The Souls experience
Yes, this is most definitely a Soulslike game, without a doubt. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge, and a block button, in addition to a few items, both for restoring yourself, and for attacking enemies.
Early on you won't notice much difference between how this plays out, and how traditional Soulslike games do. But the biggest change here is your sanity, and it's a bit different to what you may have seen in Bloodborne, etc.
Here, you sanity will change mid-battle, which can limit your maximum health, or even allow the enemy to undergo massive transformations. While you can use items to restore max health once again, transformed enemies must be defeated before you have a hope of reclaiming your mind again.
Heavy VS light attack
This will be obvious to anyone that has played a Soulslike in the past, honestly. Your two attacks, heavy and light, have very different properties, and yes, speed and damage should be pretty obvious.
Your heavy attack does huge damage, but you'll need to time it incredibly well, because even basic enemies in this game will easily hit you out of the animation.
The light attack obviously comes out much faster, but you can also use it multiple times in a row to combo and stunlock an enemy, and for smaller foes, this is way better than timing a heavy attack.
Item management will quickly become an incredibly important point throughout the game, so get used to being smart about it early on.
The obvious one to watch are your health items, which will replenish at Altars, but you'll also have items which relieve your sanity, which you must craft at altars and won't just get instantly replenished.
They are easy to make, using finger bones, but these are also needed for levelling up, making it a tougher choice. Throwable items are important too, and should perhaps be saved for distanced fights and bosses.
Dodge VS defend
This is the big question. You can either stand with stoicism and take on blows, or you can move out of the way. While one is the more masculine choice, the other might be a bit smarter.
Defending against attacks when facing smaller foes is fairly smart. You get to stay in place, it doesn't matter if you're cornered, and you'll come out relatively unharmed, and primed for a counterattack. Against bosses, this is a less ideal choice.
Dodging meanwhile is incredibly useful, as long as you have the space to manoeuvre. You can move around enemies in order to counterattack, which is admittedly tougher to time, but you will have invulnerability frames to assist you. Thank goodness for that.