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Minecraft Mod Examination: Local Weather & Storms
Regardless of where you live, the weather is likely a huge part of your life. If there is a storm you want to be in-doors, if it snows you might need to dig your car out, and chances are good that you're only going to go to the beach on a sunny day. These important types of weather are already in Minecraft, and might make you act similarly, but there is so much more meteorological phenomena in real-life that has no presence whatsoever in the game. Furthermore, the presentation of these types of weather is rather unrealistic. Clouds have no bearing on gameplay beyond occasionally drifting through your towers, the entire world becomes simultaneously overcast whenever there is any rain or snow, the game swaps between weather types in less than three seconds, and there is no way to predict when a storm is coming. While there are plenty of mods that allow you to turn off rain when you need, and several that allow you to summon thunderstorms or other types of normal weather, as far as I know only one mod; Local Weather & Storms, that actually improves on Minecraft's underwhelming weather system.
One of the first of the new additions that players will notice is the presence of real-life's most common type of weather: wind. Whenever you are above-ground you can hear it blowing past you and watch the embers and smoke from sources of heat such as torches or lava get carried along with it. In fact, any particle effects including those added by mods can be blown about, which works phenomenally well with falling leaves such as those added by Better Foliage. The strength of the wind fluctuates, and it often changes direction, sometimes quite suddenly, and while I do not believe you need to worry about fires spreading with the wind, it does determine the direction and speed at which nearby storms move.
Yes, all types of storms are localized and can now be seen coming. The old clouds have been removed, and an entirely new and beautiful weather system has been put in their place. These new clouds not only look amazing from the ground and from above, but they are now made up of multiple shifting layers of transparent clouds which can change color, movement speed, and shape depending on the weather. Storm clouds can now be seen, and sometimes heard, from very far away, allowing you to watch them pass by, or at least giving you several minutes to prepare before a storm hits. You can also attempt to dodge or outrun them, and even if you get caught in a storm, a friend on the other side of the world might not ever even hear about it.
But you will want to be careful, as there is now far more to worry about than just lightning and snow. Hailstorms can happen from time to time, horrible storms that drop blocks of ice on anything in their path. These blocks will not stay on the ground and do not change the landscape in any way, but if you manage to get caught out in one you can expect to take a lot of damage or possibly even die before you make it to shelter. They can also harm other creatures, so you will need to make sure to bring in or otherwise protect any livestock or villagers, otherwise they likely will not survive for more than a few minutes. And of course, this applies to enemies as well: watching a hailstorm maul a pack of skeletons is one of the most sadistically fun experiences I've had in Minecraft.
While hail is indeed painful, it isn't even close to the most deadly form of weather added by this mod; that prize goes to the lovely and horrifying tornado. Anyone who has lived in the Mid-West knows exactly how deadly these monsters can be, and that power has been translated quite effectively into Minecraft. Tornadoes come in five levels of strength, and even the smallest type can pick you up from quite far away, drag you into the funnel, and send you flying to your doom. Other entities such as cows or Mo'creatures sharks can be picked up as well, and unless they can fly, chances are good they won't fare any better than you. But what is really horrifying about these monsters is that they lift most lighter blocks up. Wooden planks, glass panes, leaves, doors, and more will all be torn right off of your home, often leaving nothing but the floor and building frames behind. While not all blocks can be sent flying, very few above-ground bases are likely to make it through a tornado completely unscathed. Even if they do, any nearby trees will be missing most of their leaves and most of the grass will be pulled away by the storm, so you won't have much a view left to enjoy.
And these aren't the only types of terrible rotations you might encounter, there are also tropical cyclones and hurricanes. These are even wider than tornadoes, can currently go through three levels of power, come with more rain, and cover a much larger area, but they also seem to require being near a large body of water, and the destruction they cause is not nearly as focused as a true tornado. But beware, they are often accompanied by small tornadoes and can certainly still kill an unwary player. As dangerous as they are, you might still want to live in an area where they can generate, as lovely little water spouts can also appear. While these can be dangerous if you decide to swim under one, they are mostly safe to be around, and add a nice little touch to the game's otherwise drab oceans.
All of these are great for nomadic or mostly under-ground players, but there are also plenty of tools to help those who wish to settle on the surface prepare for the terrible weather and keep their bases intact. There are weather vanes that point in the direction the wind is blowing, and anemometers that spin to show how strong it is. Tornado sirens and sensors can be constructed to warn the player of what is coming even if they are far away or deep underground, and weather forecast machines can be built that allow players to see the exact location of any storms in a massive radius, well beyond the range of sight. If one is feeling like using some rare resources and causing some devastation, they might sneak a weather machine under another player's base and summon a small tornado or tropical storm. But the most important item a player can build is the weather deflector, which completely disables all dangerous forms of weather in a large area, allowing players to build anything they wish without any risk of a natural disaster.
Local Weather and Storms also includes a quite nice configuration menu, accessible at any time through the escape menu. You can enable or disable several aspects of the mod at any point to help compatibility with other addons, including allowing weather to generate in dimensions other than the Overworld. There are also a number of options you can tweak for performance, and while the hit to the visuals is quite strong, especially around lighter storms, due to how much of a resource-hog this mod can be, players may want to select them. And while you cannot disable specific types of weather such as hail or tornadoes, there are several options to tweak player's preferences in how often weather occurs, and whether it damages blocks or not. Most of these options are well labeled and can safely be tweaked by anyone, and those with more technical knowledge of the game can alter even more settings by looking in the configuration file.
But even though Local Weather and Storms is beautiful and adds a lot to the game, there are a several issues to keep in mind. Foremost among these is that the mod is rather intensive on your game, and while you are unlikely to hit serious FPS issues unless around multiple tornadoes, you can still expect a small drop in frame-rate. If you are using a lot of mods or have an older computer you can also expect block lag from time to time, though this is mostly fixed by installing something like Fastcraft. The clouds are also visible from quite far away, but are still affected by view distance, meaning that unless you are on one of the higher view settings, you will see them vanish when they approach the sides of your screen. While it is compatible with most mods, new liquid source blocks can be picked up and moved by the tornadoes and hurricanes, which can cause some very odd situations such as waterfalls of liquid essence flowing down out of the trees. While weather deflectors prevent storms from reaching your base naturally, it only de-spawns weather quickly rather than preventing its creation which, when combined with a weather machine, can cause infinitely restarting tornadoes that look absolutely horrendous. And oddly enough, even in single-player mode many of the in-game menu's options are locked unless cheats are allowed.
While I cannot suggest placing this mod in a large pack or using it on a weaker computer, it is certainly one of the coolest modifications available for Minecraft. It adds wonderful new wind effects that work fantastically with other mods, new clouds that look gorgeous from above or below, and turns storms into local events instead of the global plague that they are in vanilla. The new natural disasters are all well done, varied, and terrifying, and give you plenty of reasons to dash into that dark and scary cave. And despite all of the destruction they can cause, all forms of weather can be defended against either through building your bases to resist them, or constructing a weather deflector to guard your home, meaning that in the long run you can still build just as freely as before. Local Weather and Storms is easily one of the most intimidating mods out there, and can cause some of the most memorable experiences you can have in Minecraft.