Sifu: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
In the third-person roguelike action game Sifu, you are a young kung fu student on a path of revenge. But like Confucius said, “Seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for yourself.”
Since its release earlier this month, Sifu has quickly gained a reputation for its punishing difficulty. By now, everybody knows the basics. Weapons are very important. Boss fights can be extremely difficult. And when you die, you age, before you turn 70+ and die for good.
If all this doesn’t scare you, then make sure to equip yourself with some PSN Cards from OffGamers here and try out the game yourself!
It requires hard work, but with some strategies and tips, you can become a true kung fu master. Here’s our ultimate beginner’s guide to Sifu to help you survive the fights and take down your enemies.
Defense, The Best Attack
First things first, approach Sifu as a fighting game and not a standard beat ’em up. Go into encounters all fists blazing and you will be quickly dealt with. Avoiding attacks is the key, and you have multiple options.
L1 is the guard button and if you get your timing right, you can deflect the attacks. By holding L1, you can guard and block. But you need to use it carefully. Blocking several attacks in a row will break your structure and leave you open for punishment. There are also some guard break attacks that will get through regardless.
Instead, you need to hold L1 and flick the left stick just before an enemy strikes. You will dodge the attack and can quickly counterattack. Mastering this skill will help you tremendously, especially against boss fights where dodging becomes a necessity. However, you need to be aware of bigger enemies who can use throws to grab and damage you. In such situations, you need to press R2 to dodge and back away completely.
Again, Sifu isn’t a beat ’em up. The enemies will not shy from ganging up on you. And with multiple opponents attacking from multiple directions, you will be easily overwhelmed. An early example of this is the lovely corridor sequence; a reference to the South Korean film Oldboy which sees you take on a row of enemies at the same time in a narrow hallway. Also in the first level is the warehouse, where you will take on a large number of foes.
Your best bet is to deal with each enemy one-on-one and always keep everyone in front of you. You can do this by staying on the move, vaulting over obstacles, and creating distance. Once you isolate an enemy, you can deal with them quickly. Don’t get greedy though, if you’re not able to finish them, get a couple of shots in and back away again.
Also, prioritize those with weapons first. You may not feel like an action hero, but taking your time and isolating enemies will reduce the numbers you’ll be facing. Moves such as palm strike and leg sweep are also effective. That brings us to…
Make A Move
Pushbacks and leg sweep are skills that are available to you from the beginning. Getting the hang of these will make combat easier. But you need to focus on moves that can be unlocked. There are 24 skills, grouped into five different categories. Before we share our picks, you should learn how unlocks and upgrades work in Sifu.
You can earn XP by defeating enemies, and you can spend between 500-1,500 XP to unlock a move from the skill tree. There’s a twist, however. If you spend your hard-earned XP buying several skills, you will lose them all upon reaching age 70 and dying. You need to permanently unlock skills so that you can use them in subsequent playthroughs.
To do so, you need to buy the same skill five times. So instead of spreading your XP into unlocking a bunch of different skills, you need to focus on useful moves that you plan to use in multiple playthroughs.
Two things to note. Your investment into a skill carries through to the next playthrough. So if you only managed to buy a skill four times instead of five, you can buy it once during the next run to permanently unlock it. Secondly, it means you can grind XP, unlock skills, and then restart the level.
The question remains, which skills to unlock? While it depends on your playstyle, there are some moves that are only contextual and not always useful. The first skill we recommend is Strong Sweep Focus. It takes one Focus meter and can be used to trip nearly every enemy in the game.
Then we’ve got Weapon Mastery lets you use a weapon until it breaks completely, and Environmental Mastery lets you throw (or kick) weapons at the enemies without picking them up.
Lastly, Slide Kick will let you slide into an enemy while sprinting, taking them down and opening them up for free shots.
Shrines & Shortcuts
You unlock all the cool abilities mentioned above using a Shrine. These jade dragon statues will also let you choose a reward based on your Age, Score, or XP. But once you have activated them, you need to pick up a reward as the shrine will be locked out for your playthrough once you exit the menu. It also makes sense to beat up as many enemies and collect as much XP as possible before using the Shrine. The Shrines are also scattered across the maps and are easy to overlook if you’re not careful.
Similarly, you need to stay on the lookout for shortcuts. Like Soulsborne and Metroidvania games, each of Sifu’s five levels has shortcuts that can be used during your next run. While initially locked, these doors can be unlocked after you pick up keys and keycards, usually by beating strong enemies.
However, it’s a double-edged sword. Shortcuts speed up the game and can take you to the boss after only a couple of fights. But Sifu is a game built around beating foes and earning XP. And you’ll miss out on a chance to unlock skills when you take a shortcut.
Practice, Practice, and Practice
In the Wuguan hub, you can use a wooden training post in the corner of the courtyard to test out your skills. You will be taken to the shadowy red room from the title sequence where you get to face an AI opponent. You can choose for it to be passive, in case you want to learn a specific combo without being interrupted. You can make the enemy active to sharpen your counters and simulate a fight. This is the best tool in Sifu to learn the skills that you have unlocked.
It bears repeating: approach Sifu as a martial arts fighting game, and not a brawler or beat ’em up. Sifu will frustrate you. You will die, repeatedly. You may also chuck your controller across the room. But just like a real martial arts student, you’d need to be patient and disciplined to master Sifu. Good luck!