I'm an explorer at heart. I'm never happier than when I'm lost in a world that exists for its own sake, rather than as a fleshed-out backdrop for 20 predetermined hours of linear derring-do.
Content to spend countless hours picking daisies in the name of alchemical self-sufficiency, I crave the matryoshka mentality of game design where layers are peeled back slowly, a word spoken with the wrong person invokes unexpected back-story, and randomly discarded books open up a whole new chapter of quests.
So it I find myself in danger of missing the meat and bones of The Witcher 2 during Namco Bandai's preview event. Yes, I know the men of Vergen have started to go missing, and satanic stitch-craft has been etched onto the bodies pre-mortem. I'll get right on it, I swear.
It's just this bearded dwarven bastard has upped the ante in the arm-wrestling stakes, while a mysterious and buxom trader has an investigation for me. I'm already late for fisticuffs by the fireplace.
Non-linearity continues to be the driving force behind development of this sequel. A heavily-modified Aurora Engine has been eschewed in favour of a brand new, in-house proprietary system. This has allowed the team to take more hands-on control over balancing, the development of non-linear quests and debugging.
The side-quest we're presented with is a case in point. After discovering the gruesome remains of one victim, deep within the stone ruins of the Vergen catacombs, a detailed examination reveals something embedded within the festering corpse.
At this point in the game Geralt lacks the necessary tools for extraction. So it's a tantalising example of the piņata approach to quest development: a box of delights, filled with unfinished business for the determined explorer.
The new engine has also given a shot in the arm to what was an already impressive visual rendering. Free to experiment with an architecture left largely uncommented on in Sapkowski's books, CD Projekt has taken to the task with vigour.
Vergen is a town hewn from the rocks surrounding it and held together with wooden foundations. It houses a population that lives with the land rather than on it, striving for rugged survival rather than unnatural domination.
The world at large is still a pre-NHS, medievally Nordic place where men are men, women are glandular receptacles and syphilis continues to claim several hundred thousand lives a year.
But the sex cards are out - and good job too. We're still at that awkward, fumbling schoolboy stage when it comes to dealing with the finer points of adult relationships. For many, the romance cards of the first game stepped over the line between a refreshingly adult Brothers Grimm-style fantasy, free of excitable gnomes, and into the territory of sniggering titillation.
I'm not trying to burn any bras here. I just long for the day when I can tell people what I do for a living without receiving a hurriedly stifled look of pity in exchange. Reference a sex-card collection of conquests and you'd be forgiven for assuming they belong to either a recklessly well-organised serial killer, or the kind of guy who believes he's likely to find a soul-mate by going on Take Me Out.
I think we can do better than this, bawdy world or otherwise. Tomasz Gop, senior producer at CD Projekt, agrees. "A lot of people thought it definitely did not fit the overall feeling of the game - collecting women," he says.
"No-one's surprised that sex is part of the game, and it fits the world. It was just the presentational aspect they complained about - probably they were right."
Combat has not so much evolved as mutated into an entirely different animal in the years since the first game launched. Gone is the turn-and-timing combo system that seemed at first glance to encourage - but ultimately punished - furious clicking. It's replaced instead with an action-orientated system that's more fluid and delivers a stronger bite.
Unquestionably this is an improvement, and a change that's unlikely to alienate devotees of the first game. Melee justice is still dispensed through meaty sword swipes while the finishing moves are just as gruesomely satisfying.
Planting his first blade through one side of an enemy's chest, then adding the second before ripping them both out and delivering a swift but clean decapitation, Geralt is still every inch the devil's carvery chef.
While it's a tighter, more engaging method for dealing with the miscreants of the world, doubts linger over the effectiveness of crowd control. Holding a monster at bay with a magical pushback while breaking down the defences of a melee opponent is only rewarding if you've held back the right enemy.
There's a niggling lack of feedback for single-entity, distant targeting and only a short amount of time between now and the game's release to get this right - or leave people clamouring for the earlier, drier system.
Coupled with a layout that seems suspiciously suitable for a 360 controller, this move towards a brisker fighting pace raises inevitable questions about a console port.
Tomasz is coy: "I'm not saying we're doing a console version, but I'm always saying I want to do it. If we did not think beforehand about controls, then we would be digging deep and re-writing huge portions of the code."
We're playing only a small section of a mid-game, non-linear quest - a doll within a doll - and Tomasz is understandably cagey about giving away too much of the main story.
But he's confident that the team will deliver an experience that offers as much content as the first game, with even greater depth for those prepared to travel further along its non-linear path. As well as a story culminating in a possible 16 separate outcomes, there will be an unlockable 'insane' difficulty for those who fancy risking a 30-hour investment on a perma-death roll of the dice.
I need a hero.
Son of a witch.
Preview: The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings
Something pretty wicked this way comes.
Gritty role-player out now on PC.
If you can resist the urge to become a jack-of-all-trades at the character development level, maxing out an area of combat speciality will lead to additional upgrades that are unique to that particular play-style. The devoted melee fighter will unlock an ability to unleash finishing moves upon multiple enemies for example, while potion-scoffing mystics gain a new Sign.
Aware that the Dallas-like employment of amnesia in the first game was somewhat awkward, the team is making greater efforts to ensure that a transition into the new story of character progression won't feel too forced, or leave players feeling cheated from past achievements. Improvements are also being made to the way back-story is revealed, not only for those unfamiliar with the books but the events of the first game.
Those who did complete the original Witcher will have the option to import their saved game into the sequel. Rather than turning the game into a half-product for those new to the series, the import instead rewards players by reflecting earlier decisions into the new story, and allowing access to certain parts of the inventory - not everything, but certainly swords, armour sets and some currency.
On the thorny issue of DRM, CD Projekt is taking a firm stance. Steam's natural protection aside, the digital versions of the game will remain DRM-free. While plans for the retail version are still under negotiation, the developer is clear that it will not follow the path of a certain infamously hard-line peer: "We'd rather break the contract."
Under the nurturing care of a developer who saw fit to scatter business sense to the four winds, devote a year to perfecting its fledgling title post-release, and then give it all away in exchange for nothing more than goodwill, The Witcher 2 will undoubtedly provide an expansive home for those explorers always keeping one eye on the next horizon.