I think it’s precisely because a lot of the sidequests and little vignettes you come across are creative and memorable that it contrasts with the stuff that feels more slapdash or copy-pasted. I’d have been fine with some places just existing without having to shove “content” in there just for the sake of it.
Related to that and also tying into how I’d like monster fights to feel more varied are the witcher contracts. They sort of work as introductions to the monsters and sometimes have neat stories attached, but far too often it just comes down to [someone’s dead/missing] -> [go to location] -> [follow tracks] -> [kill monster] -> [get money].
I feel like the witcher fantasy is supposed to be about learning about the monsters you face and using skills and tricks to exploit their weaknesses, but apart from using Yrden to make some wraiths corporeal I haven’t come across any monsters where I can’t just dodge around them and whack them with my sword until they fall over. All the potions and weapon oils just seem to either make fights shorter or let you play more sloppily and take more damage.
I’m not saying I want every random drowner or ghoul fight to be some epic ordeal where you have to be prepared to the teeth, but the witcher contracts already have more powerful and sometimes named versions of the monsters, so why not give them powerful attributes or abilities you have to counteract to kill them?
Monsters that are vulnerable at certain times of day.
Powerful poisons that you need an antidote for.
Using lures or traps to catch elusive monsters.
Strong regeneration you need to use weapon oils to counter.
Armour that needs to be debuffed with a sign.
Telegraphed debuffs that you have to soak with Quen or interrupt with Aard.
Frenzy mechanics that can be soothed with Axii.
Most of these already exist in some form in the game, but they just don’t really matter. I’m sure someone doing this for a living and devoting more time could come up with more and more interesting abilities and attributes. If these “boss versions” of the monsters had skills and attributes you couldn’t ignore it would make the witcher contracts serve the purpose of teaching you how to handle different monsters and use a wider array of your toolkit. Regular versions of the enemies could then have weaker versions of the abilities where it wouldn’t be impossible but countering and exploiting weaknesses actually be more helpful than sword spam.
Gosh, I sure fell down a backseat game design hole there, sorry.