New Skyrim mod revolutionises first-person play in ageing Bethesda RPG

A new Skyrim mod aims to modernise first-person play in the fantasy Bethesda RPG game with thousands of new player animations to replace its outdated originals.

Skyrim mod - Ulfric Stormcloak, a Nord with a close-shaven beard wearing a gem-set circlet

There’s not much that the best Skyrim mods haven’t polished to a glistening sheen in the now twelve year-old Bethesda RPG game, but now an ambitious new project aims to modernise something that you see more than almost anything else while playing. In doing so, this mod might just bring a whole fresh-game feel to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

While it might be easy to overlook, the first-person animations of your character are something you see almost constantly – and they’re crucial to the experience. Your initial response might be to handwave away their importance, but in doing so you have in fact proven the point; after all, your character’s hand waving is quite literally your main interaction with the world and inhabitants of Skyrim.

The Comprehensive First-Person Animation Overhaul mod for Skyrim, or CFPAO for short, comes from creator PolarRobotFrog, who says that the project includes “thousands (yes, I checked and it is actually in the thousands) of first-person animations” to replace those in the original game. They explain, “This mod replaces almost every single vanilla animation from the first-person perspective, and even adds some unique ones depending on what weapon or school of magic you’re using.”

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That means, whether you favour sword and shield, dual war axes, or any range of magic from the various schools of Restoration, Destruction, Conjuration, Alteration, and Illusion, CFPAO will polish up your experience for a modern eye. There are even new animations for Khajiit characters who like to make use of their unarmed combat abilities.

PolarRobotFrog notes that there are a few key exceptions. For example, they haven’t changed the animations used while sneaking, as they say “it was being super buggy and I have no idea why it wasn’t working,” so there are no changes there for the time being. They’ve also left shield block and bashing animations alone, as “I really couldn’t think of any ways to animate the shield any differently than vanilla.”

Helpfully, they do list out all known issues and their current plans for the project alongside the installation guide found on the mod page. They also recommend certain other mods as good companions to CFPAO, such as Ersh’s Precision mod for more accurate melee collision detection and the Skyrim Valhalla combat overhaul from dTry, which aims to modernise the feel of melee combat in line with more recent games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and God of War.

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It might not be as dramatic a difference as turning the Dark Brotherhood questline into a Skyrim Hitman simulator, or opening up a skeleton pizzeria in Skyrim, but CFPAO seems like one of those mods that could become an easy grab for anyone looking to get the best experience out of Skyrim, regardless of what other play preferences you have.

If you want to step even further outside the comfort zone of Tamriel, take a look at the best games like Skyrim to get started. You might also want to catch up on the Starfield release date and latest news as Bethesda Games Studio brings their beloved open-world games formula into space.