Coming from a GameSpot interview with executive director Tetsuya Takahashi...
"Since we're aiming for the next evolution in JRPGs, I have to admit that our original goal was not to aim for simplicity. We were looking for new directions and so that means adding new elements to an existing structure that people might have an innate understanding of. As such, I have to be honest, there is going to be some complexity that comes in, but I feel that we've created a really compelling experience from that.
The way that we think about an open world game is that there is so much space and so much to do that if there were no limitations, it would be very easy for the user to get lost or to not know which objective they need to pursue next. From a designer perspective, we think about what steps can we add that will act as limitations to ease people into the experience of this large world. We ease the player into varying objectives and limit their access to certain parts of the map.
Certainly there are a lot of different approaches to open world games of this type, and I think one of the big distinctions between us and [others] is that we're trying to consider the needs of the Japanese market as well where, I think, most players are not necessarily as familiar with that kind of approach to open world games.
The experience that works the best in our market is to have these steps by which the player becomes stronger, and that in turn opens up new areas for them. There definitely was some thought and some sensitivity going around the needs of our market as well, considering what Japanese players like to do and how to give them the best experience."