Finished exploring Undead Settlement yesterday. All that’s left is kill a tree and then proceed down the Road of Sacrifices. I was surprised by how much of this area is completely optional.
I’m playing very slowly and careful, which - so far - is paying off again in this game, much like it did in DS1. So you can slowly clear out an area, then explore for items/secrets.
I don’t know how DS2 was originally, but the Scholar of the First Sin version this slow exploration would not serve me well, and even with careful observation I would find myself swarmed or jumped on by enemies with big aggro range.
DS1 was rather contemplative in its pacing, having bursts of action between exlporing its abandoned environs. DS2 ramped up the action considerably (at least in the parts I saw), whereas DS3 so far feels to sit at a happy medium (faster combat than DS1, but more quiet between the combat DS2). I like this a lot.