An optional head start
Early purchases of Dark Souls II will come with a voucher for the "Black Armor Weapons Pack" containing five weapons and shields (find the item descriptions below) which players can make use of at the beginning of the game. At first glance, this sounds dreadful.
However, these items are by no means exclusive -- you'll be able to find them later on in Dark Souls II without the voucher. So while I'm still not a fan of this approach, I can see the value in letting new players take any advantage they can get. From the sound of it, they'll need it.
Besides, it'll be easy for the rest of us to pass up this equipment until we find it naturally.
Black Flamestone Dagger and Black Flamestone Parma – A dagger and shield encrusted in Black Flamestone both found in the Gutter at Black Gulch. Even though they are heavier than a normal dagger and shield, the Flamestone crystal’s unique properties make the dagger extremely sharp and give the shield high resistance to damage.
Yellow Quartz Longsword and Yellow Quartz Shield – A straight sword and small shield hardened with yellow quartz both uncovered at the bottom of the Iron Keep. Even though these items can break easily due to their high level of corrosion, they are exceptionally light and their power to inflict damage has not declined.
Bound Hand Axe and Bound Wooden Shield – A brutal hand axe and shield found in the Undead Purgatory. Both items are wrapped in chains and thorns to cause additional bleeding on enemies. Both the axe and shield have diminished in overall slashing power but their ability to deliver pain has been deliberately increased.
Homunculus Mace and Homunculus Wooden Shield – A mace and shield with spherical protrusions found in Aldia’s Keep. Although heavier-than-normal maces and shields, the hard protrusions greatly increase the striking power of the mace as well as the shield’s defensive capabilities.
Transgressor’s Staff and Transgressor’s Leather Shield – A staff and leather shield entwined with an unknown and seemingly lackluster element; these items are found in the Dark Chasm of Old. They have become a catalyst for sorcery and hex and cause an effect known as Darkness.