Fans of martial arts games rejoice, Sifu is here! Sloclap’s roguelike fighting game has been released, and it doesn’t disappoint the vision shown in the many trailers shown over the months. However, is Sifu a game that can hold its own against the heavyweights of the genre, or just a passing indie game?
Not all games choose to present the story in a way that is easy to understand and accessible to all players, and Sifu is such a game. The premise of the game is simple, the main character is a follower of a martial arts school where Sifu (the master) is his own father. One night, a group of 5 individuals attack the school killing both students and masters, including the protagonist. He manages not to die using an amulet with magical powers that allows him to return to life at the cost of aging.
This aspect of the story goes hand in hand with the game’s roguelike mechanics which are excellently thought out. Each time you die, the protagonist ages a year or more, depending on how you die. If you die multiple times to a boss without progressing, the number of years the boss ages increases. If you pass the age of 70 and die again, game over. It’s a particularly interesting mechanic and as I said earlier, it fits the story excellently.
That said, both the narrative thread and the characters are weak. If you’ve seen Kill Bill or any Bruce Lee kung-fu movie, you’ll know Sifu’s story. Revenge for the master’s death leading to a fight with multiple antagonists. Thus, the story isn’t the one that stands out and certainly won’t be remembered or even noticed by many players.
Gameplay is Sifu’s piece de resistance and the reason why many have been eagerly awaiting it. The game’s combat is phenomenal. From empty-handed combos, to using weapons like pipes and broomsticks, to last-minute parries, Sifu is a pleasure to play.
It is also not only a fighting game, but also a roguelike game. And a very good one at that. By progressing through the game’s 5 levels, the player will be able to upgrade special abilities that will help them in their quest for revenge. These can be purchased after a death or by praying at a shrine using XP. Upgrades can also be made based on the score accumulated in that level, or age at the time. These mechanics are very well implemented and give an extremely high degree of replayability to Sifu.
At first glance, the graphics in Sifu won’t wow you with photorealism like other titles of our time. But even so, Sifu has superb art direction. The design of characters, locations and cutscenes is excellent. Speaking of cutscenes, they pleasantly surprise with the cinematic way in which the moments or more often than not, the game’s boosters are presented. Not infrequently I found myself staring at the TV, staring at the colors and set pieces of the game.
But however, art direction aside, Sifu suffers from some graphical problems. We tested the game on both PS5 and PS4, and in both systems we encountered bugs. The most apparent were unfortunately visual artifacts or screen tearing. While these in no way hinder the player experience, they were present quite a bit and repeatedly throughout the game. Overall though, Sifu’s graphics are enjoyable and won’t be getting old anytime soon due to the excellent art direction presented by Sloclap.
While we’re realistic and wouldn’t expect a sonic masterpiece, given the scope and especially the size of the developer studio, the sound in Sifu is disappointing. While the sound effects are on point, the soundtrack and especially the dialogue is weak.
Many of the characters encountered in the game have the same generic lines and similar voices. Sifu would probably have benefited more if they didn’t speak at all and the dialogue was just written, but the developers opted for recorded dialogue, which is of very poor quality. A great pity about this aspect, because music and sound effects in games like this are particularly important, and Sifu has really messed it up.
In the 10-15 hours we struggled to watch the credits at the end, not once did we feel bored. The roguelike system along with the addictive gameplay gives an addictive atmosphere that doesn’t let you put the controller down. Speaking of which, we should mention that Sifu is a difficult game. Very difficult.
However, there were extremely few times when it didn’t turn out to be fair. When you die, you do so from your mistakes. Either you didn’t position yourself properly and were surrounded by enemies, or you haven’t yet learned the bosses’ attacks, you’re to blame for the defeat. It’s very difficult to achieve this without artificially increasing the difficulty through difficulty levels, but Sifu has done it. The atmosphere is very good, but this is marred by the poor dialogue and sound mentioned earlier.
Sifu is an excellent game and a particularly pleasant surprise. Not many people have their bases set on this title, especially in a busy month like this, but Sifu is a game worth playing. It certainly doesn’t touch roguelike titles of excellence like Hades, but it’s a title that will keep you hooked for a while. The replayability of the game is very high, and combined with its difficulty, will provide many hours of play for all who try it.
Our criteria at Games Row for rating games are as objective as can be. Of course, reviews are influenced (also) by personal experiences. So our ratings may not meet everyone’s expectations.