Dark Souls is challenging, there is no doubt about that. The game forces you to learn the ropes before you start feeling the rewards. There is no hand holding. BUT once you get the feel for your weapons and shield, things get easier. You will die, pretty often actually, but every death will be fair. There are only two exceptions. The Tomb of the Giants can be insanely difficult because you have to trade your shield for a lantern. I won't spoil to much for you, but their is a piece of equipment and a spell that will provide you light and you can keep your shield. The other exception is one area in Anor Londo with two Black Knight Archers. This specific spot is made 100% easier if you are able to summon help online. The combat is excellent. Every weapon feels different. Every weapon has different swing speed and a different move set. Even each bow has its own unique qualities. There is an incredible amount of sorcery, miracles, and pyromancy at your disposal. The scenery is absolutely incredible. Every boss and mini-boss looks great and 99% of the entire game has incredible details. Don't let people scare you off with the difficulty. Once you get the flow of the combat down, you will be able to make it all the way to the glorious finish. It took me a good 10 hours to really get a grasp of what it took to survive in the Dark Souls world, but after that it was nothing more than just enjoying the trip.
Dark Souls 2
There were some concerns in the gaming community that Dark Souls 2 wouldn't hold up to the exceptional Dark Souls. But soon after I started playing, I knew this game was still a true Souls experience. Still no hand holding, but this game has more direction than the others games in the series, which helps to avoid the frustration of unknown consequences of your actions in the original Dark Souls. This doesn't make the experience easier however; it simply helps avoid the "red mist descending". The new fast travel system is a nice addition, allowing the player to travel from bonfires to any previously discovered. This reduces the amount of navigating that felt pointless in the first game, and allows the player to focus on progressing in a certain area but also switch between levels as required. The online functionality works better too, I never had trouble summoning players to help me with the harrowing boss fights beyond mist covered portals. For players with a darker side, the ability to invade others player's worlds has also made a return. Overall, Dark Souls 2 is a welcome return for players of the previous titles, and even introduces some improvements. That doesn't mean new players shouldn't pick up this game though, as the mechanics are less perplexing and the story is entirely separate. But be warned, this is only for people who like a challenge.