The time has finally come. Gather round, all ye dreamers, and be regaled by my epic tale of precursor crafting! Marvel at the beasts I have slain, at the challenges I have overcome, at the ungodly amount of gold I have spent! Look upon my works, ye gold-strapped, and despair!
So yeah, precursor crafting. It was the one thing I was looking forward to the most, not just in Heart of Thorns, but ever since a dev leaked the notion on the Guild Wars 2 forums all the way back in late 2012. Despite getting two precursor drops – one of them for a crappy underwater precursor, seriously, who wants that? – I could still see the system was flawed. To get that elusive fourth part of a legendary weapon, you needed to pile up an insane amount of gold or get incredibly lucky. Finally, with Heart of Thorns, luck is all but taken out of the equation.
Gold, on the other hand? Yeah, you still need a ton of that.
To be clear, I don't have my precursor – Prototype, FYI, in my quest to get HOPE – yet. All I need is a goodly amount of mithril, as well as iron and platinum to make the ascended materials I need for the final crafting step. I could buy those off the Trading Post right now, but since I need lots of other, account-bound, materials to finish out the other three parts of HOPE, I figure I might as well gather up the final bits of what I need for Prototype as I go. But the finish line is in sight!
So how did I get there? Well, there are four main parts to precursor crafting. The first and third are fun, scavenger-hunt-type stuff that have you doing all sorts of content all around Tyria. The fourth – crafting the final precursor, as I explained above – and the second will make you weep with how much they cost.
Seriously, I was almost crying when I had to empty my bank account of all the Deldrimor Steel Ingots and Spiritwood Planks I'd been hoarding for years. “Well, there goes another 50 gold,” I thought as the crafting progress bar inched along. “I could still stop it, I could still stop it, I could – oh, it's gone.” I had around 20 of each material before I started on this journey. I still need more.
There were other miscellaneous things needed, including thousands of Mithril Ingots and Elder Wood Planks, Stabilizing Matrices, Geodes, and more, as well as some small investment of karma and laurels, but nothing made me wince quite like going through those ascended mats. I didn't keep count, but I've heard of numbers ranging in the 30-40 range for exactly how many total mats are needed. That's upwards of 400 gold worth of stuff, plus the additional materials, making the “new” precursor crafting fall pretty much in line with the price of old precursors on the Trading Post.
That realization made me wonder: Why am I doing this? Sure, for the new precursors, like Prototype, there's no choice. But for the older precursors? I'm left with the choice of doing all the crazy, Tyria-spanning tasks laid out in the multiple steps of the crafting process, as well as spending hundreds of gold on materials, or using materials I could sell for hundreds of gold. And let's not forget the mastery grinding needed to achieve the right to build those precursors.
Alternatively, I could just acquire all that gold in whatever fashion I choose and then buy the precursor from the Trading Post. Or, if I still really want that grand adventure, I could go ahead and farm up all the non-account-bound materials, those several dozen ascended materials, sell them on the TP, and then buy my precursor. I might even turn a profit.
That's why, when I got wind of how things were, I just bought The Hunter, the precursor for my engineer's legendary Predator rifle, for 451 gold, and focused my efforts on building the precursor for HOPE, which I couldn't buy. Unless I'm way off with the materials required for the other precursors, or their price dramatically rises on the Trading Post – and buy orders for The Hunter have hung out in the 400-500 gold area since Heart of Thorns launched – I don't see any reason to ever go through the process of building a old precursor. If it requires roughly the same amount of gold, and more time, why do it?
ArenaNet was in a tough spot, admittedly. I think if they had to do it all over again, they'd have gone with this system from the start. But those old precursors were out there, a part of the economy, and they couldn't just be ignored. Their value did diminish on the TP, down about 300 gold in the case of The Hunter. Maybe that was figured into the plan, and maybe, if the mats to make a precursor only cost around 200 gold, that's what they would go for on the TP. I didn't really think it would be that low, but I did hope they'd find a way for there to be some savings, to make up for the time commitment of doing all the other tasks.
And as annoying as it was to churn through thousands of Mithril Ingots, I also can grant that it couldn't have been as simple as just doing a bunch of “fun” scavenger-hunt-type stuff, which dedicated people would finish in a day or two. I thought a time-limited purchase – with a really long limit, say of two or three months, and a perhaps a hefty, though not too hefty price – might have worked, just so some of the grind could be reduced.
I waited a long time for precursor crafting and I'm... somewhat OK with the implementation. Taken on its own, realizing the constraints it required, and without considering how it impacts previous precursors, I give it a 7/10. It's still a gold sink, but a semi-enjoyable one, even if I still wince when I think of all the ascended mats I went through. (Random thought, ANet: Maybe give us a short cut scene when we finish crafting one? Just so it can feel like all the extra effort was worth it.) I'll need some time to build up my stores of materials after I finish HOPE before I even think about doing another one, and I'll probably want some more options (and probably really need to get serious about crafting ascended armor). But for now, I can live with it. It's not perfect, but it's what we've got.