tl;dr if you liked the first one you will probably like this one. Or, if you are like me that only liked the atmosphere of the first one and didn't like the game loop then you might like 2 better.
~2 hours of poor gamplay but you get to see how it works: https://odysee.com/@acp:a/first-play-darkest-dungeon-2:8
They took the bones of DD1, removed the "xcom" style team roster and the IMO tedious town management, and wrapped it in a tighter rogue-lite package with a Slay the Spire style branching map. As per the usual roguelite formula you earn unlocks that take effect at the end of each run (in some cases in the middle of the run).
Death is still permanent for each run and you can swap in replacements if you manage to beat the level with men down. You start with 4 characters and extras are unlocked through the progression system.
In general everything appears to have been streamlined including the UI. Instead of stress from 0-100 you have from 0-10 and if the char gets 10 he has a "meltdown" where his hp is set to 1 and he develops a bad relationship with another character.
The relationship system is a new mechanic. Each character has a meter that is either positive or negative with every other character showing their relationship with each other. Various actions, both in and out of combat, affect that relationship. If the characters are stressed the relationships tend to go down. Once the meter is maxes in either direction the pair gain a positive or negative trait. If it is positive they heal, buff, and lower each others stress. If negative they cockblock actions, debuff, and increase stress.
The stress meter is more meaningful in this one in that if it maxes out the character goes to 1 hp and automatically nukes his relationships and the results tend to be pretty bad.
The torch mechanic is back and more interesting in that you can't just buy consumables to keep it up. You have to make gameplay decisions that increase or decrease the torch and each has tradeoffs. If the torch goes to zero you automatically get into a tough fight that if you can win gives you more light but not much.
So far I played maybe 4 hours and I'm still enjoying it, have barely made any progress.
The game is technically early access but I've only found one minor bug.
It is only on sale in the Epic store for $30. I had a coupon and there is discount so I got it for $17.
The nice thing about Epic store games is they are immediately available on pirate sites so you can test it that way.
For the culture war stuff there is a relationship pair buff called "Amorous" and it does appear to allow for homo pairings (but not positive it allowed for guy guy, it does for girl girl). Chracters with that trait will occasionally jump up and pop up a dialogue bubble that says "get them my love" or "I'll do anything for you" (you can see it in action if you watch the linked vid)
So far not a total dealbreaker and I bet it will be modded out as soon as the game hits steam so I'm not giving up on the game just yet.