See that screenshot above? That's me, in Hollow form (read: after dying), "enjoying" The Gutter zone from Dark Souls II. In the shot, I've just taken respite on a spare platform (while poisoned), only to find that a giant demon dog has leapt down from the area above -- in mere seconds, I'll be thrown off the platform to my death. This is The Gutter.
Appropriately named, this area is dark, dank, and has tons of creepy things crawling about in it -- with one giant pit underneath. It's basically a mix between Blighttown/Valley of Defilement and Tomb of the Giants from previous Souls games, albeit a little easier to manage, and without the frame-rate issues of the former location.
Here are some of the things you can expect from The Gutter:
Is all of this manageable? With practice and patience -- of course. That's what makes the Souls games so great, and conquering it is half the fun.
But keep in mind that Dark Souls II is very much still true to its nature, in case you were worried about the "streamlining" talk close to when the game was announced.