You can get Atmospheric Exp Buff by being in the same map and I am sure most people don't mind sharing it.
Perm pets aren't a big deal either since hard hilla drops 90-day pet.
It's no doubt p2w, but you have to think about this game's future as well. This game needs some form of p2w to a degree that is acceptable, to continue getting as much content as we get. Most games don't update as frequently as this or get cross over events, things like that.
Slurpy is optimal for Evans. If you're lacking Arcane Force then seek to improve it and train where you will be 1.5x the required Arcane Force as it makes monsters hit 1 damage to you and you will deal 1.5x the damage. It is highly recommended that you do your dailies for your symbols as all content moving forward for Arcane River requires AF.