follows the trend of no reward tracks.
Jahai, and Dragonfall both are actually quite reasonable as far as crafting and progress on armor sets go, a complete contrast to the weapon sets.
LS4 and PoF Map Rewards - Comparitively to Vanilla gw2 maps the rewards are quite minimal, I would mostly go back to the 4-item reward pool. Increase Map reward from 5 to at least 25, and add the exotic components back. Your typical vanilla map would have 1 random reward between bl key and transmutation charge, 2 exotics, x-crafting material x 40 or map currency x 25.
The more I play with my alts, and clear Path of Fire and the LS, the more I think about my progress in WvW, and accessibility to reward tracks. Perhaps one of the easiest way to assist with maps that have become inactive to overactive reward nerfing policy would be to give players access to reward tracks in PvE as well, which would allow us to pursue the content that interests us in world pve, while gaining progress towards rewards from maps that are no longer active enough to gain rewards efficiently or at all.