Okay, my copy arrived by courier yesterday and after installation and the usual patching (which went without a hitch although it was a 100+meg download), I managed to play for about 3 hours - which was pretty much the prologue and a little bit of 'chapter 1'.
Firstly, the characters are nicely detailed. The story and characters are not too far from the usual muscle men with enormous swords and ladies wearing ridiculously skimpy outfits, but there's an obvious effort to lift the game above the usual shitty cliches and there was some pathos generated by the final scene in the prologue. In other words, I have some interest in what happens to the characters even after only a few hours playing, and that's not to be disregarded. The quality of the writing helps in this.
(I should be clear here though; in relation to the depth of characterisation, nuance and drama you might find say, in a BBC production, the Witcher's opening is still comic book level - but there's obvious advancement going on here and I really hope it's the start of a trend.)
The first erotic scene. It must be difficult to make two polygonal characters embrace without giving the impression you're working with mannequins. To stop the characters from intersecting in all the wrong places (you can see that with the hair for example), but bonk cards? WTF? Still, they must know something, for I've already accepted a wench's assignation tomorrow night (virtual time) in a nearby deserted barn and I'm hoping to add her to my collection of (cough), bonk cards. Of course its not as simple as that, she did have to mention the barn may be haunted (sigh).
But you do have to wonder - are these games ever designed with much female input? I haven't looked at the credits, but odds on, it was mainly guys. I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in the game, they've hidden a picture of the dev team. My bet, if I find it, is that they'll all be in their twenties to early thirties, wearing a preponderance of black and the only females in the image are likely to be involved in the marketing of the game. Really, we need more women on the design teams! If the design team was at least 50% female, would this feature have made it in? Possibly - but it's also possible there would have been a demand that there should also be guy bonk cards. And then the design would have been changed to allow Geralt to have also been Geraldine - if the player wished it. I'm not against sex in a game - at the same time I'm not interested in comedies about teenagers losing their virginity - and many games handle sex on that level. We'll see how it goes.
Combat: I'm still not entirely sure what I'm doing. Small problem, I need to find the toggle key so I can go to combat mode even before I think enemies are about to show up. There were times when I'm trying to deal with the camera, getting attacked, click on an enemy and Geralt hasn't even drawn his sword yet. Hope I can solve this. (edit) I really appreciated the tutorial help given during the prologue - this was a good feature that helped me understand the conventions of the gameplay while advancing the story.
So I'm interested, but it's obviously a big game and I've a lot to learn. My last big game was Gothic3. I got a lot of enjoyment from that game but most astoundingly, I was unable to finish the game due to something I had done earlier! I don't expect that issue with The Wicther and I'm hoping it'll keep me playing for sometime to come...