But the monster-leveling process is painfully slow and that pace discourages experimentation. I found myself usually unwilling to try out new Familiars, since they would always arrive significantly under-leveled compared to my current ones. Given the choice between repetitiously grinding for hours using my current Familiars, and grinding for many more hours with a creature that has more potential, I tended down the quicker path to continue the story.
Once companions join, each with their own Familiar in tow, they are inadequately equipped for the nuances of combat. You as the player only control one character at a time. This leaves the two others to run through pre-scripted AI routines via the Tactics menu. When I told them to do as they like, they would often let me or each other fall without sufficient attempts to heal. If I told them to prioritize healing, they would waste MP too quickly on minor wounds. None of the options gives any kind of consistently desirable rule set, and the frenetic pace of battle doesn't lend itself to keeping careful watch over everyone's actions. The frustration is akin to trying to perform a symphony with a game of Simon. The tool might grasp the rudimentary task of note-making, but it isn't up to such high demands.
Between battle and story sequences, Oliver and company come across a multitude puzzles and townsfolk to help--though calling them "puzzles" may be too generous. These don't require any kind of creative thinking or intuition. Instead, the game has always granted one specific spell to solve a situation, and which one to choose should be obvious. If for some reason it isn't, the game doesn't give any penalty for an errant spell solution -- it simply informs you that nothing happened, so you can move on to trying another.
Your first Familiar, Mitey