I only got it recently because it was free on PS+, but it far exceeded my expectations. I didn't pick it up prior because I had the impression it was basically a Dark Souls knock-off and the demo didn't do much to convince me otherwise. I don't think I could have been more wrong on that one. I just finished my second playthrough (in a row) and I'm still pretty tempted to start it back up and play again on hard. (Which I still might do.) There are very few games that can keep my interest two playthroughs in a row, much less a potential third. I don't often like to settle on a GOTY, because I don't think enjoyment is that easy to define, but all things considered I don't think any other game I've played this year has captured my attention quite the way this game has. (Which is kind of crazy, since I think there were actually some really great releases this year.)
The game does a lot of things that I feel like I don't see nearly enough in video games, but I think the major one for me is how much direct interaction you can have with the enemies. It's not just that you can climb all over the big monsters Shadow of the Colossus style (which is cool) but more that they have so many points of interaction and ways they react to your various attacks. In most games when if you fought a cyclops it would mostly just be dodging attacks and then whacking its feet until you win. Which you can do, (even if it's hardly the most effective way), or you could climb on its back and start slashing its head or eye (while avoiding grabs), shoot it in the eye with arrows, you could attack the feet until it falls down, giving you easier access to the weakpoints, or attack the arm to make it drop its weapon to make attacks less dangerous, or use lightning to stun it, etc. And it's not just the big enemies either. I love how you can grapple smaller enemies and hold them so your team can do more damage, or even just pick them up and throw them off a cliff. It's a "problem" that I never really thought of much when playing other games, but now that I've played this I think it's something more games in the future really need to do. Enemies should be more than walking health bars that only react slightly differently to headshots.
I also like how much customization they give you and how freely they let you continue to customize after you've started. Not only is the character creator kind of crazy in-depth without resorting to a bunch of shitty sliders (there's like 50 different eyebrow options alone), but also lots of different armor and weapon options, classes and skill loadouts, etc. I think it's great that they let you freely change your class throughout the game, because that does a lot to alleviate the tedium of playing the same class throughout the game. There is a point where stats get kind of locked-in toward physical or magic focused, but even within those confines you have several different options to switch between. I spent most of my time playing an Assassin, because it was the most versatile and fun class, but it was nice to be able to change it up now and then. I also really really appreciated that you could completely redesign your character when starting a new game+. I think that was actually a major factor in why I was able to enjoy my second playthrough completely. As a comparison, I've never made it very far into a NG+ in the Souls series, as by the time I reach that point I'm kind of tired of playing the same character and I'd much rather just start a new game and do something different. It's way too rare that a NG+ give you the freedom to feel like you're starting fresh while still maintaining the actual qualities of a NG+.
Speaking of NG+ and Dark Souls, Bitterblack Isle actually did something that I would totally like to see from the Souls series. Once you clear the content for the first time and beat the final boss of the area it doesn't simply make the enemies stronger, but completely replaces most of them with tougher enemies, and once you reach the final boss again he gets a whole extra stage that's much tougher. It made running through that place again way more compelling than just fighting tougher versions of the same enemies. If the Souls games took a page from this game and completely redid enemy distribution in NG+ it would be a way way better experience.
Bitterblack Isle was the part of that game that was most representative of the Souls series too, and in some ways I think it actually trumped the Souls series in both difficulty and oppressiveness. The uber enemies that just randomly pop up while you're exploring is a total Souls-ish dick move. That music that plays when death is in the vicinity makes me tense as hell every single time, even after his presence wasn't nearly as threatening. And all that extreme darkness with your tiny lantern makes it all the worse. The latter half of that place is like Tomb of the Giants x10.
I sure hope we get to see more of this series next-gen, because I'm totally and completely on board with the idea of this series.
I ended up writing more than expected (even though I could write a whole lot more), so:
tl;dr: This game is pretty great.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The in-game photo feature is also kind of neat. The quality (resolution) of the photos are kind of disappointing, but it's pretty awesome how can just pause the game whenever and rotate the camera to snap a photo. It's way easier to make an awesome dynamic snapshot without really trying. I snapped this photo while after randomly pausing during a boss fight and I ended up being pretty badass.