Minecraft has brought us a great many things, but despite having played it religiously for a good four years and then sporadically for a good six years after that, one thing it never ever brought me was a well-optimised, lag-free experience.
Enter Vintage Story.
Vintage Story was created in 2016 by partners Tyron and Saraty, who, after releasing two popular and successful Minecraft mods, decided they wanted to break free from the constraints of Mojang's Minecraft and form their own standalone experience. Since then, the content that has been added to this fledgling voxel game has given it a very different feel and tone to Minecraft, with far more of an emphasis on early-game foraging and crafting of everything from tools to campfires and more.
But if it were just Minecraft with different content, I may have given Vintage Story a miss. After 10 years, my relationship with Minecraft has grown a little stale, and I think that has marred my impression of a lot of the games that have since tried to follow in Minecraft's footsteps. But Vintage Story promised other things besides new content and crafting systems. Things like a 1024-block build height (compared with Minecraft's 256). Things like an equally insane render distance of 1024 blocks (compared with Minecraft's lag-inducing maximum of 512). Things like beautiful shaders, shadows, god rays, and all the delights that you'd have to turn to external shader packs to include in Minecraft.
And - most importantly - the ability to do all of that stuff while keeping the experience entirely performant and free of horrible lag-spikes, chunk errors, and all the headaches that we've grown so familiar with in Minecraft. On my PC, I can run Vintage Story at near-max settings and max render distance, and the frame rate still never dips below 100 frames per second. Mostly it hovers around 150.
With performance like that, the game could have zero content and I'd still be happy. It could just be a world generation demo, and I'd still entertain myself for hours just gambolling about the beautiful biomes and vistas of Vintage Story, and revelling in the ultra-smooth frame rate that I've been missing out on for the past decade.