Dark Souls II is a prequel that takes place inside the Painted World of Ariamas or at the location that inspired the actual painting.Compare these◊ two◊ images
Ariamis is not, nor was it ever a place. Ariamis is a PERSON.It all makes sense. It's the Painted World OF Ariamis, and Priscilla's dialogue says that the painted world was created BY Ariamis. Something happens concerning the Dragon Castle that causes Ariamis to create the painted world.
Dark Souls II is a prequel that explains why Anor Londo was abandoned by the gods.Based on this tweet from series creator and Dark Souls II supervisor Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Priscilla will show up somewhere.If it's the Painted World of Ariamis, there's a chance she will make an appearance.
The moon on the HUD is for something similar to the World Tendency system from Demon's Souls.Perhaps a day/night system, where the in-game time changes every couple of days?
The distinction between Sorcery and Pyromancy is less definedThe E3 trailer has a player using a catalyst to fire what appear to be fireballs. That said, they act more like straight-up missiles as contrasting the grenade-like fireballs of Dark Souls, so it might be Sorcery trying to replicate the effects of Pyromantic Arts. If it does take place after the original, this may have been due to the death of the Witch of Izalith.
Dark Souls II takes place in the past when the old fire arts were still widely knownAs mentioned above, in the E3 gameplay demo a character used a sorcery catalyst to use a fire spell. In Dark Souls 1, we learned that Pyromancy is relatively new, and only came into the world 1,000 years in the past. Before that, there were the old fire arts used by the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos, which used traditional sorcery catalysts. However, after the Witch created the Flame of Chaos the old fire arts vanished from the wold. This is the description from the Izalith Catalyst: “Catalyst of the Witch of Izalith of long ago, when her daughters were still flame witches, before they were engulfed by the Chaos Flame. Before the birth of pyromancy, their wands were mediums for sorcery, but knowledge of this flame sorcery has long since vanished.” That the player can use fire sorcery heavily implies this took place before the birth of the Chaos Flame and Gwyn's Sacrifice.
Dark Souls II takes place concurrently with Dark SoulsIt's not a prequel, that's far too simple and straightforward for the series. It takes place at the same time as Dark Souls but elsewhere. What we've been shown so far is material from the first part of the game, which is very similar to Dark Souls. The point is that sometime during the course of Dark Souls 2, the Chosen Undead of Dark Souls will defeat Gwyn and become the Dark Lord, extinguishing all fire everywhere and plunging the world into complete darkness. Needless to say, this will radically alter the gameplay of Dark Souls 2 beyond that point. No more bonfires, for starters.
Dark Souls II will have much more of a horror game feel then the originalFrom what we've seen, enemies can break through walls, and there are many more portions with blood splatters everywhere, and a lot of dark areas. this may or may not be a single area in the game, but from what I've seen I can say it is certainly scarier than the original, and even on par with the tower of latria in Demon Souls.
Dark Souls II fleshes out the alternate worlds as a part of its main plot and makes both of the first game's endings canon at the same time.As we know, time and space were twisted in Lordran and many Chosen Undeads were performing their mission simultaneously in alternate worlds that sometimes bled together through ghosts, summons and invasions. However, this was mostly treated as a game mechanic, and wasn't given all that much explanation in the lore. This will be patched up in this sequel making worlds bleeding together into one its main conflict. What will happen when a universe where the Age of Fire continues comes together with one where the Age of Dark has been going on for centuries? Perhaps even throw a world where the Age of Ancients never ended into the mix? That should produce a lot of gameplay variation, as well as interesting areas and new lore.