Minecraft Mod Examination: The BigTrees Mod
As nice as they are, Minecraft's forests do not leave much of an impression. They are mostly filled with tiny trees that only grow about four or five meters in height, and many of these are completely vertical with no branches of any size. That combined with the severe lack of variety in each biome's tree species means that many forests feel almost identical to each other. While taller trees do grow in some biomes, and large versions of the common oak can appear from time to time, these do little to fix the problem as they either only aid specific zones, or are rare enough to not really change the overall mood of an area. And even though there are plenty of biome mods out there that add in entirely new types of forests, they still mostly keep the original game's style, and so are full of what are basically tall wooden posts, with leaves growing out of the side. Unfortunately, there are only a few mods that try to fix this, and most that do so force players to travel to an entirely new dimension if they want to experience a different type of forest. But those who wish to stay in the Overworld are not completely out of luck, as they can install The BigTrees Mod and explore dense woodlands that possess a completely different atmosphere than what exists in the original game.
Not that this means that the old and stunted trees are replaced by the mod; instead, several new types of trees have been added to many areas of the game. These can be massive oaks with canopies large enough to shelter an entire village, or relatively small, dead trees that can sometimes generate in the more inhospitable parts of the world. There are tall, thin ones with only a pair of slim branches, and enormous trees with trunks thick enough to be hollowed out and turned into small, yet serviceable homes. And unlike in the original game, many of these trees actually have root systems; ones that can go downwards quite a bit and stretch out several meters away from the trunk.
Despite all of the new tree shapes, they will still be made out of the same types of wood that exist in the original game, and the saplings that they drop will be of the usual variety. And when placed, those saplings will still grow into a normal-sized tree just like in vanilla Minecraft. However, they can also be combined in a crafting table with certain logs to create new types of saplings. Several of these can then be placed on the ground in a specific pattern, and then after a while a large tree will grow. That tree's lumber and shape will be determined both by the saplings used, and the pattern they were placed in, and some saplings can be used to make several types of trees. Sadly, there is no in-game information about how to place the saplings, but generally is either in a circular shape, or a two-by-two square, and all of the sapling recipes and the required placements are listed on the mod's webpage.
While all of these trees can be used for lumber, most players will probably not actually want to cut them down. This is partly because Minecraft's basic systems are somewhat unfriendly towards larger tree types, and cause them to take a very long time to clear, but also because of their effect on a location's atmosphere. By default, swamps and forests will often be much more foreboding places than usual, with dense vegetation that makes travel through them difficult, and the deeps shadows underneath the canopies are a perfect place for skeletons and zombies to rest during the day. Rivers are another place where large trees are common, and the underwater roots and extra shade can give them a rather different feel than can ever be encountered in the original game. In addition, these trees do not completely follow Minecraft's species placement, and encountering a massive spruce in an oak forest or a large birch in the middle of the mountains can really help add a bit more color to a location. Even the underground can occasionally be changed by the mod, as deep roots can sometimes pass through or bring an abrupt end to a cave or tunnel. Overall this makes exploration more fun and varied, as well as gives players a good reason to integrate a forest into their homes, rather than simply chop it down for lumber and space.
Sadly, even though the mod does some great things for the world's atmosphere, it also has a large number of minor issues. First, while all of the new trees may look great, due to their size they can impact performance, especially when used with anything that enhances the appearance of wood and leaves such as Better Foliage or one of the various shaders. The mod also has a chance of causing chunk errors when generating new areas, and while these will be cleaned up upon reloading that portion of the world, they are still a major eyesore. As are the blocks of bugged wood that players can gather from certain trees in the Biomes O' Plenty version. These cannot be crafted into planks and about the only other use for them is to smelt them into charcoal. Finally, while the stunted trees included in the original game were not that visually appealing, their small size meant that they could be chopped down without much issue. However, the enormous and complex ones added by The BigTrees Mod are quite difficult to remove manually, and most players will want to pair it with another plugin that allows them to quickly cut them down, such as Treecapitator or VeinMiner.
But none of these issues really detract from what is an otherwise excellent mod. The taller trees can bring a dark and wondrous atmosphere to the game's woodlands, turning them from what looked like badly-ordered orchards into true forests that feel as if they haven't been touched in hundreds of years. Even the smaller ones and those outside of forests can do a lot to give an area a stronger sense of age and scale, and the addition of extra tree varieties to some biomes can help save player who need them having to go on a long hunt. The mod has a compatibility patch for Biomes O' Plenty on its website, and players can make their own for use with other biome mods by editing the configuration files. There are few mods that alter the feel of the game as much with as simple of a set of changes as The BigTrees Mod, and it is a wonderful choice for any player looking to improve the feel of the Overworld.