It’s funny how things go. Throughout most of July, I’d kinda given up on playing Skyrim. There weren’t any new mods I fancied, I wasn’t in the mood to try anything insanely experimental and I’d pretty much given up hope that I’d see a mod come out that worked with or even replaced Burning Skies, a Playable Dragon Mod I’ve talked about a few times on here. But lo and behold, I stumbled across Play As A Dragon almost by random, sitting in the Most Recent section of Nexus Mods, a couple of pages in. Made by the same guy and everything.
This blew my mind. Every time I’d looked at Burning Skies, it seemed like the mod was finished and that no more development would be taking place. There was a Playable Dragon Alpha which mostly worked but considering the last updates were back in 2017, I didn’t expect anything else.
But here we are, with the Play As A Dragon mod, flying around Skyrim, better than ever.
Basically, Play As A Dragon is based on the old Playable Dragon Alpha that was released on the Burning Skies Nexus page, an unfinished, only just working prototype that was built differently, messing with animations and things like that, but with some more cosmetic features from the original mod.
The original Burning Skies used a lot of scripting to play the correct animations, but because Skyrim’s script engine, Papyrus, is incredibly slow and honestly not very good, it meant that Burning Skies was an awkward mod to use. When combined with other large mods, the game never ran amazingly on my weakass computer, and of course Burning Skies, like many more complicated mods, was limited by the 32bit engine Skyrim Legendary Edition ran on.
As an aside, if you already had a lot of mods that had a lot of scripts, it was very easy to bring your game down to a crawl, cause crashes or worse, break your game with a Stack Dump, caused by the engine literally dumping as much stuff as possible to free up memory. But that’s a worst case scenario. Most of the time, a game with a lot of mods and scripts will just give up and crash if there’s too much going on and the game’s not been modded properly. This excellent write-up on r/skyrimmods is worth a read.
Anyway, the Playable Dragon Alpha changed things. Rather than relying totally on scripts, it featured proper animations being tied to the player, something that simply never works right off the bat. Animations in Skyrim are probably one of the hardest things to deal with though, so I totally understood why the alpha remained an alpha for so long.
It was totally worth it though. Flying around has never been smoother. Basic features like hovering and landing/takeoff animations have finally been added and the animations all flow together smoothly. The ability to choose a dragon type and select a handful of different abilities and perks has also been re-added, meaning you’re not stuck as Odahviing all the time. More importantly, you can roar again, which feels amazing. Sure, you can’t resize yourself like in later versions of Burning Skies but that had weird consequences anyway. On top of that, a ‘Fast Transformation’ option has been added, meaning you can switch to and from forms much more quickly.
Overall, being a dragon feels way more natural and organic.
It’s fucking awesome.
I’m so happy.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any plans for a Special Edition version. I guess because the tools used to make the mod simply aren’t there yet. Unlike most mods, you can’t just open up Play As A Dragon in the Special Edition Creation Kit, re-save it, then unpack and re-pack the BSA file and put it all back together. It’s also likely that the SKSE functions aren’t there yet, which is why mods like Enhanced Camera aren’t on the Special Edition yet.
That doesn’t matter though. I have no issues sticking with the old version of Skyrim, and if the mod does get updated, I can install the Special Edition whenever.
There may not be a dragon simulator game out there, but right now, Skyrim and the Play As A Dragon mod do the job just fine.