If you've played Demon's or Dark Souls then you know exactly what to expect from Dark Souls 2. Death. Death. Death and reward. Dark Souls 2 is a small step on from the original featuring a few tweaks here and there and a stunning new setting.
Your character, who can be customised to a frankly daunting extent, is cursed and you must travel through Drangleic to redeem your humanity. The story is ambiguous but it does unfold effectively as you explore and talk to new people. It's done in a much clearer way than in the first Dark Souls and it makes the world seem more tangible.
The world itself is perhaps the most obvious change here. Where the original was bleak, dark and grey the world of Dark Souls 2 is bathed in incredible lighting effects so even though it is a harrowing, desolate land, it manages to be beautiful and evocative. The lightning effects aren't just for display though, they also play a tactical role. You can forgo whatever is in your second hand for a torch which can be very handy in some of the games darker areas. The sacrifice here is that you lose a perfectly good weapon arm. It might not sound like much but after only a couple of hours with the game you'll see how big a role this can play.
The other major change comes in with the online aspect of the game. Dark Souls has always been forward thinking with its online integration and yet in the original it was virtually impossible to play with friends. Fortunately this has been fixed for Dark Souls 2. I always thought a Souls game would make a perfect co-op experience with friends and now I can finally prove my point.
Other smaller changes include a fast travel system available at bonfires, which is infinitely useful because for some unknown reason the developers decided to change it so you have to return to the hub area to level up. Also when you die your maximum health is lowered. This might sound harsh but it's only actually a small challenge and it seems fair because it isn't a permanent effect.
Outside of these changes things are the same. The enemies are varied, often disgusting and are always incredibly powerful. Everyone can kill you, pouncing on the slightest mistake you make and cutting you to pieces. The boss designs are fantastic as usual, with the Mirror Knight being a particular favourite. The world is large and has plenty of branching paths to explore. And of course there are dozens of creepy people to meet, talk to and buy from. The covenant system remains in place and as useful as ever as well.
Whether or not you enjoy Dark Souls 2 ultimately rests on whether or not you enjoyed Dark Souls 1 or Demon's Souls. This game is not perfect and doesn't improve on all areas over Dark Souks, but it is a fantastic game, one of the best to come out this year and is definitely worth your time.