Here the setting overtook me once again as Geralt is reunited with some friends from the first game - Zoltan the dwarf and Dandelion the bard. After a quick, but still painful, QTE fist fight, you are let loose to explore the corrupt human settlement. The center of town is an inn/whorehouse - yes, you can - and outside is a notice board with jobs custom-made for Geralt's skillset as a monster hunter. Venturing into the forest is a delight as rare herbs and vicious monster seems to be around every twist of the path. Did I mention that the game is beautiful? The forest surrounding Flotsam is gorgeously lush, with crumbled bridges and ruins dotting the natural beauty of waterfalls and foggy lowlands.
It's a good thing the landscape looks so awesome, because you will be wandering around those woods for a long time. Finding quest-specific locations is usually easy, but simple navigation is tough because there is no indication of which direction is north. The map looks pretty, but uses the Cyrillic alphabet so that kind of sucks for us Anglos. Plus, finding some of the objectives of the side-quests is nearly impossible because they blend in with the background. The main quests also have you going back and forth to the same location often which made me wonder why they spent so much time building the rest of the place.
By this time, the combat feels like a snap as long as you've drunk the right potions and stopped spamming the Igni sign (fireball.) Effective fighting involves creative use of the Control menu, which slows time and allows you to switch signs and secondary weapons like bombs and throwing daggers. Parrying attacks and countering can feel a lot like dueling and that's when the combat of The Witcher really sings. But there is sometimes a terrible lag between pressing a button and witnessing Geralt respond, which encourages a weird constant tapping of the keys to make sure the command goes through. For combat whose fun depends on flow, this is a monstrous error.
Drinking potions gives you an edge in combat, at least I assume so because I never seemed to have drunk the right potions at the right time. You can't drink potions while you are engaged in a fight, which seems like a silly holdover from the meditation mechanic of the first game. There is a lot of granularity in the potion system, with most giving you both positive and negative effects. I thought that once I bought enough recipes, I'd be able to dovetail the effects of the three potions you can drink at a time for a net gain, but those recipes never materialized. I defaulted to only using the few potions that I couldn't do without, namely Cat, Swallow and Tawny Owl which let me see in the dark and regenerate health and vigor, respectively. Another opportunity missed.