Dark Souls III, released in 2016 by From Software, received generally positive reception from players and reviewers alike but has garnered some criticism for its linear map design and overall pacing compared to previous entries such as the original Dark Souls and Bloodborne. This inspired members of the game’s modding community to create a mod called Cinders, which overhauled the game akin to Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, a re-release of Dark Souls II that made several changes to the base game including new enemy placements in order to create a fresh experience. This mod introduces a multitude of changes to Dark Souls III and its DLC that aim to alleviate many of the issues players had with the vanilla version while also providing new ways to play that weren’t there before. The way modders have used the game’s engine and assets to create new gameplay opportunities is similar to Anne-Marie Schleiner’s concept of the parasite, where it is a productive relationship of “a symbiosis, of reciprocal, circular, cultural gift-giving.” (Schleiner 37) In other words, modders were able to take advantage of the tools provided to them by the developers and give back to the players by elevating Dark Souls III to a level that arguably makes it the definitive way to experience the game.
Many of the features Cinders include, but are not limited to, new classes with different play styles, new weapons and armor sets that were either cut content or ripped directly from other Souls games as far back as Demon’s Souls, rearranged bonfire placement, and quality of life features such as being able to level up and upgrade weapons at any bonfire as opposed to being limited to doing it in Firelink Shrine. Additionally, each of the game’s bosses have been tweaked so that their fights feel distinct from their vanilla counterparts. As demonstrated in Prod’s Let’s Play video on the mod (Shown above), Iudex Gundyr’s fight has been modified so that it starts out in its corrupted phase and gains projectile attacks that were borrowed from another enemy in the game. The most drastic overhaul Cinders brings to Dark Souls III is revamping the progression so that it is far less linear than in the original game. There are now more options to travel between different areas in each map, making the world more interconnected than what From Software originally intended. What this mod demonstrates is how new forms of gameplay can be generated with the tools given to players while staying true to what makes a Dark Souls game special.
Schleiner, Anne-Marie. The Player’s Power to Change the Game: Ludic Mutation. 0 ed., Amsterdam University Press, 2017.