Every so often, there’s one of those games that just looks cooler every single time you see it. Each new trailer or preview has you nodding your head along and thinking “If this is what they’re showing us now, imagine what they’re holding back!” After attending a preview where developer Sloclap inched the curtain open just a little bit more, that feeling of escalating anticipation for the martial arts roguelite Sifu is holding strong because it is already much more than I expected.
We’ve gleamed the basic aspects of Sifu through its multiple trailers (and bitterly disappointing delay) so far: you’re a martial artist on a journey of revenge and failure leads to you becoming older and wiser. While Slocap began the presentation by pointedly saying they weren’t going to talk about those aspects yet, they gave plenty for us to chew on. Here’s a list of my biggest takeaways from the presentation.
1. Sifu is More Like Sekiro than You Might Think
Any good martial arts yarn is going to be about the battle of wills expressed through a physical altercation and Sifu is no exception. Enemies have a stance bar that must be broken before the player character can finish them off with a quick kill, but you also have your own stance bar, so you can’t just sit there and guard without being aggressive or parrying the entire time. A mixture of good offense and defense is pretty much required.
2. Sifu is a Martial Arts Movie Come to Life
It won’t come as a galloping shock to anyone, but Sifu is heavily inspired by martial arts movies of old. The game carries that inspiration into its level design, which is aiming to evoke specific scenes that struck a chord with the developers. In one example, the player character busts through a door into a hallway that is filled to the brim with enemy combatants. Anyone who has seen the movie Oldboy will instantly realize the scene Sifu is affectionately trying to invoke — a faithfulness that extends to the camera shifting to the side perspective for the remainder of the fight.
3. Sorry Durability Haters, Weapons in Sifu Break
Your fists are a powerful weapon, but weapons make for even more powerful weapons. The player character can disarm opponents, pick up their weapons like machetes or blackjacks, and turn the tide of battle entirely in your favor. But just because you got a good weapon doesn’t mean you’re set for the entire level. As part of the game’s balance, different items have different durability values, so you want to make a mental note of everything that’s within reach when you enter a room.
4. Paths Open Up and Change on Different Runs
While Sloclap did not want to get too far into the “run-based” nature of the game, they did let slip that there are differences that can happen on further runs. While it’s exceedingly unlikely a player can beat the game on their first go-round, they can discover information that gets added to what’s currently being called the Detective Board. When you gain some new information, like an alternate route or knowledge of where some enemies hide, you can then access that route and find whatever’s there your next time through. These might be shortcuts or enemies with even more information to lead you to something bigger.
5. Learn New Information Through Intimidation
One way you get information is by interrogating enemies that are begging off from the fight. An efficient fight — one that avoids damage and quick-kills most of the enemies — will sometimes intimidate the last enemy in the room to back off and beg for mercy. In exchange for said mercy, this enemy will offer you information that might be helpful on future runs, and saves you the trouble of finishing one last enemy off.
6. They’re Not All That Cowardly
However, sometimes that last enemy is less intimidated and more angry. Sometimes enemies go into berserker modes after you’ve made quick work of their friends. In this mode, the final enemy in an area will get stronger and add new moves to their repertoire, effectively turning them into minibosses. At this point, your goal is less getting information and more overcoming this obstacle. This is semi-random, though it’s not clear what factors play into making it happen.
7. There’s a Number of Fantastical Elements to Sifu
While there’s a lot of old-school martial arts fight-through-the-street grounding in Sifu, the game also as its fair share of mystical elements as well. The game is set in contemporary urban China, but more magical elements start making themselves known as you proceed through the game. Unfortunately, Sloclap did not show off specifically what they mean, but they did talk in some generalities.
8. There’s Five Levels, Each Based Off One of the Five Chinese Elements
The five elements concept is used in a number of different fields and phenomena in China and they make the basis of Sifu’s levels. These elements — Wood, Water, Fire, Metal, and Earth — are the foundational themes and make themselves apparent in subtle and obvious ways as you play through.
9. You Can Get Too Old
As you proceed through Sifu, you will lose and return as a stronger, wiser warrior who has spent years training before returning to their revenge quest. At some point, though, you will be too old to continue, and will essentially get a game over. Sloclap wouldn’t detail how, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start the whole journey over, but that option is available for players that want it.
10. There’s a Skill Tree, but Permanence Takes Work
Over the course of the game, you’ll earn a number of skills that make you a more competent fighter. However, if you don’t practice enough with them, then they won’t survive a game over. If you do train and use skills to their fullest, they’ll become permanent upgrades that will stay with you through a new cycle as well.
11. Both PS4 and PS5 Will Be 60 Frames Per Second
Because of how important the parrying accuracy is in the game, both PS4 and PS5 are going to hit 60 FPS. The PS5 version will also be 4K.
12. Sometimes Enemies Parry You
You’re not the only martial artist that knows how to parry. If an enemy parries you and tries to quick kill your character, your only option is to try and parry them again, leading to an exchange of parries until one of you messes up. Better be on top of your game!
Sifu will be released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC on February 22, 2022.