Sifu Beginner’s Guide: The Student Must Become The Master
Sifu is one of the best-feeling action games released in years, with some of the best combat around. It’s also punishingly hard and, at times, quite unforgiving for new players. If you’re new to this type of game, though, we’ve got you covered, with a few tips that can help you get off to a strong start whether you’re playing on a PS4, PS5, or PC.
1. Master Blocks, Parries, and Dodges
Everyone wants to go on the offensive, and Sifu encourages this at times. Your character’s stamina will only take so much before breaking and dealing massive damage to you. That said, if you run into even basic foes with too much aggression, you’re going to die—a lot. So while you can’t turn into a turtle, you’ll absolutely need to get the feel for blocks, parries, and dodges, as well as when to use each. Blocking a hit can keep you close to your foe, but also does a lot of damage to your stamina meter. Parries have tight timing windows but leave your opponent dazed and very open to counterattack. Dodging either to the side, or even leaping over low attacks and ducking under high ones, can also be crucial tools to stay close and catch your foe off guard, though they’ll sometimes recover more quickly than they would to a parry.
2. Use Weapons Wisely
Sifu is filled with a wide variety of weapons. Everything from baseball bats, to swords, to glass bottles and bricks. They’re laid out throughout the many rooms you’ll fight through, and grabbing them can often turn the tide in a fight. Knocking some foes down to get their weapon from them can save your butt. Make sure you’re using them wisely, though, because they will break. Throwing bottles at certain foes will just give them a chance to catch them. Grabbing a bat off the counter may help you get through your current encounter, but it might be more useful to save it for the boss afterward, because these weapons break. Bringing the right tool to each situation is crucial.
3. Don’t Assume Weapons Are Always Better
There are also times when a weapon may not be the best path either. Different enemies have different skills and abilities, as well as weapons of their own. Bringing a weapon of your own can help even things up, but at times it might be playing into their hands as well.
Sifu’s second boss is a strong example of this. Wielding a giant staff, his arena is surrounded by additional staves, which initially seem like a great idea. They can be helpful at times, too, allowing you to block his blows with a lower impact. These ended up feeling more like traps by the time I was done than anything else, though. They encouraged me to keep him at a medium-range, using the staff’s range, but that’s where he’s at his most powerful. I was playing right into his hands. Ditching the weapons and closing the distance between us, fighting him up close and personal while dodging his blows, ended up being by far the strongest path to get me past him.
4. Use Your Environment
In addition to weapons, Sifu is filled with environmental details which can either save your life or get you killed. Counters and furniture allow you to quickly jump over them to put space between you and your foes. With the right weapons, though, they might be able to still hit you, so don’t assume you’re safe there. When fighting a crowd, though, isolating one foe on the side of a counter might give you time to take them out before the rest can reach you. Foes can jump over as well, but they’ll usually take at least a minute to work up the courage.
There are also other parts of the environment you can directly work into combat. Slam your foe into a wall. Throw them down a flight of stairs to do extra damage. Send them flying to a window. Not only will you do extra damage, it provides time for you to plan your next move.
5. Pick The Right Skills
You have a lot of skills available to you when you first start unlocking them in Sifu. Some of these can be highly entertaining combos and attacks which will devastate your opponents. The more you play, though, the more you’ll pick up on which ones are important. Extra finishing moves look cool, but they aren’t particularly more helpful than the ones you start with. Some of the game’s more complex combos feel great to pull off, but they aren’t particularly practical against most of the bosses.
What skills do you want then? A move that lets you counter from the ground can be a lifesaver. Another which enables you to throw weapons in the environment without first picking them up is awesome for crowd control. Now a counter full of bottles can be thrown rapid-fire without dropping your bat. Anything that helps with crowd control goes a long way.
6. Don’t Forget to Permanently Unlock Skills
I know, it doesn’t feel great to pump experience into a move you already have unlocked when you could instead put it into something new. You’ll want to do so, though, because permanently unlocked move are the thing that most consistently carries over in Sifu, even if you go back to take on a new run from the start. Having access to additional skills is one of the big differences that will help you defeat earlier levels at a younger age.
7. You Can Reset Your Death Counter
Each time you reach a shrine in Sifu, you get to pick a reward. There are three types to pick from, though you only get one of the 9 total options at each shine. The first type are based on your age, locking you out as you get older. The second set use your level score, a currency made specifically to unlock these. The last set use your experience, the same thing you use to unlock new moves.
Tucked in this last group is the ability to reset your death counter. This is how many years you age after each death. It’s the most expensive option there, and when this is a currency you have other uses for it, players may be hesitant to pick that option. It can be a huge help, though. If your counter is only a couple of points, this is rarely a good idea, but if it gets high, it can make a huge difference. Say you enter the third level at 58 with your death counter at 6. Your third death is going to be the end of you. Defeating powerful foes can bring it down, but the odds that you’ll bring it down enough to get more than an extra life are slim.
Resetting the counter, however means you instead have 6 lives to work with instead of 3. Even better, any enemies you can beat to bring the counter down can counteract any new points you gain, keeping that number low and maybe giving you a few more lives to work with. This can also be a great option late in a level, when you’re about to face a boss. Not only will it give you more chances against that boss, it will mean if you get to the next area, you’ll be starting with a lower death counter on each new run started from that level.
8. You Don’t Have to Explore Everything Each Run
In your early paths through each level, you’ll want to check everything you can. There may be times you can skip an area, but there’s a good chance you’ll find something important there. Keys and key cards often open shortcuts, sometimes even shortcuts or hidden areas in past levels. These sorts of items stay with you even between deaths. That means on future runs through the level, you may be able to skip large portions of it. How much of an impact this has will vary. On the first level, I never was able to do more than skip one challenging fight. Another level let me go right to the boss after only a single battle.
These shortcuts can be some of the best ways to help beat earlier levels at a lower age. In a game where even the average enemy is very much capable of taking a life off of you, avoiding dozens of encounters is sometimes essential.
9. You Might Want to Though, At Least At Times
That said, while the option to skip right to the end of a level can be a big help, you might not always want to do so. Consider your goal. If you’re not at an age where your character can likely take you to the end of the game, do you really want to miss fighting enemies you know how to handle and often can to try to kill a boss who is far more likely to kill you? Which of these paths is more likely to give you experience to put toward permanently unlocking things?
Even if you’re going for the boss, jumping right to them may not be ideal. Doing so will risk missing out on the levels shrines, which give you the chance to upgrade your abilities. A path right to the boss robs you of that opportunity. There’s often a balance of wanting to grab any shrines you can get to without too much difficulty while avoiding ones that are deep into enemy territory.
10. You Have to Go Back
Despite all these tricks, very few players are going to make a straight line through Sifu’s five levels. At some point, you’ll reach a point where the age you’re starting a level at just isn’t young enough to complete it. You could certainly keep throwing yourself at the level and hoping to get lucky, but this likely isn’t the best use of your time. Instead, go back and replay the earlier levels. This is an important part of the Sifu experience. With new permanently unlocked abilities and your increasing mastery of the game’s timing, you should be able to eventually beat earlier levels at a younger age. It takes some time, but you’ll eventually be able to return to that level that stopped you at a younger age, ready to push further into the game.
Oh, and don’t put all your resources into unlocking additional finishing moves. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.