Was the combat much different than XIII and XIII-2? They actually grew on me after a while. I thought the battle system in XIII-2 was a nice improvement from its predecessor.
It's quite different. As I'm sure you've heard there's no party here, you just control Lightning. The way it works is that for a given...paradigm? Costume? I don't even remember what they're calling them now. Anyway, for a given thingy you only have four abilities that are mapped directly to the face buttons (one of which always seemed to be some sort of guard). You would then switch...thingies with the shoulder buttons, each having its own set of abilities and associated costume. Every action you took would burn some amount of AP which slowly recovers on its own, but the weird thing is that each costume/set/whatever has its own unique AP bar. So you're basically encouraged to burn all your AP for one set, then immediately switch and use the next one's AP, then switch again, etc. There didn't seem to be a lot of strategy to it, but at the same time it lacked the fine control to really be called an action game. Like, you could move around on the battlefield with the left analog stick but it didn't seem to really do anything. Pressing attack would make Lightning run up and attack no matter where she started from and enemy attacks weren't exactly dodgeable either. And the constant costume changing (as far as I could tell there was simply no reason not to change as soon as you were out of AP for your current set) makes the dress sphere look sensible by comparison.
Sounds like a system that would be boring outside of incredibly difficult battles, but fun as all hell when the difficulty ramps up. Pretty much exactly how XIII and XIII-2 battle systems were to me.