First we need to note that the gear score (GS) max rose from 625 to 700 so 700 is the top end of progression. Then we can look at the current buckets of progression.
- Regular - up to 675 GS
- M1 - up to 700 GS
- M2 - up to 700 GS
- M3 - up to 700 GS
- Artifact - always drop at 700 GS (multiple methods
- Gypsum Kiln Named Item Upgrade - 700 GS
- Gypsum Kiln Named Mutator/Expedition Replica - 700 GS
- Crafting - for all intents and purpose - 700 GS
- PvP tracks - mostly 675 GS, but up to 700 GS
- PvP caches - up to 700 GS
As you can see most all content drops up to 700 GS which seems great until you consider the "up to" part and compare to the ability to "upgrade" named items. Named item upgrades also allow a third perk to be selected giving more variety. Getting that awesome 699 GS drop is fleeting as most players likely are going to slot in a 700 GS kiln-upgraded named item.
Now look at that pile of other 690+ GS legendary items that just came out of that mutation run or PvP reward cache... and it's all worthless. No one is buying it on the market (not that much of it can be sold since its mostly bind on pickup) and you aren't going to use any of it except as a temporary stop gap in some builds. We are right back where we were with past New World: most legendary item drops are nothing more than something you salvage.
I think a lot more items could have been made useful and a more natural progression curve experienced through a few simple tweaks I've noted below.
The big change: remove named item upgrades in the gypsum kiln. Instead use the same recipe and materials to allow a player to change the 3rd perk on a named item but keep the same GS level.
Next change the GS reward range of each type of content.
Expeditions should have been 625-660 for regular, 660-680 for M1, 680-695 for M2, and 690-700 for M3 (artifacts can drop at any mutation level still).
PvP tracks reward up to 700 GS but higher GS chance the higher the track level you are. Artifacts drop as they do today on the tracks.
Crafting can mostly remain as it is, but I'd dial back recipes like shard of pride and chromatic seal allowing a 700 GS craft. Instead have it be in the 680+ range. Leave the 700 GS perfect crafts for the perfect recipe. It's too easy to spend a fraction of the time, effort, and materials using the other crafting methods to get 700 GS crafts.
With these changes, suddenly all of those 650+ GS drops become very interesting. You may use a 681 GS weapon for a week in M2s until you get a 690 to drop. You would likely take that 675 PvP reward track option because there isn't easy to mint 700 GS options. If you do mutations you are slowly working up the GS reward levels. So many more items become useful.
Instead what we got was a system where on day 1 of expansion launch I logged in, farmed up a named fire staff, and immediately upgraded it to 700 GS, meaning 99.9% of all drops for my main build's weapon were going to be worthless to me. Excepting the daily cooldown and 5k gold cost; chromatic seal upgrades of named items is the "cheat" of end game progression.
Don't get me wrong: I don't mind folks being able to get into end game gear quickly but like the other day where I completed multiple M2 expeditions (the 2nd hardest content in the end game) and I am staring at a pile of 25+ legendary items that I will never use, never sell, and in turn will just scrap. The simple change of the kiln upgrades not skipping to 700 GS would make many of those 25+ legendary drops possible useful drops.
Again, I want to emphasize that I like where the game is at with progression. It is easier and faster than ever before to get into new end game builds. However, it is not much of "progression" system... it is very much "skip to the end" just like the last system with waiting to upgrade from 600 to 625 via umbrals... just now its dark matter and named items.