As your character wakes at the start of the game you find you are locked into an asylum for the undead, doomed to languish in madness until the end of time. You escape; a giant bird spirits you away to Lordran, the realm of the Gods. Here you are told to ring the two bells of awakening. Perhaps you will save the world - or perhaps you will damn it. No one will tell you. And while you wend your weary, destined path, monstrous challenges will rise again and again to crush you like a bug.
For all its acknowledged viciousness (the tagline for the game, "Prepare to Die", would be pretentious if it was not so fair), Dark Souls never postures. It presents a remarkably convincing world to you, and what you can see, you can probably touch (unless of course it is a sneaky illusion). Distant vistas are a temptation to bid you explore, and you will be rewarded with strange new realms. The satisfying and physical combat engine means that your sword will clang off the stone walls of a narrow corridor, rebound from the shields of nimble foes, or force you to drastically overextend yourself when you miss a blow. Where there are mysteries you will only solve them through trial and error and luck - or perhaps you will not solve them at all. There is that option as well. This is a world you can lose yourself in, because it resists your attempts to bend it to your will. It feels bigger than you on a massive scale, and that puts a huge weight of reality behind it.