David, I recently started playing Dark Souls again after stopping in March (I got stuck on a boss fight I couldn't get past). Well, still can't get past them, but I am determined this time. There is a nice prize after the fight which will greatly benefit future exploring.
I agree with you, the game does not hold your hand. As frustrating and demanding as it can be, there is a certain sense of satisfaction in getting past rough areas and or bosses. And it extremely thrilling to open up and explore a new area--and risky too, since you might find yourself in some hot water knowing that if you die you'll have to go right back to that spot to retrieve all your precious souls.
Ahh the good ol' days. I remember the original Everquest before they turned it into child's play. If you died, you reappeared "naked" (clothed but without all your armor, weapons, gear etc.) at the last place you "bound your soul". If you forgot to do that close to where you were adventuring a the time, it could mean a 10 minute to a 2 hour run across the massive world to retrieve your corpse in order to get your gear back. Sometimes you had to make a frantic run through zones that were way to tough for you, with or without gear, often resulting in yet another corpse that you had to run back to. Things like a locked door meant begging a rogue player to pick the lock to open it for you.
There were alternatives, like buying or begging a teleport from a Druid or Wizard to get you a bit closer or convincing a Necromancer to summon your corpse. If it was down deep in a dungeon, a self retrieval could be impossible, in which case someone powerful enough, or a whole team of players, would have to drag the corpse back up to the entrance so you could retrieve your gear.
It was brutal by today's gaming standards, but somehow I miss the thrills it gave. Death had real penalties and some of our most hysterical gaming nights were ones spent organizing "corpse runs".
With great power comes Awesome irresponsibility.