Dark Souls 3 felt like the perfect conclusion to the Souls series. Similar to Dark Souls, the third instalment is an experience I've returned to many times. For all its faults, battling Iudex Gundyr and sprinting to Firelink Shrine is oddly comforting. It's easy to spend a few hours unlocking shortcuts to test whether I remember where everything is, and whether I still have the edge in boss battles. But it doesn't feel difficult anymore. Xylozi's Cinders mod reintroduces the challenge to traversing Lothric, welcoming even the most fatigued players into a refreshed version of a familiar world.
Cinders successfully builds on Dark Souls 3's core components, while also adding greatly appreciated quality of life adjustments. Creator Xylozi describes this mod as "a total overhaul, meaning practically everything has been touched in some way". This is apparent from the second you launch a new game: there were originally ten classes in Dark Souls 3, whereas Cinders offers 27. There's also a wider range of Burial Gifts to enhance the early game experience.
From what I've seen playing as the Skeptic class, these new additions slot into the game seamlessly. The attention to detail in crafting these new builds is truly impressive. I picked the Skeptic as I recognised it as the frustrating Cathedral Evangelist enemy that hangs around in the Undead Settlement area. You start with two miracles: Gnaw and Nibble. Gnaw is an existing miracle that directs a swarm of insects towards enemies, but it has a long startup animation. Nibble is a new addition with the same effect, although it's much faster to cast. Switching between the two makes encounters more enjoyable as it's easier to attack aggressive mobs without feeling as vulnerable. FP also slowly regenerates in Cinders, giving magic builds a much needed buff.
There are far too many changes to cover in detail, but the adjustments Cinders makes to Dark Souls 3's PvE experience make it far more attractive to comb each area again. Bonfires have been moved to more convenient spots, and they are more evenly spread. The world also feels more connected thanks to the addition of special objects that warp between areas. These changes give players the freedom to visit other areas much earlier and explore regions in a different order.
Cinders manages to revitalise player curiosity by adding new rings, consumables, spells and more. Item descriptions are no longer vague, so equipping them feels more like an informed choice and offers more granular control over builds than in the vanilla game. Items and enemies have also been redistributed to ensure encounters in each area feel fresh. There's a higher risk of getting caught off guard, especially when bumping into one of the new invader enemies.
The problem with running most Dark Souls III mods is that they can get you banned, and Cinders is no exception. Thankfully this mod forces offline play by default, so there's no chance of you getting soft banned unless you go out of your way to enable its online functions. A notable portion of the community prefer playing on banned PvP servers due to the state of the vanilla ones, but that's ultimately a decision you'll have to make yourself. If, like me, you're more interested in PvE, all you need to do is create a vanilla save game before installing Cinders to begin running the mod. The full instructions can be found here.
Overall, Cinders revamps Dark Souls III in ways that I didn't even know I wanted. It's an ambitious overhaul and it continues to receive updates. There's always a concern that mods will hack away at the existing lore, but Cinders only appears to build on Dark Souls III's foundations while remaining true to its origins.