Like it or not, all fantasy adaptations for the next five to ten years are going to live in the shadow of George RR Martin's 'Game of Thrones', and it's an unfair comparison.
For one, Martin's novel series borrowed heavily from history and had a level of familiarity baked into it. As well as this, the fantasy elements were kept to an appropriate minimum until the audience had caught up to the weirdness of Westeros. 'The Witcher', however, makes no attempt to soften itself for a wider audience or even try to make the endless exposition somewhat more palatable.
Instead, 'The Witcher' opens with Henry Cavill's ever-grunting Geralt of Rivia being caught in a typical anti-hero for hire situation, where he's being hired to kill a princess by a sorcerer to stop the end of the world, while that very same princess attempts to hire him to do the same to the sorcerer. Ultimately, it acts as an introduction to Geralt's entire character - that choosing between the lesser of two evils isn't worth making the choice, so the choice is make nothing. Throughout the series, we're reminded that Geralt is a character who doesn't care for people's quarrels, but invariably finds himself drawn right into the middle of them.
What makes this a little tiresome is that it essentially tells you where the story is going to go and then gives the writers the freedom to fire as much exposition and world-building in because, well, we know the characters when they're a trope. In fantasy, tropes and genre cliches are treated with a lot more reverence than they would be in, say, thrillers or horrors. This is pretty evident in 'The Witcher', as each of the episodes plays right through with every fantasy cliche intact. Everything from a cursed knight, to a carousing bard, ancient curses, witches who transform themselves, it's all there, but it just doesn't pull you in as it should.
While the fight sequences are done particularly well, they're not enough to sustain any kind of interest for very long. Cavill's performance, meanwhile, is reduced to a series of looks, grunts and shrugs and while that might be enough for people who understand the character on a deeper level and have read the books and played the games, everyone else is left outside. Likewise, the endless lore and exposition is handled particularly poorly, and so often is the case that characters speak of things that we're simply expected to know. Even if you can figure out what they're talking about, the dialogue between all these moments is clunky and wooden, and doesn't have half the wit or presence that it thinks it has.
The production design does look impressive and you really get the sense that money is being fired at this to give it every possible opportunity. The difference, however, is that while 'The Witcher' may exist in a fantastical world, you can never really shake the feeling that you're looking at a set, or that you've seen some of this before. At least two of the directors worked on Netflix's 'Daredevil', while another worked on 'Game of Thrones' as both cinematographer and director.
If nothing else, 'The Witcher' will scratch that itch for anyone who loves fantasy and wants another 'Game of Thrones'-esque show to sink their teeth into. It might just be that 'The Witcher' is finding its feet in its first season, but it has some distance to go before it reaches its full potential. Like all fantasy, a long journey has to be undertaken before it can reach its destiny. 'The Witcher' has a long way to go.