Yeah I actually tried playing Tobal.1 and I actually liked it, but none of my friends had any remote interests in the game for the same reasons you mentioned. I believe Tobal had a dungeon mode too which is pretty cool, but the item break and random setups really made it frustrating for me.
Lets not forget that Dream Factory made two more attempts with Ehrgeiz for the ps1 and The Bouncer for the ps2.
Ehrgeiz was really trying to sell the game by having FF7 characters included. The fighting system has a few ups and downs. Once again the title release was overshadowed by other monster hits(Street Fighter Alpha 3 came out the same time.)
This game has a dungeon mode as well, but still had the frustrating item breaks and random setups that I really have no love for.
The Bouncer for the ps2 was entertaining for a ps2 launch title, but Armored Core 2 held so much more value than it.