Wow, people are still going on, trying to devend XIII and XIII-2? XIII-2 was better, sure, but with its improvements came an even worse story and more boring characters.
XIII had a broken, simplistic, uninteresting battle system that could have been fixed with a single change: Don't make it a game over when your team leader dies. that alone is a change that could have taken half an hour of the unpaid intern's time to program a shift in control or an auto-phoenix down by an ally to keep you alive. Having that feature actually made much of the harder battles a complete chance of luck, especially on your first attempt.
The Paradigm system made the game's combat into a rythm game, alternating between I think 6 'battle formations', which comprised 99% of the gameplay since the combat moved too fast even for trained eyes to keep up with the enemies subtle movements while also chosing things manually. 90% of the game's combat was auto-play and paradigm shifting. This is not gameplay.
The Linearity meant the entire game might as well have been on rails. There was virtually NO deviation, save chapter 11, where the only side quest happened (Mark hunting). Gone were things like card games or blitzball or hidden quests. Gone were the side stories that helped explain the backstory of the characters.
The story was terribly told. If you were to just play through the game without the datalogs, it's just a bunch of uninteresting people in an uninteresting world rebelling against the corrupt religious leader, except none of his motives are explained, none of the world's lore is explained, and none of the subtleties are even hinted upon.
The world's story is actually good, but the narrative is an absolute joke, and having to read the datalogs is a chore. The combination of bland repetitive combat, linear narrative progression, and the requirement of the datalog meant that virtually every aspect of the game was designed to be all style, no substance. No interaction. Limited gameplay and poorly told story.
Even the characters were one-note. None of the characters - be they main, side, or villains - needed more than a sentence to describe their characters. Half of the villains just popped up out of nowhere and were confusing (at one point late-game, I Saw some woman fighting for barthandalus, and I had absolutely no idea who she was or what she was doing there until I read her datalog).
Only the graphics and sound were any good, with the visuals being top notch and the soundtrack/voice acting being well above average.
Seriously, I felt that Heavy Rain had more 'gameplay' to it, and a far more coherent narrative.
In summation, Final Fantasy XIII is a bland, unimaginative, linear-to-a-fault RPG with a broken battle system that could have been fixed relatively easy, as well as a complete and utter failure at storytelling. With the exception of the graphics and sound, it fails in virtually every respect.
At least XIII-2 fixed the game over issue where if your main character dies, it's game over. Give it some credit.
The reason I hate XIII is simple: It's aggressively restrictive in every way. if the game over fuckery was fixed, I could simply dismiss it as simply being 'not for me', as the linearity and choice to keep the story hidden behind an in-game encyclopedia can be seen as a stylistic choice, but when you pair the combat with the gameplay and linearity, it strikes me as a terrible attack on us as gamers. They were actively restricting everything about the game, which is terrible.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy XIII is a bad game. Not just a game I don't like, it is BAd. Objectively, provably bad. If you like it, that's fine. I like the shitty michael bay transformers movies even though they're objectively bad, just don't pretend they're actually good. You should do the same for XIII. IT is a bad game. There is no arguing this fact.
My Console Library:
PS5, Switch, XSX
PS4, PS3, PS2, PS1, WiiU, Wii, GCN, N64 SNES, XBO, 360
3DS, DS, GBA, Vita, PSP, Android