Anyone else notice that when chapter 11 starts, the characters are talking about the Falcie no longer pulling their strings and making their own choices? Then lo and behold chapter 11 is the first time you actually have some non-linearity in the game in the form of missions. I did 2 missions, but once M3 started to send me to a different zone I went and advanced the story. And was surprised at the difficulty of some of those fights. After fighting the next boss, I went back to finish some missions and figured out those missions are kinda there to level you up before advancing the story. Wish I had done them in the first place. Oh well.
I have now done 2 more chapters of Final Fantasy XIII. Still liking the game. The character development/story progression is great. The default difficulty seem about right. The boss fights require strategy, not just appropriately leveled characters with the best equipment. The save points are appropriately spaced so, I can sit down and play for a little bit then stop. My biggest complaint is the length so far. I would prefer shorter, but that is mostly due to my own time restrictions. If I had more time to play games, I think the length would be right.
After 4 chapters of this game, I am loving it. I find the battle system intense, especially the fact that you are timed. The story is excellent, albeit a bit "Japanese" (It was hard to understand Hope's emotional deal without the text in the datalog). I am also a fan of how linear the game is and limted character development options at this point. It really allows me to focus on the story and playing the game, not reading faqs/guides on what to do. In general, I tend to prefer the linear JRPG style to the western open-RPG style. I tend to double think everything I am doing in games like Fallout 3, Morrowind, etc. And I am such a Min/Max-er I spend more time reading guides/faqs than actually playing. With FXIII so far, it seems to push all the min/max/open world stuff to much later chapters. Which turns out is excellent for my enjoyment of the game.