Enemies are able to break down walls and doors. One of the few things that kept you safe in the first game is now gone, not to mention the potential for jump scares.
The bosses, once again, are Nightmare Fuel incarnate. Unlike Dark Souls, where the bosses are somewhat empathetic, Dark Souls II's bosses are often times nothing more than wailing monstrosities, begging to be killed, or purely malicious beings of hatred and contempt.
The Last Giant is a massive, nearly dead creature burning with the desire to extinguish all human life. The way it moves, its resilience to kill you (including RIPPING OFF ITS OWN ARM in an attempt to kill you), and its ghastly wails all pale in comparison to one feature: its gaping, pitch-black hole where its face should be.
The Pursuer is a mysterious Black Knight who travels by giant crow. He wields a BFS and levitates across the battlefield to stab you in the face. And according to the lore, he travels across the land hunting down Undead in an effort to relieve himself of some terrible curse. He will never stop hunting you and can materialize out of the freaking ground. Depending on how you proceed through your adventure, he can come after you outside of his boss arena. And to make matters worse, there's more than one of them!
The Lost Sinner is an overly tall woman, with a terrifying mask welded onto her face, and is handcuffed. Yet, she still manages to use a sword. She exhibits all sorts of horrors when you first encounter her; no person should move like that. The way she's chained up and her mask indicate that this was a person who did something very wrong, and is being tormented because of it. Question being, what did she do to deserve her torment? Ifshe did anything to "deserve" it, that is.
The question being answered in the official FuturePress guide: she attempted to relight the First Flame, which some consider the "ultimate sin". She still carries the remnants of the Witch of Izalith's soul, which is obtained in New Game+ as the Old Witch Soul.
Her crime is also commented upon by Sweet Salquoir, once the player has progressed far enough.
The Duke's Dear Freja looks like a giant spider, with long, hairy legs. It's actually two massive spiders conjoined together at their abdomens, with A Head at Each End. Think Quelaag was bad? Meet a literal demonic spider. What makes this scarier is the name- "Duke's Dear". Some person out there held this monster close to his heart. Worse yet, she lives on the corpse of a dragon, an Old One at that. Oh, and it is possible to encounter her outside of her boss arena in New Game+, which will likely give many players a good scare.
The Smelter Demon. The freaking Smelter Demon. It looks like the freaking devil himself, what with ginormous horns, metallic, inhuman face (more of a gaping hole almost like a Giant's, really), horrific screams of rage and torso filled with a burning blaze. Even better is this - the damn thing wields an ENORMOUS BFS, and is extremely good at using it. At a certain point in the fight, it will start constantly emitting fire, burning you if you get too close. And then it can stab itself with its own BFS, coating it in a molten blaze of fury to let it kill you faster.
The Rotten. Everything about this... thing. It is a ginormous mass of bodies tied together with sacks and rope, all vying for control. You heard right. A massive LIVING PILE OF CORPSES. The moans it exhibits clearly show that the Undead inside it are in pain, yet it still fights you with unrelenting aggression. Even worse is the area you fight him in is so full of dinginess and filth it'll make the Valley of Defilement blush.
Nashandra... Christ. Nashandra is a several meter-high figure, donning a large, ethereal cloak with a creepy skull-like mask (or is that her face?) and wields a massive scythe. Nashandra is as close to a depiction of death itself in a video game is going to get. Everything about this woman reeks of creepiness - like she shouldn't exist. The unearthly way she glides across the ground, her unnatural summoning abilities, her cooing, gentle voice, and her massive scythe all give off the impression of unease. This is a monster that should be feared. Not because she's intimidating, but because of her sheer existence. The last time such an otherworldy impression was felt was with Manus, whom Nashandra inherited a fragment of his soul according to the official guide.
Creepier still is this: there's a portrait of her human form in Drangleic Castle, which, if you get too close, starts dropping curse on you at high speed. This is your first clue that there is more to her than it seems. There's a good reason why, when you first encounter her, she keeps well away from you: this woman is a literal anathema to all life. There's every possibility that she is the source of the undead curse herself.
It's stated that Manus' soul split into fragments and spread across the world, eventually coalescing into human shapes. It's also stated that Nashandra is the tiniest fragment. The tiniest fragment was able to, single handedly, orchestrate the downfall of an entire kingdom. There are other, stronger fragments of Manus' soul out there.
She's also scary on a meta level in the endgame: should you choose to defeat the Giant Lord before Throne Watcher and Throne Defender, then after the Watcher/Defender, Nashandra suddenly comes through the fog gate and her boss fight begins immediately with no break after the previous boss. Yes, the final boss can literally walk in on you killing her servants. Only in Dark Souls.
The Demon of Song is a giant frog-like monster that is actually the shell of the creature. Its true form looks like a rotting corpse with freakishly long hands and sunken eyes which emerges from the larger creature's mouth, which looks and sounds like it is being regurgitated. Perhaps the creepiest part, however, is the fact that the Milfanito that sing its song are all dead, yet you can still hear them sing. The demon is mimicking their voices. That beautiful, sorrowful singing? That's this thing.
Vendrick could count too in an eerie sense through the entire game he has been hyped up as the final boss and the toughest enemy. Yet when you finally find him...he's Hollow. And not just Hollow, severely so. The huge, imposing figure of legend is now nothing more than a skinny, gangrenous zombie, protected by legions of Undead to prevent anyone from finding out his secret. To see the man that was said to be so powerful simply walk around half-naked in a mindless daze, dragging his sword behind and not even paying attention to you is... unnerving. And when you DO pick a fight with him he will likely one-shot you despite his sluggish movement.
His dying animation is somewhat sad, if not creepy. He simply falls over to one side, going limp as all remaining life in the once great man is extinguished, forever.
The Old Iron King, a molten abomination and a Big Red Devil reminiscent of the Balrog. Just when you thought no creature could live in a lake of lava, this huge monster emerges from one and proceeds shake the arena with pure, unadultered fury.
The Undead in the game look noticeably more exhausted. Their lazy swings and sluggish movements make them much more like zombies than before.
Your dying animation. In Demons Souls, it was your character's spectral form fading away (which made sense; you were a ghost 75% of the time), and it was relatively the same in Dark Souls. Here? Your character immediately turns to ash and blows away into the wind.
Several of the NPCs themselves deserve special mention.
Melentia, the game's second unlockable item selling NPC. A little creepy with her unnerving laugh, hooded face, and darkness-oozing hands, but nonetheless kind. She sells two Human Effigies. Much like the first game, without being human, you become more and more crazy as you go Hollow. While Melentia neither goes crazy or starts attacking you, she instead becomes more desperate of you to buy items from her.
Mild-Mannered Pate. A friendly, yet cautious man, he often points people in the direction of rare treasures. In short, he's a nice guy and there's nothing particularly nightmarish about him... or is there? Talking to Creighton about him will allow you to learn that Pate is a backstabbing knave who uses his kindness as a front to bait his 'partners' into setting off traps, so he could get the treasure himself as Creighton found out the hard way. Whether or not this is true, however, one cannot help but think about the number of people he possibly could have tricked into dying for his benefit...
Creighton of Mirrah, also known as Creighton the Wanderer. A former partner of Mild-Mannered Pate, he is also a knight from the land of Mirrah, judging by the armor he wears... or so he wants you to believe. In reality he is a knight in name only, and his armor set is an imitation - he's actually a serial killer who escaped to Drangleic on the day before his execution, now hell-bent on getting his revenge on Pate who betrayed him. Which begs the question: Just how many people did he kill before he finally got arrested?
Darkdiver Grandahl. He's a mysterious yet very powerful old man in a wheelchair, obsessed with the Dark and quite eager to sway the Undead Hero into joining his covenant, as well as being able to open portals to the Dark Chasm. That said, the fact that he is able to do so at the cost of one Human Effigy suggests that he may not be even human anymore...
Titchy Gren. He's a dwarf-like man in the service of Nahr Alma, the God of Blood. What's so unsettling about him aside from where he is standing at in his location is his appearance and personality. His clothing is caked in the dried blood of his victims, and he's so bloodthirsty it's just unnerving to hear him talking to you, let alone being anywhere near him.
While Lucatiel of Mirrah is generally a kind and noble woman, her storyline shows exactly how terrifying the Undead curse can be. When you first meet her, she's happy to explain where she's from and even offers to help you in the future. But, eventually, it becomes clear that she's losing more and more of herself, until you find her in a shack outside Aldia's Manor, desperately clinging just to her name and begs you to remember her as she fades further away.
The second time you meet her, she takes off her mask to show you the extent of her predicament. Half of her face is rotten, and it's actually her Dark Sign; for her, there is no hiding her Undead curse.
The Embedded. He's a man whose desires spiraled out of control one day, now tied up to a door upside down in chains forever so that he could make up for his corruption.
The worst part about that? He did that to himself. Knowingly.
Royal Sorcerer Navlaan. He used to be a controversial part of the royal court in Drangleic, until that is, he locked himself up for eternity in a magically sealed cell for a good reason. It turns out that he got possessed by a malevolent being, which is implied to be Navlaan, not the man hosting him, who is fully aware of it and unable to do anything about it other than lock himself up for the safety of Drangleic.
Also, should the player decide to free him, he will invade not once, but six times in different locations, using two powerful and unique Hexes guaranteed to end you for your daringness to free him.
Licia of Lindelt. When you first meet her, she's friendly, if not a bit suspicious actively trying to sell miracles to you in exchange for your souls. She sounds like a decent sort of person though, right? Wrong. Later in the game, she will invade you twice, once in Castle Drangleic and again in the Undead Crypt as the Nameless Usurper.
Now, who's to say you aren't the first person she invaded and tried to murder for souls? And who's to say she isn't the first cleric from Lindelt that's doing the same thing elsewhere?
The rewards for invading her with the Crushed Eye Orb include a miracle that was supposedly stolen from the Lindelt monastery and never recovered. The implication here is that Licia isn't a real cleric at all but a murderous thief who robbed the monastery of its miracles and valuables. For all we know, the equipment she is using now might have once belonged to a real cleric she murdered at the monastery.
The Undead Citizens. Sure, they're weak, but the way they move and look is so unsettling. Some of them are illuminated inside of their body, while others lack the light. Their running animation makes their first encounter worse, and it's initially hiding behind a barrel, waiting for you. If it doesn't succeed in getting an attack in on you, or chase you down, its buddies sure will. Of course, their method of attack might become Nightmare Retardant, but they can somehow cause a large impact. You have ones that only inflict normal damage, ones that explode, ones that inflict petrification, ones that can corrode your equipment.
Mimics make a glorious return. This time, they crawl on all fours. And they're bigger. And they appear as both regular wooden chests and special metal chests.
Some Fridge Horror with the kingdom itself. Much like Lordran before it, Drangleic was a thriving kingdom, filled with people. Now, it is dead, empty but for the monstrosities and abominations that grew in its place. And NPC dialogue out right states that it has happened many times before in the very spot, with kingdoms growing and falling, only to be built over ages later. Some of the fandom believe that Lordran may have been one of these kingdoms.
While some say that area design in general for the game is less creepy, this is untrue. Several areas are downright horrifying in their nature.
Aldia's Keep. This place could best be summarized as an Umbrella testing facility where everything went to hell.
Forest of the Fallen Giants isn't really creepy until you learn a little bit of Fridge Horror, courtesy of Melentia. See those trees? Those are Giants corpses. You are literally walking on a field of dead corpses. Which adds a little bit of terror to the boss you fight there- The Last Giant. It's been trapped in that cavern, surrounded by its dead race, unable to die for god knows how long. Its reaction of pure, animalistic hatred implies that it's the Giant Lord himself, who remembers you from the siege.
Harvest Valley/Earthen Peak. A.k.a land of the poisonous everything. Everything is gray and drab and dull, and not many things survive. The valley itself is pumped full of poisonous gas, and the peak (an enormous factory or mill of some sort) pumps copious amounts of poison down and out the valley. What's scary is the fact that this place is heavily fortified, implying that it may, at once point, been some sort of military or civilian institution.
The undead miners and Mounted Overseers give the impression that this was a labor camp of sorts. The Old Iron King seems to have been quite nasty, even before he turned.
Hunstman's Copse/ Undead Purgatory. A small forest full of bandits and tormentors who want nothing but to kill all undead, or at the very least hunt them for sport. Up the hill and across the pit, is the Undead Purgatory, a massive Colloseum, built for the exclusive need to torture the undead. The idea that someone out there thought that hunting what are effectively zombies was fun is fairly messed up.
The Shaded Woods is one of the most unnerving parts of the game, simply because its a fog-shrouded forest where you can barely see more than a few feet in front of you, the largest trees have twisted, screaming faces growing out of their trunks that groan if you hit them, and there's nearly-invisible bandits roaming the woods who can't be directly targeted and who are all too happy to run up and backstab you.
Once you get out of the fog and stumble upon ruins, you will be constantly plagued by evil spirits that raise your curse meter at an alarming rate. Sure, you can destroy the urn which houses the dark aura, but there are so many of them, some of which are even out of reach. What could have caused those spirits to harbour such a powerful hatred towards trespassers?
The Gutter is nearly on par with the Shaded Woods, mostly because of how dark and quiet it is the first time you find yourself in there. It's also because the cavern walls have muck flowing down them, there are pillars made out of refuse and corpses, and the enemies there are all too eager to ambush you or knock you off your feet to your doom. Then there's the thoroughly creepy ambient background noise that sounds vaguely like a heartbeat.
Black Gulch is a deep, dark pit, possibly as low as you can traverse into the entire game. It's dark with only the Sickly Green Glow of the poisonous statues to guide your way. It's quiet and it's nearly empty, save for some hideous worm-like things that claw out of the ground when you get too close. Those are not the most horrifying things. That would be when you go just a little bit lower into a secret cavern. What you find in there will probably one of the last things you expected to ever run into: two Giants, remnants of the ancient enemy that attempted to conquer Drangleic. These guys are filled with just as much hate as your old buddy from the Forest of Fallen Giants, and they're much better armed. You've Dug Too Deep, and now you're left wondering just what else is down there.
Brightstone Cove Tseldora. Everything in this area, from the giant spiders, deformed casters, spider-controlled undead, basilisks and even Vengarl's Body, the whole area reeks of creepiness.
The backstory is fairly terrifying too. Duke Tseldora wasn't exactly that sane of an individual to begin with, having an intense adoration of spiders, but he made a living running the Brightsone mining operations. Eventually, the Duke found a massive hive of parasitic spiders living beneath the earth, and within, found the Writhing Ruin Keeper. He somehow tamed the beast, and gave it the title of his Freja. The spiders were kept at bay, and mining continued. To rouse spirits, Tseldora built a congregation for his miners, and for the most part, it worked. For whatever reason, the parasitic spiders one day turned on the miners, decimating the operation. The Duke simply stood by and watched as the entirety of his troops were overtaken and killed. The lucky ones went undead, and began to feverishly worship the spiders as deities. The unlucky ones were taken over by the spiders, and turned into Parasitic Hollows. It's heavily implied that the Duke let himself die, in order to be with the spiders forever. At the bottom of his mansion in Brightstone Cove, past Freja's chamber you can find his study, Vengarl's body, and the Duke himself, gone fully hollow. Yikes.
The Milfanito found in the Shrine of Amana are sweet enough when first encountered, as their singing lulls the lizard-man enemies. The Milfanito encountered just before the boss gate, however, crumbles to dust after you try to speak to her, but "her" singing doesn't stop. Then you learn that the priestesses assigned to keep the Demon of Song at bay either wandered off or went hollow (hence the Soul Arrow spamming mages throughout the Shrine), and that it lures in prey by mimicking their song. Putting two and two together from there isn't hard.
The dread is not over even after defeating the Demon of Song. That promised shrine that cures your curse if you ever went Hollow? Open its gate, and stare in horror as a few Hollow Milfanito crawl to your feet.
While the Ancient Dragon is normally not hostile and welcomes those who show respect while at the top of the Dragon Shrine, attacking it one too many times triggers what is unequivocally the most brutal Bonus Boss in the entire game, forcing you to brave its unimaginable retribution or die incinerated beyond recognition. Even the soundtrack agrees that you made a horrible decision.
The Darklurker. Nothing about this being seems right at all. It's a hooded figure with four arms, a pair folded around its chest, and white, angel-like wings. It levitates around the room with ease, and sometimes teleports elsewhere, all while bombarding you with spells of untold scale. In essence of lore, it's a being that was born in the Dark Chasm of Old, which is stated to be the remains of a terrifyingly powerful beast. This led fans to speculate that it's another fragment of Manus' soul, one stronger than Nashandra no less.
Go ahead, try setting the music volume to 0 and go somewhere dark like The Gutter or The area before the Duke's Dear Freja boss area. Max out the volume and put on your headphones. Whispers can be heard every now and then. Woe betide to those who try to listen to the voices.
The first DLC, Crown of the Sunken King, gives us Elana the Squalid Queen. She appears as an emaciated, almost skeletal figure, and seems to be covered in gnarled roots and vines. Similar to Nashandra, mentioned above, everything about her is just.... wrong. If you read the description for her soul, you'll learn that the similarity to Nashandra is intentional. She's another shard of the Abyss, and she was planning something terrible before you came along.....
Two out of three voice clips, Elana's greeting is threatening, but delivered in a similar tone as Nashandra has. The last ("You... forever you shall rot") has a masculine tone underlying it, hinting at her true nature as a piece of Manus, Father of the Abyss.
Also in the DLC, we are greeted with the Imperfects, monstrous creatures with ridiculously proportioned bodies and gigantic mouths. What the hell are they? Well, from their drops (Petrified Dragon Bone and Dragon Scales) they appear to be an unsuccessful attempt to create dragons. Someone - or something - possibly Elana, created these horrors with the intent of making DRAGONS. God only knows what would have happened if they succeeded...
They may easily be failed attempts by Aldia to create dragons that were dumped into the pit in Majula when things went wrong, and eventually wandered into the ruins of the formerly great civilization.
Sinh. An everlasting dragon that long slumbered in the depths. An entire civilization was built around it, until one of King Vendrick's knights attempted to slay the beast. The result? The entirety of Shulva was engulfed in the poison that was flowing through Sinh's veins, reducing the entire population to poisonous hollows in an instant. And even after poisoning an entire city, he's still got plenty of it left for any would-be challengers.
What is scarier is this: She was considered among the strongest of the fragments of Manus. If she'd not been disembodied, she might have been able to wreck your character in ways that both Nashandra and Elana together could only have dreamed of.
If you listen to the babbling coming from Nadalia's idols, it is very difficult to make out what they are saying most of the time. It is could be cries for help, for you to be killed, for her to be killed...
Her corpse: After defeating the Fume Knight, and going to claim the crown, you find her corpse sitting upon a throne... one covered in ashes. It is clear that her body is long dead, and while she may have succeeded in sitting upon the throne, unlike Nashandra, the appearance of her idols, and her insane babbling, make it clear that what she got was in no way what she wanted...
The Fume Knight: Raime the Traitor found the power he sought, strength enough to defeat his greatest rival... but chose instead to become the eternal servant and bodyguard of Nadalia. When we first see him, he's rising out of the ashes, ashes which covered both him, and the sword he wields. Was he sleeping under there? ...Or is he now an undead hollow, rising only when a challenger comes to try and harm his mistress?
The final area of the Crown of the Ivory King DLC is called the Old Chaos. It is... terribly familiar. Lost Izalith is still around, as is the chaos tainted flame... and it's still trying to break loose, to spread and cover the entire world. Ironically... the only one who holds this nightmare at bay is a child of dark.