The art in the game is astounding but I think just calling it an art game is missing the engaging gameplay. You have loads of ways to approach encounters, either through running or fighting, and there is good enemy variety. The platforming is exciting and even just walking through the world is fun since you have to engage with gameplay mechanics even in downtime, which by the way is very important for any game and especially so for a game which is portraying such a strong atmosphere. That being said I've mostly been playing hunter difficulty and mods so the spawns might be higher for me, but there isn't really that much time spent without having to deal with encounters or platforming. I don't know how long you've played it and I don't blame you for just not enjoying a game, but I would try it again until you get to the underhang at least.
As for the story, I don't understand your critisism. Also I think you shouldn't critisize a story before finishing it since there could be something later on which recontextualised the entire experience. Perhaps the fact that death doesn't matter to the slugcat does contrast with the harshness of the world, but things can have different stories and themes in them, and as for the whole cycle thing from what I gather for most people it isn't like the last cycle is crystal clear in their memory, its almost more of a spiritual / theoretical thing. But the gameplay is very much linked to the story, since the different enviroments reveals much to the player through their art and atmosphere, and emotion is expressed just by moving through different enviroments, especially the more climatic areas, which is accomplished through a very effective combination of art, sound, level design and enemy threat. This game manages to tell a more effective story with atmosphere and gameplay alone than most games can tell with a thousand lore books, and this game has lore as well.
Major spoilersAs for the lack of writing, there actually is dialogue in the game, you just have to get to Five Pebbles, who you get to through the underhang. Then you can being lore pearls to Looks to the Moon, who will read them for you. Also, the ending is crazy and like the whole game really melancholy, in fact I would say its verging on eldrtichPost too long. Click here to view the full text.