The battle system seems to be kind of a mix between FF12 and Monster Hunter. I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet.
There's a day/night system, during which monsters will change; some will perch and sleep so you can get a cheap shot in but they'll be all pissed when they wake up.
Item creation so far is really easy, all you have to do is catalog local flora/fauna; once you have a certain amount you're rewarded an item, often equipment or upgrade gems you can slot into your equipment for sizable bonuses.
You can obtain quests that are basically fetch quests but you never have to go back to the quest givers. The game will keep track of your quest progress and once you have enough the items are automatically removed from your inventory and you're awarded the gold/exp for completion. Later on the game will even mark items you will need for future quests so you don't go and sell them before you know you need them.
The maps are HUGE. I mean, gigantic fields with cities, people, and all sorts of flora/fauna. It's almost embarrassing that SE had a shitty corridor simulator whereas Monolith has created this humongous world for us to explore. Exploration also gets characters experience, AP, and SP, so there are incentives for exploration, but it's still totally optional.
So far the story is kind of boring with general anime monologues, but one of the early plot twists gut punched me:
The main character's city is attacked, and throughout the opening it's almost a given that the badass war veteran with a debilitating injury would die during the attack, especially when he picks up his sword and strains himself to fight off the invaders. During the actual attack, though, the presumed MAIN LOVE INTEREST dies, and the veteran lives, promising to catch up to the main character once his wounds are healed enough.
Of course, being a Monolith Soft game, I fully expected the girl to come back later in the game.