I've made similar comments on some gaming forums and received flack for it. From Software are hugely talented and creative people. The precursor to Demon's / Dark Souls was their first person dungeon crawler King's Field, which looks a little creaky these days but plays very similarly - if more like Ultima Underworld - but NOT as hard, and with a greater emphasis on exploration. i.e. The fun part!
Dark Souls is a massive accomplishment on many levels and artistically overwhelming at times, but you're absolutely correct that its "work hard to progress" gameplay ethic makes it difficult to appreciate what made King's Field fun: exploring. One must visit areas so many times again and again due to dying in Dark Souls, that it just becomes a slog.
So, good review. I would recommend anyone into RPGs try this game, but it's fine if one comes away disappointed or frustrated by Dark Souls: it's that kind of game.