Coming back to this thread after 2 nearly full days of playing since I took the last couple days off:
First Impressions: Just like the original you're plopped in the middle of nowhere with almost no guide. Graphics are absolutely gorgeous, however there have been some noticible bugs, though they have not impacted gameplay. Started off as a Sorcerer, my typical first playthrough class, and boy was it a doozy starting off. There was quite a learning curve after literally just playing Diablo 3. Died quite a bit in those first hours because of it.
Spent the first three hours trying to figure out where I wanted to go first, what my options are, and how in the hell I was supposed to level up. Eventually got through the first boss in the Giant Forest without levelling up, though I did die a ton in doing so. Only took a couple tries to take down the boss. Went back to Majula and thoroughly searched everything, getting killed by the pigs twice, before finally finding the girl to level up. Immediately put levels into attunement to get some more casts of soul arrow.
After the heart thumping battle I can honestly say this iteration brings everything that Dark Souls is supposed to bring, and is surprisingly harder than the first.
Things of note: Going down to half health as a hollow brought me right back to Demon's Souls days. Everything one shot me, but I got pretty good at dodging.
Backstab windows seem much smaller than in previous iterations. LOVE this and can't wait to see how this impacts PvP.
Spent the next few hours exporing the Giant Forest and I started noticing something odd. As I farmed/died and regenerated at bonfires I noticed that enemies stopped respawning. I actually like this as a feature because it made travelling between a bonfire and boss just a hop skip and jump with no need to keep wasting casts on enemies you kill over and over.
Pressing triangle at a bonfire lights your torch. Took me FOREVER to figure this out. You can set enemies on fire and light torches throughout the way, though you only have limited time with the torch.
Human Effigies are pretty common. I think I have around 15 right now and use one once every level or so since I'm not dying nearly as much as I was in the first few hours.
Make sure to check what you can burn at a fire. There are things that make your Estus +1 as well as powders that make the world easier or harder, seems to be akin to the white/black worlds in Demon's Souls.
Item degredation seems to not be working. It will say my sword is almost broken, but then when I go to fix it the blacksmith says there isn't anything to fix. Only once it's actually broken does it have the option. Not only that, but when I tried using the repair powder (which is rare and expensive), it didn't work and my sword was still broken.
Online: Have only been invaded twice, once when I was AFK, and once as a white phantom where they tried bating us into enemies and we sniped from afar. I did get the White Sign Soapstone, so as I entered a new zone I now go as a white phantom first, learn the level, see if there were any tricks or places I missed, then using that info I would take on the level myself. As I went through it I would sometimes put down my white sign again to fill up my spells.
One thing that's great right now is there are a TON of players. I drop my sign and it's picked up within a minute, so I spent a good amount of time helping people with the Dragonslayers and the Pirateship boss. Even after levelling up quite a few levels I still get summoned fairly quickly.
Currently: Right now I just finished the pirateship boss and have moved on to the next level where I'm stuck at some VERY tough big enemies in a sewer that have 1,500 HP. I'm rocking a +5 catalyst and a +3 fire longsword, both of which are impacted by INT which I've levelled up to 40 (pretty much the only thing I've levelled), but only do 100-200 damage. Haven't upgraded my armor yet because I don't want to waste the few titanite shards I could buy. Currently have 6 estus flasks that are +1 and like 50+ health items. When you can be one-shot by almost everything health is rarely a concern, playing carefully so you aren't surrounded is far more important.
Part of the Way of Blue covenant, but I haven't been summoned once to help out. I'm sure this will change as people figure out the invasion system (took a few weeks for Dark Souls).
All in all... everything I want in a Dark Souls and more. The only complaint is that the bosses are kida... samey. Other than that it's been great so far and I look forward to knowing the game backward and forward, just like the last one.