In the past year, I’ve been in a battle between Minecraft’s performance and acceptable aesthetics. Ultimately, I came down on the side of performance. I installed a series of mods based around the Fabric API. They boosted my frame rate to the moon while retaining the game’s visual charm, but I couldn’t add any of Minecraft's best shaders to it. Shaders run on the Forge API, and require Optifine, which isn’t nearly as performance enhancing as the Sodium mod running on Fabric. It chafed.
But I just discovered a mod that could change everything. Iris Shaders runs on Fabric and adds shader support to Sodium. The battle might be over!
AsianHalfSquat spied the mod that made my dreams come true. There’s nothing complicated about installing it, and it even installs the correct version of Sodium for you. My mod column on the best Minecraft performance mods talks through how best to grab Fabric and install mods for it. Iris Shaders follows that same method.
It enhances almost everything. Inside the graphics settings for Sodium is a ‘Shaders’ tab that lets you drag and drop them into the game. I did so with the excellent Complementary Shaders and enabled them. This is not a thorough benchmark, but I was looking at 70fps at a 22 view distance. The same config on Forge using Optifine would hover somewhere in the 20fps range. And the game looked gorgeous.
I dropped a few more shaders into the menu, SEUS and BLS Shaders, and speedily toggled between them in-game with a hotkey. One shader’s enhancements are swept out of the way by another’s almost instantly. Given how shaky shaders can be, getting an easy method to install and hotswap between is pretty remarkable.
What’s currently missing is wider support for all of Optifine’s shaders. Voyager Shaders 2, a set I’ve been looking forward to trying out, doesn’t load. Neither does SEUS PTGI, which adds ray tracing. And there are currently no options to tweak the shaders, so you’d better hope you like whatever works as is for now.
But those all seem like fixable problems in the grand scheme of things. Iris Shaders already works well enough, on Minecraft 1.17, for me to plan on using them daily.