I came off SO International (definitely not such a great game to me) to FFXIII and at first it seemed fairly boring. Around chapter 7 I was liking it a lot though, the linearity and lack of towns didn't bother me, story and characters were good (though playing it in Japanese maybe it helps that I didn't have to go through what I gather to be a moaning Vanille and funny accents).
The battle system was fast paced so controlling only one character frankly didn't bother me. At times I would have appreciated switching between characters (especially when buffs and debuffs order is concerned). Regarding auto-battle, since one can opt out and slow down the pace of combat, I don't see how it's a big problem. The AI picks actions very well, but then again I find it hard moaning about them being too good, in Persona 3/FES their auto-handling only bothered me because they'd do stupid stuff a lot more often, and in most action RPGs I only switch characters for something very specific or because, again, they are doing stupid stuff.
That being said, I found it a very beautiful and great to get through game, but now that I'm finished with the story (and only having completed about 20 optional missions), I'm taking a break and don't feel compelled to go finish the rest of the missions and dedicate 1/3 of the total gameplay to farming turtles. Apart from running around and checking everywhere for treasures, as well as those mentioned 20ish missions, I didn't grind at all and barely somewhat upgraded a few weapons, and the final three boss fights were a joke (got that 5-star trophy for the last fight on the first playthrough as well), so that was a disappointment as well.