Dark Souls II Will Offer More Freedom to Explore, Says Director

Talking with the folks at Digital Spy, Dark Souls II's director Yui Tanimura has explained that the team at From Software is attempting to give the players more freedom to explore this time around:
"In Dark Souls 1, you were able to travel to several areas, but hopefully for Dark Souls 2, there you have more freedom to explore throughout the game."

He continued: "We realise in Dark Souls 1 there were some certain orders, like ringing the bells or going to Anor Londo, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

"In Dark Souls 2, we're hoping we can provide more freedom so things don't have to necessarily be done in a certain order.

"We're hoping that if the player tries hard enough, or are willing enough, they could even start halfway through the game, depending on how willing or how brave they are."

I'm not exactly sure on what Tanimura means with "start halfway", but I'd assume he means tackling an objective that would usually be tackled in the middle part of the core story path, rather than literally just creating your character and being dumped in the middle of the game.

Thanks to NeoGAF user Poetic.Injustice for first spotting the article.