This isn't your grandma's Dark Souls game. Oh no, Dark Souls II is back and more rage inducing than ever. As of 11pm last night there were already over 2 million live claimed by the game not even 24hrs after it's launch.
Even veterans who could breeze through the first couple of NG+'s are taken back to the days of getting owned in the Undeadburgs. That which you could rely on has been carefully crafted to not be so...supportive. Weapons break after only a few battles, Estus is now a premium, and the drop rates and loot are scarce. Even souls are tough to farm as every battle is hellish nightmare.
The game trolls you, hard and apologetically. Even at the start of the game the CG cutscene featuring a house full of old witches mock you and your inevitable plethora of deaths. I myself died within 20 seconds of the start of the game as I went sprinting through tall grass only to find that the edge of the cliff was perfectly masked (possible record?).
You're not handed your weapons, in fact you have to actually go find them and if you're like me, you'll choose the wrong path and end up getting trolled by a, wait for it...troll. Yes, there are trolls in this game that are massive and will actually bite your head off. At the beginning be sure to check corners and pay attention to the seemingly dead bodies on the ground as they might not actually be dead.
Once you do get a weapon head for the central city of Majula. You'll need to visit this place often as it's where you can find the Black Smith and the only place you can level up. Talk to the Emerald Herald as she's who will reinforce your Estus Flasks and level you up. In order to unlock the Black Smith in the game you need to unlock his house. To do this you must fight through the first world and reach the second bonfire. There you can purchase the key from the merchant hag for 1000 souls.
Some things to remember is that your weapons deteriorate quickly. Sitting at a bonfire will restore them but once they've broken they can't be restored without a blacksmith. Enemies are hidding in every corner and even the easiest foe can kill you quickly. For each death your max health will decrease until you reach 50%. The only way to recover from this is to use a Human Effigy but those are the rarest items in the game so instead of burning through all of them in the beginning take you time and try not to die...too much. If you do get down to 50% just deal with it. Think of it as training.
When combating enemies there's a couple things to note. First, they have quick recovery times after taking damage. If you don't have your shield up as soon as you're done with your attack they will land a hit on your and you better hope they don't chain a 3 or 4 hit combo, you won't survive. So always leave some stamina in your bar to absorb a hit. It's best though if you try not to get hit at all. The starter shields don't offer much in the way of physical protection and if you only 50% of your max health you'll find that even blocking can be a deadly choice. However, most of the enemies attack are easily knicked allowing you to go in for killer combo.
I haven't gotten far enough to really get a good grasp of what the best loadouts are. The first zone doesn't offer much in the way of loot outside of the Hollow Armor set you only have what your leave the starting zone with.