Spent an hour making a decent looking character, then played for 10 minutes and died. I now play as a fabulous looking zombie
EDIT: WTF this is helpful?
Now I feel obligated to actually write about it.
In short, its third person hacky slashy ouchy dodgy game, it’s unforgiving, but the difficulty curve is much easier than Dark Souls 1. While I do believe it took a few steps backwards from the previous game, it still is head and shoulders above most games.
For the Newcomers:
Welcome! The franchise is a very humbling experience for the newcomers; very quickly you'll learn that your top priority is keeping yourself alive. While this is common in video games as a whole, it’s especially true here. Everything in the game can kill you in a matter of seconds, and your health/life is a precious resource. Whenever you die, you drop all your currently held souls at your place of death, but also lose a bit of your maximum health bar, all the way down to half. There are ways to mitigate this of course, but it is always in your best interest to be safe.
All that being said, the game does reward exploration, and the world is very densely designed with plenty to be found. Be sure to take a good look around the skyboxes whenever you change areas, as you'll usually be able to see places you'll eventually go or have been before. This all helps the game build a great sense of atmosphere.
The combat is some of the most satisfying of any game I've played. Remember how a few sentences ago I was saying how enemies can kill you easily? Most of them are animated to look like it. Everything in the game feels powerful, the swings and sound with the moves give things a great sense of weight and power. Souls Games use a lock on system, where, with the push of a button, the camera will focus on a specific enemy, and your character will face them. This means your movements are relative to it, and while you have to fight multiple enemies at a time, the system is at home in 1v1-3 fights. With larger fights, it can spiral out of control and enemies can stun lock you to death if you miss your escape. The camera controls aren't perfect, and with some bosses, it’s easier to fight them without the being locked on, but they function fine for the most part.
For the Souls Franchise Veterans
Multiple design choices feel like a step backwards, the limited enemy respawns, many boss fights being large humanoids in armor, and lacking the world that Dark Souls 1 had. What I mean is that Dark Souls 1 had a world that was essentially continuous, when the map files are put together, everything is mostly to scale, with distances, like being able to see several late game areas from the first bonfire. Here, the world feels a bit less so, some blatant ones like the distance between Majula and The Tower of Flame are out of scale, but none as bad as the transition to Iron Keep. These can be forgiven though.
Something that I won't forgive nearly as easily is the boss design. While some are well done, Many of the later bosses, are multiple enemies or a boss with a few smaller helpers. This gets incredibly frustrating if you're playing solo, thankfully, there are npc summons for a few, but for some of these fights, the only challenge is patience as you run around looking for an opening between boring bosses.
Another thing of note is that the atmosphere feels much less dark than the previous game, and that NPCs will not leave Majula. One of the things I realize that I loved was the NPCs of the previous games had a lot more emphasis on the Character part of the acronym. While people would come and hang out at Firelink, they would eventually leave, and usually encountered later. It gave the sense that they had goals of their own, and by the end of the game, it’s empty and lonely, as you are the last one there. The Majula NPCs seem much more NPCs in a MMO sense, they're here to serve the player, and once they reach Majula, they won't evolve further. It comes to a head in one instance where a father and daughter are less than 10 meters from each other, but don't ever reunite. It doesn't so much build or develop their characters as it does make you want to drag one to the other. (Emit Force won't work).
In my opinion, especially so as a fan of the multiplayer (Sunbro by day, Bellfag by night), the most jarring change is soul memory (hereafter noted as SM). The SM system determines multiplayer matchmaking on a tier system, counting every soul that your current character has collected, ever. This means that there isn’t much incentive to stay at soul level range for PVP, and can make trying to connect with friends, especially those that have been replaying an area they've been having trouble with, a bit of a hassle.
None of these are really deal-breakers though, and more than anything who off how well designed the first game was.
We do get legal respecing though, finally.
A Final Note on Hardware
Something to note here is that the game was coded to be run in 30 frames/second. This means that with a PC running it faster, the change can be a bit drastic. While the game does look better, there are issues with some enemies being significantly faster, and some even able to land attacks as soon as their animation starts. There are also a few issues with hit detection/tracking of some bosses. But the most significant problems that arise are weapon durability and dodging. The game gives you a set amount of frames during your roll animation that you are invulnerable during, also known as iframes. With double the framerate and no compensation means that you're only invulnerable for half the time as on a console. This is annoying, but not too big an issue as most rolls are for spacing, but can be annoying. The other issue is weapon durability. Equipment in the game degrades with use, but is refreshed upon resting at a bonfire. With weapons, they take durability damage whenever they're used. If they hit a wall or the ground, they take a small flat amount, the same as with console versions. Against enemies though, they take damage based on the number of frames that they’re in the body, more so if the enemy is already dead. This isn't too bad for most areas, unless using a fragile weapon, but there are longer areas that you’d want a backup to fall back on.
As for controls, the Mouse and Keyboard controls aren't great, though a big step up from Dark Souls 1. I'm currently playing without a controller, but I would recommend trying one with it, it makes the attack input a bit more precise than the defaults, and was clearly made with a controller in mind.
If you have any questions, just leave it it in the comments below and I'll get to you as soon as I can.