Lock-On is a feature which focuses the camera on a target letting the player easily direct their attacks and other abilities. It makes it harder for the target to get access to the player's back and forces the shield to face the enemy. Moving around the target also becomes easier.
As shown in the Twelve minute reveal for Dark Souls 2 Gameplay the lock-On mechanic has returned. So far it looks to be done slightly different as the camera doesn't quickly snap to whatever the target is. Instead it seems a lot smoother. The player is also able to move more freely during lock-on, and are for example able to roll and run away from the target while remaining locked on, whereas in the previous game lock-on would always make the player face the target.
Stamina consumption looks to have increased for Dark Soul 2. While before the use of one handed weapons could allow for seven swings on what looks to be a high stamina character, Dark Souls 2 so far seems to only allow for three to five swings on average depending on the weapon. Because of this timing of attacks as well as rolls will likely be far more important than in the previous title. Rolling, and blocking looks to also not require as much stamina unless trying to block with something other than a shield. Also, It now costs stamina to cast magic & pyromancy.
In Dark Souls 2 it looks like Dual Wielding will allow for special animations weapons. According to the words of some at E3 that played it, dual wielding focuses a lot upon rolling for defense. According to them blocking and parrying with offhand weapons was not an option. Using the standard attack button (R1 or RB) starts a combo in which the character swings first with the sword in their right hand, and then with the left. Holding triangle engages a "power stance," in which the character swings both swords at once.
In Dark Souls 2 it would appear that attacks fluidly come one after another while having what looks to be three standard animations per weapon. It is possible one is simply an R2/RT attack. Regardless combos look to be heavily possible as they are shown in the gameplay trailer.
It is possible to knock projectiles out of the air using larger weapons, while not explicitly stated during a gameplay reveal the player needed to switch over to a large two handed sword to try and knock away a thrown axe. It also seems that possibly only large projectiles can be knocked out of the air.
Poise has made a return. It seems that more enemies that have been shown will break poise in one hit though it is shown that some are unable to stagger the player on the first hit with armor being worn. While it may function similarly to Dark Souls one shouldn't assume the poise break-points will be the same. Poise itself is a stat which is based upon your armor and denotes whether the player character will get staggered upon taking a hit or not. This allows one to take hits without getting stunned for a second allowing for a variety of tactics to be used depending on the situation. It is especially helpfully against enemies with fast attacks which can stunlock the player, or for Player versus Player.
Blocking is the act of using a shield or weapon to reduce or completely negate the damage that would be otherwise taken. It involves holding up said weapon or shield in the direction of the attack coming at the player. Certain shields and weapons will block higher percentages of damage and also reduce different types of damage. For example a shield might have high magic resistance but low physical. The blocking of an attack also will cost the user stamina, depending on the shield or weapon used the amount of stamina consumed will be different. For example weapons will use up more stamina to block an attack as opposed to shields. Blocking is more difficult to rely on for every situation in Dark Souls 2 due to how aggressive enemies can be, they will often hit so fast and so hard that stamina will not regenerate fast enough to allow for further blocking. When the player runs out of stamina as their shield is hit during a block the shield will be knocked away. During this time they will take more damage, but the player may also be riposted when their shield is knocked away.
Parry and Riposte
Parrying is the act of using an offhand weapon or shield to knock away an oncoming blow, riposting is the act of using this opening to get a critical hit. In Dark Souls 2 it seems that parrying an enemy player will cause them to fall onto the ground in a seated position for a short time. Riposting seems to involve using a downward attack on the seated player dealing massive damage, it is unknown how the parry animations will be for all enemies but most human sized enemies should involve a similar animation. It is also now possible for players to be riposted after they have had their guards broken. A youtube uploader, Rurikahn, who played a demo at E3 spoke a bit about it at 24:40 of this video:
Backstab will make a return, but will work different than the backstab from the original Dark souls. In the previous game, the backstab worked like a "grab", which glued the enemy to the backstabber, which resulted in a animation with both characters. Based upon the released gameplay demo on E3 2013, the backstab is now an unique attack animation that only can be started when standing behind the attack. The victim is still free to move from that animation, but when hit, will go in its own animation, which will keep the victim in the reach of the backstab animation.Also,there seems to be different distances depending on the weapon,where you can backstab. For example, ultra greatswords will require much more distance to backstab with than a dagger.
The guard breaking kick of Dark Souls has been replaced with a shoulder push. The developers have said the push performs the same function as the kick, the comparable effectiveness remains to be determined. Using the shoulder push, you need to be more careful compared to kicking. The shoulder push makes you step forward, so there is the possibility that could fall off a ledge during or after the animation.
It is currently unknown what Status Ailments will be in Dark Souls 2. Most likely, there will be ailments either the same as or similar to those found in the original Dark Souls. Poison and Bleed types are known to be making a comeback.
It is currently unknown what Damage Types will be in Dark Souls 2.