I love Dark Souls. It's one of my favourite games of all time. I also love what I've played of Dark Souls II so far, but there are a few teeny new features and additions that I worry will spoil things for returning fans.
Consider the below list as much a preventative measure to stop me gushing like a lunatic as anything else. For a more positive take on the game, read Ed's multiplayer preview and my piece on how the story relates to that of Dark Souls 1.
You can voice chat with other players
This. Did you ever think you'd see the day you could voice chat in a Dark Souls game? It's only available to players who engage in co-op together, and you can turn it off completely, but I worry that the fact it's there at all will discourage players from taking advantage of the non-verbal communication methods that worked so well in the original.
Soapstone messages wrong-foot you at times, but they're fun to decipher. And gestures, though basic, always got your point across in a strangely elegant way that's in keeping with the tone of the game. A "sup?" via voice chat may be more efficient, but it's not as charming as having another player greet you with a bow. When I summoned another player to help me battle the infamous Ornstein and Smough, I was mildly delighted to discover that they were waiting for me to attack first (so that they'd know which one's armour I wanted). Barring chat kept the real world out of the game, and that's how I want things to stay.
Friend summoning is made easier
In Dark Souls II, friend summoning is - not directly enabled, exactly - but made slightly easier by way of a new equippable item, the Name-Engraved Ring. With it, players can pledge allegiance to one of ten gods, and if their friends also sign up to the same god, the likelihood that those two players will be paired up in co-op is greatly increased.
I'm just hoping it won't take away the excitement of adventuring with complete strangers. "It was a lot to do with fan feedback," Dark Souls II producer Takeshi Miyazoe told me during my hands-on when I asked him the reason for its inclusion. "There were a lot of requests for voice chat and friend summoning, and those more multiplayer-type features. We obviously didn't want to put in friend summoning or voice chat throughout the whole game, but it was From Software's unique way to take on some of the fan feedback."
You can be invaded whilst hollow
Going hollow in Dark Souls 1 could make the difference between, well, huge amounts of frustration and slightly smaller amounts of frustration. You faced the same hardships and enemies, but you knew you were safe from potential invaders and phantoms. In Dark Souls II, you're afforded no such luxury. Luckily, you're less likely to be invaded if you have a low Sin level, which is determined by how much you hunt down and kill other players. If you don't engage in invasion, you're less likely to be invaded.
Additionally, you can burn items like Human Effigies at bonfires to increase the time in which other players are banned from entering your world. All this is made even tougher by the fact that up to 50% of your health can now be lost through repeated deaths and - fair warning to serial invaders - you can actually lose far, far more than that if your Sin level is high enough. Whilst I like a challenge, this all changes things a little more than I'm really comfortable with. I liked being able to hide from other players when I wanted to. Granted, this isn't really From Software's vision for the game, so I guess I'm just going to have to get used to the idea, and prepare myself accordingly.