Aion is often the poster child for grind-heavy MMOs. At launch, this was very true, but NCsoft has made a lot of changes over the years in an attempt to alleviate some of that monotony, although some modifications have been more effective than others. Recent changes drew me back to see if I could climb out of the leveling ravine.
At the core of these changes is the Mentor system, where high-level players can lend a helping hand to low-level players looking to power through quests. Mentors help their mentees by increasing the power of the group, and group members gain XP based on the level of the players in the group (excluding the Mentor). It's an effective system—I found that a group was able to slice and dice through hordes of enemies easily and increase the rewards (both XP and drops) exponentially, and finding players who wanted a Mentor was a breeze.
And that reward system is a two-way street. While I was selflessly mentoring young Daeva through their difficult journeys, I was able to complete Mentor quests, earning rewards such as unique weapons and armor. After spending a good chunk of time as a Mentor, however, I was ready for some action, so I headed toward the Empyrean Crucible. Longing for the camaraderie I had benefited from while mentoring, I chose to fight with a group, rather than taking the solo option. As my hearty crew and I battled our way through the stages (10 total, with five rounds per stage) the fights became increasingly difficult. Forced to coordinate, we fought back to back as wave after wave after wave of enemies intent on turning us into corpses rushed at us with wanton abandon.
In the end, I once again found myself overwhelmed with the continued tediousness that accompanies leveling in Aion. The mentor system is a definite improvement, and NCsoft's continued efforts to smooth level ascension are admirable. The grind still rears its ugly head all too often, though. If you've taken a break, and haven't seen the new content, then unbind your wings and take to the not-so-friendly skies. Otherwise, follow Archangel's lead and remove those wings for good.