The game difficulty discussion is possibly one of the most frequent topics that break out in the online space. Most of this discussion broke out with the release of GOTY winning Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in 2019. The ever-evolving discussion of difficulty versus accessibility continues to be a hot topic amongst fans and critics. Personally, games like Sekiro have not appealed to me historically. It’s not that I don’t appreciate and enjoy challenging experiences. Playing Doom Eternal on Ultra-Violence is a challenge I quite enjoy. As I am an avid FPS player, my abilities in third-person action games are typically mediocre at best. This has kept me at a distance from Soulbourne games for a long time.
As a father of two, and on top of working a full-time job, I typically play a game on normal, especially if it’s not an FPS. If a game doesn’t offer difficulty options I would often shy away from purchasing it. Due to some of these games feeling insurmountable if you can’t sit down for hours at a time to play them. There is something very mentally jarring about playing a game for an hour, and still being in the same spot you were before. I just had never had one of these games click with me, where the game loop just hooked me in. However, that all changed with the release of Sifu.
Sifu Enters The Arena
Sifu is a martial arts 3rd person fighting game from developer Sloclap. Some people might remember that Sloclap created the multiplayer martial arts game Absolver. When Sifu was first revealed I was automatically hooked on both the premise and just the style of the game. As someone who spent over 20 years training in martial arts, and who grew up on Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies the game piqued my interest. Sifu felt like a perfect blend of everything I enjoy about the sport.
When it became more apparent with each trailer that the aging mechanic would be a focal point of the game. I admittedly started to have my doubts about whether the game was for me. Was Sifu going to be another one of those incredibly challenging games, that would put me off in a few hours of play? But ultimately, I decided to buy Sifu and take the chance, because who knows if you don’t like something until you play it.
Deceptive Moves And Learning The Patterns
When I booted up Sifu for the first time, I attempted to play it like a hack and slash action game. I quickly learned this was not the way. With most henchmen being able to dispatch you in a few well-timed strikes. It was clear that I was going to have to revise my strategy. After spending some time perusing the different moves I had at my disposal, it finally dawned on me. Sifu was more like a traditional fighting game than it was an action game. This super obvious revelation completely changed how I played the game.
I started watching enemies patterns and targeting specific ones that always caused problems for me when they would team-up. Quickly dispatching enemies that had weapons was a great strategy early on. Not only because weapons do a metric ton of damage, but they can also be dropped. Weapons truly are your best friend in Sifu and slapping multiple enemies around with a bo staff is just a blast. The sheer variety of weapons that you will find throughout the world as well
Combat felt snappy and heavy-hitting. Whenever you land a combo on an enemy you see them stagger backward after blocking your previous strikes it feels so rewarding. With smooth takedowns at your disposal once you get the hang of staggering your opponents it’s a gamechanger. After a few short hours of playing, I found myself more than capable of dispatching large groups of enemies with relative ease. I truly felt like I was mastering the game.
Boss Battles That Humble You
The first boss Sifu throws at you is a fast-paced back-flipping ninja who throws combos and aerial attacks at you rapidly. It felt very overwhelming at first, but after three runs through I finally bested him. Only to find out he has a second phase. During this phase the boss features all of his above moves with the addition of him wielding a high damaged machete. He banished me and pushed me over my age threshold and I had to start the level over from scratch. Which at first, was incredibly disheartening but I knuckled down and gave it another shot. You always hear fans of famed difficult games, that not giving up is part of the “fun” of the game. With Sifu this is the first time I truly felt this.
I have to tip my hat to Sloclap for how they manage to help encourage you to learn as you play. What I realized was that each time I faced off against this boss, I was definitively doing better each time. The repetition of defeating the handful of enemies before him gave me time to hone my combos and dodges. In no time, I managed to defeat him without even dying once. After initially finishing the first level at the age of 54, after another full run-through of that level, I managed to complete it at the age of 20. Being able to conquer a challenging boss is an incredible and euphoric feeling. But to have an actual number to show just how much you are improving really helped me to see the actual progress I was making. Very few games give you such a clear progress marker, and I truly appreciated that in Sifu.
Sifu Was A Masterclass Experience
While I haven’t conquered all of the enemies in Sifu yet, I have no doubt that I will sooner rather than later. I have found determination and enjoyment in the challenge that this game has presented. It has created a desire to expand my taste in games, and not necessarily shy away from these more challenge-focused experiences. If you are in love with martial arts film and games, then I could not recommend Sifu enough. Sloclap has truly made a special game. Which will undoubtedly end up being one of my favorite games of 2022.