almost complete lack of cutscenes, and the often "non-gamey" feel of the level design make it very immersive and give the gameplay more "weight" so to speak.
I agree, deserves full praise just for avoiding trite fluff.
Well ICO had no gear, stats, magic, bars, or anything to manage or be mindful of at any given time other than "hit the black thing with a stick" so you can't really compare.
I'm not suggesting DS could/should work without any hud whatsoever (which was pretty much the case with ICO), just a more restrained one, within reason. ICO is just the nicest example of clutter being removed from the screen. You could have the d-pad icons displayed on a slimmer, horizontal menu (much like the start menu), or have more transparency.
And GUH. You're insane! The combat in Souls is like the absolute best fantasy medievil game of all time. If the combat wasn't so solid and just beautiful the game wouldn't be anything at all.
Of course it's great compared to any other medievil fantasy game, by simple virtue that it's not terrible. Combat is straightforward in practice, even with stamina and encumberence taken into account-- block, then strike.. or parry, then strike.. or roll, then strike.. repeat. I can commend it for forcing me to be careful, but not for variety (the combat that is).
That's being hard on it, I know. While 3rd person hack'n'slashers in general tend to be repetitive, most don't offer the option to block, offer a multitude of combos, and lots of crowd control pressure... it's a faster pace.