Wow, so this is where the review forum went. Not that I was looking for it, but I missed my chance to rant about this game again. Since FFXIII-2 was recently announced, I suppose bashing it one more time won't be totally out of fashion. So...
Yes, it sucks.
Let me count the ways:
1) No towns + non-interactive NPCs is an absolute fail. I don't count randomly listening in on someone's conversation with somebody else an NPC. I WANT TO INTERACT WITH PEOPLE IN MY RPGS. Not a fucking crystal, not a... floating... shop robot thingy, not an automatic cutscene. I want to walk up to someone, press a button, and have them address me/my character directly. And I want to do that in a town with personality that makes me feel welcome, no matter what the townspeople say to me. If your NPCs aren't giving at least that much payoff, you're forgetting the R in RPG.
2) Bad buildup for a battle system. Note that I'm not necessarily saying the battle system is bad, but they made a major misstep in introducing it to the player. Most RPG battle systems are like trees. Even though the trunk is in place, the branches (techniques, spells, powerful attacks, etc) unlock bit-by-bit. That's why building it up works. But the problem with FFXIII's battle system is that when it starts, it's not a tree at all. It's a floor. It has NOTHING. You slowly unlock the trees for the first 20 hours. And once you got everything unlocked? Not many branches. They're there, but you spend more time managing your job than you do managing your actions so the branches have minimal appeal. The roles are a nice idea when it's finally realized, but the buildup was totally pointless and made it look retarded for a very long time.
3) Goals! Goals! Where the hell are my goals?! Jesus Christ guys, can't you give me anything to do other than "go on" and "beat this monster?" At least the NPC thing would have opened up some avenues for design. Barely any sidequests hurts. No grinding for currency also hurts. Limited exploration REALLY hurts. And then they go and add those crystal quests about 30 hours in? Sorry guys, not good enough. In the end those were just more "beat this monster" goals like you had all along. The only faint spark in a world without fire was the little robot part mini-quest near the last area. It was as easy as a quest that would have appeared in the first hour of a normal RPG, but it was so much more satisfying than anything else. It had story, it added to the characters, it was a thing you could interact with. And yet, it was clearly an afterthought.
4) Speaking of exploration, yeah. I don't need to talk about this much, because anyone who's played the game for a short period and gotten disgusted with it knows what a crock it is. But what really gets my goat is how unnecessarily large it gets in the latter "OMG THIS IS WHERE IT GETS BETTER" stage. Great, a wide-open space. With long stretches of nothing. Thanks. Remember 2D games, when you could cross an entire map in 20-30 seconds? Remember when it was much easier to find stuff? While playing these games, did any of you EVER say "gee this game would be much more fun if it took me longer to cross these maps and these items were much harder to see?" I didn't. That doesn't mean you can't make it work, but this game really went overkill in terms of space-to-content ratio.
5) Hope. Hope is annoying. Does Hope get less annoying later? Sure. Will you care by then? Not really.
It'll be hard mustering up the strength to care about another Square-Enix FF after this (and considering FFXIV was their fastest failure yet), but because of the little robot quest I have the faintest hope that FFXIII-2 will right the wrongdoings of this game. Maybe.