I like the first Dark Souls more than the second game but I still think II is just fine. I feel like some areas needed more time in the oven, as they look kind of bad or incomplete. The foggy woods area and the area just past that is one example. I'm playing on 360 and the game looks like an N64 game in terms of the geometry on screen when in the foggy trees. There are almost no effects turned out and everything looks flat.
You are right about leveling, in Dark Souls II you level up like mofo. Seems like every time I beat even a minor boss I was leveling up several times over. Not so in Dark Souls. Another thing that I felt was unnecessary was the effigy stuff. Yeah, it's a pain to see your level bar go down to half but I found this to be more of an annoyance than a real threat to your survival. If you play it smart you can save up enough effigies to get past the rough spots on the game. I have a thought for From Software: how about making the enemies tougher and not make me pop effigies all the time? We cool with that? Alright then.
All in all, I was super super hyped for Dark Souls II given the first game is my personal "game of the generation", but was overall not quite as pleased with it as I was hoping for. But hey, that's just fine, we got more Dark Souls, that's a good thing to me. Bloodborne is right around the corner but I'm still going to be super excited when they announce Dark Souls 3. I'll take another Souls please.