I have to confess I am a great fan of RPG’s. However, the above debate is a divisive one and I think there is something to be said for both kinds of game.
The Final Fantasy games are, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest series of RPG’s there is but they are mostly linear in their construction which makes the stories so involving and a simple joy to watch unfold. Grinding for necessary levels is tiresome and time-consuming and I never personally felt the compulsion to veer far from the main quest other than to pick up cool weapons. However, the main appeal is the construction of the story and it is literally like an interactive movie and driving that forward is the priority.
In some ways, the restrictions it places on you to drive yourself forward without any real kind of exploration or ability to change the direction of the story is part of its appeal.
Sometimes when I play say Skyrim, for example, I wonder if I have too much freedom and something of the main drive isn’t lost in the myriad of options I have. Theoretically, I could play the game forever and never go anywhere and do anything to progress the main story. This doubtless removes some of the depth and emotional involvement in the trials and tribulations of the main character. The ‘sole trader’ nature of your hero also contribute to this, there is no real chemistry with or interest in the companions you have by your side. unlike say Final Fantasy 6, 7, 8 or 9 etc, etc where the whole cast has backstories and personalities and the chemistry of the group is interesting and emotional.
However, the rigidity of the storyline and game architecture makes that element of the story limited in its scope and potential.
Ultimately, it is different horses for different courses, which do you prefer?