What Makes Sifu Such a Successful Game?

Sifu is the new game of Sloclap, the independent studio behind Absolver. A third person action game featuring intense hand-to-hand combat, it puts you in control of a young Kung-Fu student on a path of revenge.

Seeing as Sifu sold over 1 million copies in its first month, there’s no surprise it’s topping many charts. A classic revenge story is nothing new. However, many specific ways in which the game is executed keep players hooked.

Sifu’s Fighting Mechanics

Although Sifu isn’t a breakthrough game bringing something never seen before, the fighting mechanics are revolutionary. The fight scenes are very movie-like in the sense that it flows like a movie scene rather than a normal level in a beat ‘em up. However, unlike in the movies, the enemies definitely do not wait their turn and try to kill you in any way they can. This opens up a lot more opportunities for the gameplay to be different for different people. Normally, in beat ‘em ups, the player doesn’t have many chances to customize their experience and go through the story their own way. Whereas in Sifu, you are given some basic fight moves and are thrown into the action to figure out your own path to victory.

Even though there’s no set way to win the game, it does not make winning any easier. You have to first figure out a route to success and then execute it near flawlessly. Otherwise, you will end up getting beat up and losing years. After earning some exp, the player can choose to spend it on learning other skill moves that give you more options in very specific situations. One example is a skill set that allows the player to counter attacks while knocked down on the floor.

The game’s use of the environment is also very movie-like. Unlike in other games where the backdrop is just aesthetic, in Sifu, the player can use railings, barricades, pipes, and just about anything you can think of to your advantage. You can vault also over large objects (even movable ones).  And there’s more, you can kick up small objects such as pipes and throw them, just like in the martial arts movies!

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The Sifu Story

As stated before, the player is free to play through the story how they like- or to better word it, how they discover the clues. In order to find the different levels, you must find certain clues. The game does not just lead you to the clues either. You find them as you progress and not everyone finds them in the same order; meaning that the levels aren’t in sequence. The player is free to replay each level if desired (this is useful in case you discover more clues for a level that make it easier to beat).

Despite the fact that the idea of a revenge story is nothing unique, the use of time and the 5 main targets give a sense of freshness while playing the game. Usually, games are shrouded with good and bad and fighting for the sake of humanity. However, in Sifu, the main character is fighting for the most selfish reason- revenge. This still doesn’t stop the feeling that you’re fighting as the “good guy” though. The sense of satisfaction you get after finishing each level makes you feel one with the character. For example, the frustration you both share towards the boss (but your’s is from the actual fight).

Moreover, the use of time in Sifu is a factor that sets it apart from other games in the market. Just like in other beat ‘em ups, after dying, you’re allowed to respawn right from where you left off. However, here you age a year each time you die. This is important as although your experience increases, you become weaker and have less total health. If you (somehow) manage to die enough times to reach the age of 70, respawning will no longer be available.

Closing Thoughts

Sifu is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Everyone who plays experiences lots of frustration due to the difficulty of the game. Regardless of your past gaming experiences, struggling is inevitable to get the hang of the game: but once you do it is very rewarding to beat the enemies up with the water-like flow of attacks. The uniqueness to how the player loses in the game, the special use of the environment, and the other factors explained before on how the game differs from others in its genre are what add up to make such a successful and addictive game.

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