This game has the ability to change the way you think and play about games in general. It challenges its players on a strategic and thoughtful level. Though it has fantasy violence, the violence is never senseless and meaningless, and the death is not absolute or game ending, nor is it simply a minor setback. Though it may certainly be too frusterating for some children (as it is frusterating for many adult players as well) there is a great reward in this game for sticking to it and perservering through adversity.
Firstly, it sucks you into this strange and dangerous world that is nevertheless beautiful despite all its darkness. In fact, it is perhaps because of this game's great darkness and difficulty that when you stumble upon a patch of beauty, or respite, you feel so rewarded and like you have achieved something. I may even raise my children and have them play this game when the time is right as a kind of test, to see whether they can overcome challenges by discovering and creating their own strategy and methods.
I disagree that this game has no positive role models or messages. Just because you are not beat over the head with these messages does not mean that their subtlety makes them any less valid. Courage is rewarded in this game, but foolishness and greed is certainlly punished. If you rush through thoughtlessly you will soon be killed and lose all your souls, quickly learning that being careful and sizing up a situation is far better than jumpin in. That said, sometimes you need to take a risk to be rewarded with an amazing weapon or item, and you are taught through this that risks are in fact a kind of test, to see whether you can overcome the danger and deserve the reward. Is this not a positive and realistic message?
Also, the world of drangleic is a once prosperous kingdom and is only dangerous and crumbling because of the actions of the rulers of the world, who treated its people badly and was torn apart by war and greed. Yet despite this, those who have managed to survive persist and attempt to find their own kind of happiness and survival in the world. Some characters, though embittered, are very brave and will open up to you and help you in times of need if you take the time to talk to them and hear their stories. Others will come to your aid simply because they are friendly and will cover your back if you cover theirs, and befriend you. You have to put effort into these characters in order to find out about their lives, and the more you put into it, the more reward you get, both in the storyline, and through gifts and aid they give you.
Another valuable part of this game I would say is the online community. Because there is no voice chat in the game there are no opportunities for innappropriate or hurtful exchanges between players, nor will the child be exposed to inappropriate pictures from other players. It cuts down on much of the bad parts of the community in this simple way and encourages the good. There are many, many players in this game who leave their signs upon the ground so that they can be "summoned" into the players world, simply to help them. This fosters good will between complete strangers, and you can beat difficult bosses together without even exchanging a word, simply waving and bowing to each other to communicate your intent. In addition to this, many of the online aspects encourage the player to help out other players, as this rewards them and also gives them a good feeling of having helped out another player and returning the favor of the experienced players that helped them make it through the world.
Overall, I believe this game to be a very valuable experience for an older child, around 12 or older, to undertake. I wouldn't go to much younger simply because of the complexity of the game, and perhaps the violence and sometimes dark and scary atmosphere of the game. For a child that can handle these, however, I would give me full recommendation, and I think children, adolescents, and adults alike can all benefit and have amazing fun playing this beautiful and challenging game.