Ok, I know almost everyone hated the game before they even played it because it plays itself. but that's not true..
Then there's a short battle that really plays itself because no matter what you do David will still use his remnant to finish it. Well, that battle was just to teach you how to play, but people still judge the game from the beginning. And after the battle there's a long video again and then another boring battle like the first (tutorial) after that another long boring video. If you can keep up with that, the game gets interesting after that.
You reach a city called Athlum and then you can start exploring and recruiting members for your team. If you're playing the PC version you can choose 18 unique leader while the Xbox version only 6.
The story of the game is probably one of the best game stories you'll ever play, I think it deserves to be made a film. Beside the main story you would meet a lot of characters, each one of them has a different interesting story.
They're the side quests, you can help them if you want so they become available for you to recruite at the guild..
The side quests are various, some ask you to find something (most likely)..
And some ask you to deliever a latter or escort them (like Paris which I find the most interesting quest beside Wyngale).
The battles may be the basic reason why the people hated this game, but for me they're okay. You won't find them interesting if you're expecting a fighting-style like Devil May Cry or such, after all the game is more like strategy games only with a different view.
It depends on party members and formation that you can manage them when not fighting, once you get in a fight, it depends on the actions you give every union, like (attack, magic, healing, standing still or using a few tricks like stealth or decoy) anyway it's really exciting if you like strategies. And you sometimes get to press some buttons to make the attack critical.
They're a lot of characters, actions, weapons and fighting-styles.
In the second CD the story takes place after six months since the first CD ending, the main quest begins with Rush and his friends looking for a remnant, and so after this quest you can do a lot of side quests about collecting remnants to use them later in your battles.
They become handy in the fights, although there's different ways to use them (some remnants can be summoned to help you while you use the others as accessories to make your stats better).
There's no need to say anything about characters design, it's abvious how good it is from the CD cover, anyway there's a lot of more great characters than the few you see on the cover, and there's many amazing places and cities, if you just play the main story you wouldn't get to see all the places so you should do as many side quests as possible.
And for the music and ost, they're great, you can give them 10/10. They're as great as final fantasy music. Every single place has its music, and there's many other tracks through the videos.
Anyway I think this game is close to final fantasy XII by the syles and the parties thing and so.
You might as well not try to fight every single monster you find on the way or you'll get bored. And fighting doesn't really help you since the game difficulty depends on your level. If you fight a lot of monsters your stats increase but the bosses become harder too.
So, good luck playing this game.. I liked it a lot, and I think people really don't have to judge it before playing it.