The end isn’t that far off now, so I guess I can safely say it’s a great game overall, if not entirely flawless. The one thing it gets near perfect, and which keeps me hooked, is the way it handles exploration: each area is designed as a more or less complex puzzle of sorts, where traversal to reach your destination is usually fairly straightforward, but finding every treasure and secret takes determination, and multiple visits over the course of the game.
At one point I was convinced that a future party member must bring the ability to destroy certain obstacles, like crates or rock formations that were inconveniently blocking access to multiple spots. But turns out all of them had been reachable from the get-go, just not in an obvious way. Figuring that out felt similar to cracking a particularly demanding adventure game puzzle.
So even if the main story is a bit of a meandering mess, there’s always something else to do, in order to keep (my) motivation up. That’s further reinforced by the achievement system, which offers in-game rewards for completing specific tasks in each area, some of them simple, others pretty challenging.
May sound tedious, but at least it feels rewarding, unlike some other aspects of the game: fights for one take more turns than necessary, and cannot always be avoided. Given that regular mobs do not even contribute to levelling up, it’s also not quite explicable why they have to respawn (hint: it’s so you can farm the random crap they drop), Oh, and levelling up is also the least fun in any RPG I remember playing: skills are arranged in tiers, and you have to unlock a certain number before the next tier opens up, meaning you will have to pick up plenty uninteresting ones before getting to something desirable again. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the number of skills that can be active in combat is strictly limited. So not only do you have to unlock subpar skills, you will not even be able to use them in the rare situation where they might help, unless constantly juggling skill loadouts is something you enjoy.
In summary: great level design, which for the most part is absolutely pleasant to look at, too, but the RPG systems are a bit convoluted and the plot seems over the top even by JRPG standards. Tons of fun if you like exploring every nook and cranny.