I’m pretty far into this. It’s very good, with a few quirks. Keep a rotating batch of saves, because I’ve had loading bork a couple of times enterting one off areas.
The story is. . . decent. It’s not uninteresting but more importantly it’s told minimally and unlike what you sometimes see in games like this, there isn’t a lot of wasted dialog. I mean it’s good enough, impressive perhaps sicne this was apparently a solo dev? Not sure about that part, but that’s what I read on the tubes somewhere.
Where the game shines is the mechanics and exploration. You can’t level via grinding here. “Boss encounters”, and some other events/“stuff” can reward grimoire shards. Each shard is a universal +1 skill point for all party members, past present and future. Skills come in 3 caregories and are also broadly tiered: Active, Passive, stat gains. You have a fixed amount of active and passive slots (but see below), stat boosts are exactly that. It seems that at fixed intervals of skill learning you pick up other minor stat boosts as well. You unlock further “tiers” simply by spending. E.g. I think you need to spend 9 points to unlock the second tier.
On top of this are class emblems, which grant additional active and passive skills (which you can permanently learn). All skills can be upgraded to level 3, with combat and quests generally granting skill points. Skills also improve over time, so the skill points are more like “oh, it’s finally gotten reasonably cheap to level up X to level 2, I’ll just go ahead and do it”). But you’ve got to find the class emblems. they also grant some bonus stats when equipped.
Combat has a few twists that work well. You have to manage an overdrive bar but it’s a pretty good system (while in overdrive all skills cost 1/2 to use; basic attacks can restore Tech Points as they are called, and there are other ways to get them). There’s an ultimate ability bar (shared by the party), the ability to hot swap with other party members that you set up in a formation to taste (and some tactical implications for this), and then in chapter 2 it all ratches up a notch because you get [fun stuff].
But the exploration is great. There’s a ton of secrets in each zone. The only thing is that soem stuff will be inaccessible off until Chapter 2 awesomeness, and you won’t always know. Outside of the first special statue the plot introduces, you’vr got to find the rest of the Legendary Statues out in the world, and also possess sacred water to sacrifice to them to win their class emblems. And that’s to say nothing to all of the gear, resources, etc you’ll get by exploring.
In addition to the main quest and side quests that pop up, there’s a special thing called a [I can’t fucking remember the name] Board, accessed with LT on the controller. This is more like achievement stuff, except that each one grants rewards. They’re laid out ion sort of a “disconnected crossword pattern”, and in addition to the individual rewards your longest chain of successes provides additional rewards (mostly grimoire shards and sacred waters). These are occasionally things like “complete X sidequest” but often things like “find 28 chests in the Rohan Fields region”, “Win a fight against X monster with certain restrictions”, “Kill X of Y monster” and the like. They sort of guide you towards the exploration and it’s a lot of fun.
The inability to grind (for all intents and purposes) has occasionally left me feeling up against the wall. But with rare exception you can always teleport out and go back to exploring/random killing. There’s a gear upgrade system (both strengthening gear with gold + mats you find out in the world, and also slotting gems into gear, although the actual gem system has promise it leaves a little bit to be desired IMO). If you explore thoroughly you’ll rarely need to buy gear.
Chapter 2 even features you recruiting people to come live at your base, with the interesting twist that some of these people provide actual benefits like bonus skill point gain or UI QoL features (e.g. telling you how many chests are unopened in a given map).