Sifu Review – Revenge of the Kung Fu
Sifu is a one-of-a-kind martial arts game with a souls-like gameplay loop. It was developed by Sloclap who had previously worked on Absolver, which contains some of Sifu’s DNA. Sifu is a skill-based single-player game. It may not have a long playtime in absolute terms because there aren’t many levels, but getting to the end will require you to spend a significant amount of time polishing your skills and mastering the combat system.
Sifu begins with a simple but effective prologue. This also serves as a brief tutorial to teach the fundamentals. Throughout it, the five main villains of the game are introduced, each with a unique personality and combat style. The plot is straightforward. The main character’s family is murdered in the prologue when the player takes control of the story’s villain and assists him in murdering his Kung Fu master. Soon after, the game begins, with the option of playing as a boy or a girl. This is the extent of the customization for the main character; the rest is dependent on your abilities, which correlate to the character’s age.
The combat is simple to learn; there are two attack buttons and a combination of others such as parry, dodge, and focus. However, fighting our way through groups of enemies is not as easy as simply mashing buttons. Timing, skills, strategy, and patience are all rewarded by Sifu. You must learn your opponent’s moves, exploit the environment, and use your surroundings to your advantage. Rushing into a fight, no matter how tough the opponent, can be a death sentence in Sifu.
Sifu is not an easy game in the least; in fact, each of the boss fights is extremely difficult. But this is the game’s core DNA: dying and learning from our mistakes to improve. To be honest, it is not rogue-like, despite its presentation. There are permanent upgrades for the main character that carries over even if they die. Death, on the other hand, is tied to a very unique mechanic that I don’t recall seeing in any other game. The game explains that it is simply a magical talisman carried by the main character. It’s also how they get through the fateful night when their family is murdered.
When the main character dies in Sifu, they are resurrected and age a certain number of years. All of this is calculated using a simple formula based on the player’s abilities. If you perform well in combat and sustain few injuries, you will be able to keep the death counter at zero, which is the primary factor in aging. As you begin to die, the counter advances by one point, and as the counter advances, the number of years advances as well. To reset or reduce the counter, you must continue to perform well in combat and accomplish takedowns, which restore health.
Consider this: you begin the game at the age of 20, and each time you die, you gain one year of life. The death counter will now read 1 the next time it is triggered. If you die again, it will be two, and you will have aged by two years. This process continues after death, so the key to slowing the aging process is to stay sharp and avoid dying as much as possible. This is not easy unless you have mastered the ins and outs of combat. After completing each level, you will age by a certain amount. This will also motivate you to improve your abilities so that you die less the second time.
The purpose of explaining this is to demonstrate the game’s difficulty. The main character can live to be 70 years old, after which they will die. Aging also leads to changes in appearance like growing a mustache, beard, white hair, and so on. Death does not, of course, mean the end of the game because you can restart the level from the beginning. The character age, on the other hand, is permanent, so if a level is completed with a specific age, that is saved as the checkpoint.
The goal is to complete the game before the player reaches the end of their life, which means avoiding deaths as much as possible. One of the unique aspects of the aging process is that damage increases, but this also has the negative effect of decreasing health. As a result, the player’s attacks deal more damage as they age, but they also sustain more damage. Sifu’s vicious cycle encourages learning the combat system.
My main issue with Sifu was its combat and difficulty curve. When multiple enemies are attacking us from all sides, it is easy to become overwhelmed in the game. The game recommends breaking up groups of enemies, but in some cases, this is simply not possible. At times, I believe the difficulty spike is unjust. We’re blazing through a level, performing cool takedowns and combat moves, and the next thing we know, we’re getting beaten up by a slew of enemies, including brutes and mini-bosses. The obvious solution is to ‘git gud,’ but not everyone has the time to do so. I can see players becoming frustrated as they progress through the levels and die; each time they resurrect, they do more damage, but they also take more damage and thus die faster.
The level design is a combination of linear hallways with multiple paths to take, some of which are unlocked based on collectibles hidden around the level. The camera was also an issue for me, as it began to obstruct the combat in some of the cool action sequences, making it difficult to land parry moves or dodge enemy attacks. There are some nice nods to Asian films, and if you’ve seen them, you’ll appreciate how they’ve been incorporated into Sifu’s combat and level design.
Sifu has some extremely difficult boss battles. They put your skills to the test and force you to use every resource you have to defeat them. These battles have multiple phases, but getting to them is also challenging. In each level, there are mini-bosses to face, and some of the normal enemies can also randomly transform into one without warning. Essentially, the key to victory in Sifu is to stay alert.
Finally, do I recommend Sifu? Yes, because it’s a fun game with some interesting gameplay mechanics. The drawback is that I believe the game design is unfair, and the combat can be difficult to master. As a result, it is not a game that will appeal to everyone. It’s truly amazing when the combat clicks together in some of the one-on-one fights. However, attempting to stay alive in situations where you are surrounded by enemies can be difficult. What matters, in the end, is how you can improve your skills. There is an in-game arena where you can train and master the combat system, which is extremely beneficial.
Sifu Game Information
- Price: $39.99
- Publisher: Sloclap
- Developer: Sloclap
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher