As well as being an easy game of the year contender, Sifu is a brutal experience that can feel extremely punishing at times. You’re facing off against some incredibly dangerous foes, so one wrong move can be very costly.
Mistakes are made especially punishing due to Sifu‘s emphasis on time: if you’re killed, you’ll return older than you once were, meaning that time itself is working against you. Knocking out whoever managed to put you down will reverse this, but failing to do so will rapidly start to take its toll on your health. To help you reach the end of this chaotic journey to avenge your father in one piece, we’ve put together a set of five useful tips that you can study to help relieve some of the pressure.
Permanently unlock the youngest skills first
The skills at the bottom rung of Sifu’s skill tree, like Weapon Mastery (which lets you use a weapon until it breaks completely) and Slide Kick (an easy trip that can slow the pace of combat) are incredibly useful but hard to acquire, because you have to be under 29 to purchase them.
This means if you finish the first level over 29, you can’t ever unlock them in the next four levels until you beat your attempt. Consider focusing your XP on the skills in the bottom half of the tree in the early game so you can permanently unlock them quickly and ease some of the pressure of getting older.
Make use of your surroundings
In the mid game you should start running recon on combat arenas before you fight, by dashing around and looking for tools and throwable objects. Environmental Mastery, which lets you throw weapons, objects and items with a bumper tap, is by far the best skill in the game, and you should unlock it ASAP to take advantage of all the bricks, sticks and clubs in your vicinity.
Where possible, you should also use drops and traps to push enemies and finish them off without any of the rigamarole. This is especially useful when the game throws a dozen enemies at you and enemy management becomes more important than anything else. For bosses, think about how you can maintain your weapons throughout levels for the final fight, or use weapons in the boss arena itself to your advantage. Having a staff on hand while tackling the third boss, for example, makes it so much easier.
Don’t be afraid to start from scratch
Going back to The Squats is by no means shameful in Sifu, it’s honestly encouraged. Bettering your initial run and tweaking the bonuses you pick up in the early game can work wonders for your mid game and late game strategy, especially when you start to realise what upgrades are most vital to your playstyle later down the line.
Even if you think it’s the best you can do, you will be surprised at the amount of leverage you can get in The Club or The Museum from being a few years younger. Even more important is having a clean Death Counter at the start of each level, so it isn’t so devastating if you die early doors.
Treat boss encounters as learning opportunities
With a remarkable amount of luck, I did manage to beat one boss on my first try in Sifu, but this was a seriously rare occurrence. More often I spent my time using the shortcuts I would unlock after clearing a level to test different combat techniques on bosses and learn their attack and movement patterns.
Some bosses want you to be aggressive and overwhelm them, while others reward players that keep their distance and use the environment. Treat each encounter as an opportunity to learn their moves in each phase, and think about what skills might really make a difference to your odds of success. One boss keeps killing you with projectiles… but what if you could catch them?
But shortcuts aren’t always the answer
All of Sifu’s levels feature shortcuts that you can find and unlock via exploration. Many of them take you straight to the boss door, or skip most of the level as a reward for beating the mid boss. What the game doesn’t tell you is that sometimes this means forgoing a Jade Shrine or two, which is where you get to pick an important bonus / use your XP to unlock skills.
You may get to the boss you’re stuck on quicker if you take the shortcut, but you’re also choosing to ignore a free bonus and a horde of XP in most cases — and if you beat the level without unlocking every shrine, your best attempt will roll on without those potential bonuses, so you’ll be weaker in the late game. Shortcuts are valuable in the short term for learning bosses, but looking at the long term, they can be damaging.