Sifu’s an unforgiving game, and it can be tough to make it through even the first level without becoming an old man. In this guide, we’ll go over all of the game’s mechanics, as well as provide some general tips and tricks for not dying all the time. There’s a lot here, so use the table of contents if you’re looking for specific info.
NOTE: We will use Playstation Controller buttons throughout this guide, because a gamepad is unequivocally the best way to play the game (and putting all of the possible input options in would take up too much space).If you’re not using a PS Controller, please use the options menu of the game if you need information on controls.
Level Selection & Navigation
How to Start a New Level
Some players might be confused when they start the game, since there isn’t an obvious level-select screen. You need to walk over to the window and press to choose a level.
Finding Your Way in Sifu
It can sometimes be tricky figuring out which way is forward. When in doubt, follow the white dots — they indicate objects and doors that you can interact with. While sometimes these can lead you back the way you came, the bodies of previously dispatched foes should be your hint that you’re backtracking.
How Death and Age Work
Each time you die in Sifu, a death will be added to your death counter. In the example (see right), the death counter is at 4. Dying at this point would add a death, bringing the death counter to 5. Each time you get up after dying, your current death counter value is added to your age. In this example, dying brings the death counter to 5. Reviving then adds 5 to the player’s current age (45), bringing it to 50.
Additionally, a coin on your pendant will break for every 10 years you age. Each time this happens, you’ll lose some maximum health, and your damage dealt will increase. It’s a fairly small amount of health, and the tradeoff is generally worth it (though of course you’re better off not dying if you can help it). If you’re over 70 years old and you die, you will not be able to come back to life, and will instead have to start the current level over.
Age and Beating a Level
When you beat a level, you unlock the next level, and set your starting age for the new level at whatever age you finished the previous level. For example, if you defeat the boss of the first level at age 42, you’ll have to start the second level at age 42 every time – until you beat the previous boss again at a lower age.
Your Shrine upgrades are maintained between levels — if you die and need to restart a level, you’ll only lose the shrine upgrades you obtained during that level. However, dying will remove all the skills you haven’t permanently unlocked.
There are two ways to remove deaths from your Death Counter: Defeating tough enemies and mini-bosses/bosses, or choosing the relevant upgrade at aShrine.
There are two types of upgrades in Sifu: Shrine upgrades and Skill Tree unlocks.
Shrine upgrades are obtained at Shrines that you can find throughout the levels. These are passive upgrades, and tend to be fairly powerful. You can raise your maximum structure, make weapons last longer, or even reset your death counter. Note that using a Shrine also heals you completely.
The Skill Tree is accessible upon death, at Shrines, and in between missions at the tree in the courtyard. It allows you to spend XP on new abilities. Unlocking an ability once makes it available for the rest of your current run. Once a skill is unlocked, you can then “purchase” it 5 more times to make progress towards unlocking it permanently. Note that you don’t have to do all five unlocks during a single run, but the initial unlock doesn’t count towards the permanent unlock total.
We’ve got a guide that gives some suggestions for useful beginner upgrades if you’d like some ideas — check it out here.
Health and Structure
Health in Sifu is simple — it’s represented by the white bar beneath your death counter. Enemies also have a white health bar. You can regain health by using finishing moves on foes (see below).
Structure represents your ability to defend yourself. Structure is lost when you guard an attack (holding guards), or when taking damage. When your structure bar fills completely, you will be momentarily stunned.
Structure slowly returns while not in combat — you don’t regain structure while sprinting or attacking, but you do regain it while holding guard. You can also regain structure by avoiding attacks if you pick the Structure Regain Shrine upgrade.
Enemies also have structure, and it’s represented by an identical (but smaller) yellow bar. If you break an enemy’s structure before reducing their health to zero, you’ll get a chance to do a finishing move:
Beginning a finishing move will start a long animation, buying you some precious time to recover structure when in a hectic fight, and then healing you once it’s finished.
Blocking, Parrying, Avoiding, & Dodging
There are four ways to avoid damage in Sifu, and they’re all useful in different situations.
Guardingis what happens when you hold the guard button and get hit — you’ll absorb incoming attacks but lose structure while doing so. Some attacks cannot be guarded, including grabs. Guardbreak attacks will do extra damage to your posture if you guard them.
Parrying is accomplished by pressing the guard button the moment an attack strikes you. This will usually prevent structure damage, as well as deal structure damage to your enemy. Additionally, sometimes a parried enemy will be momentarily stunned, and you can throw them with + + .
Avoiding is done by pressing up or down on the movement buttons while holding the guard button. Most attacks are high attacks, and you avoid them by avoiding down — sweeps and a few other low attacks are avoided with guard + up. Avoiding an attack means you don’t take any structure damage, though neither does your enemy.
Dodging is done by pressing the Run button while holding a direction. Dodging does not block or avoid the attack, but instead puts you out of range of it.
In order of preference, you should try to Parry, then Avoid, then Dodge, then Guard. Parrying does structure damage, avoiding lets you counterattack, and dodging avoids all damage. Guarding gives you no benefit (but it’s still better than taking damage). Note that depending on the attack, one response may be preferred despite it not usually being the optimal choice.
Guardbreaks & Grabs
Enemies will sometimes do “unblockable” Guardbreak attacks. These do massive structure damage if blocked, and still do decent structure damage if you parry them. Avoiding them is usually best, but despite what the in-game tooltips say, you can parry most of these. The only unblockable, unparriable moves are Grabs, which must be avoided. Fortunately, only Juggernaut-type enemies and one boss use grabs. Guardbreak attacks are indicated by the opponent’s attacking limb glowing orange. Grabs are indicated by orange circles.
Parrying or dealing damage fills your Focus meter. Once you have at least one full bar, you can hold , then use to select a Focus Attack and press to use it. Time slows significantly while in the Focus menu, but it doesn’t stop entirely, so don’t spend all day picking your move. You start the game with only one Focus attack, and only one focus bar — you can gain focus bars with Shrine Upgrades, and unlock more Focus Attacks in the Skill Tree.
A blue streak flashes across your screen when you fill your focus bar
Combat Tips & Tricks
There’s a back-and-forth rythm to fighting enemies. After you’ve attacked them a few times, they’ll usually start blocking/avoiding your attacks — at this point, it’s your turn to go on the defensive. Attack again once you’ve parried or avoided their attack or combo.
You can attack enemies who are on the ground by holding . Attacking a downed enemy is a great way to regain structure while safe from enemy attack.
You can throw stunned enemies with ( + ). Enemies are stunned by some parries — throwing enemies into obstacles will stun them further and do good structure damage.
Learning to parry early is essential to success — it lets you ensure you can heal on enemies (instead of killing them), and it makes the later bosses much easier.
Use the environmental weapons effectively — if you throw or kick something at a ready enemy, they can dodge it. If you wait until they begin an attack, you’ll almost always hit them.
You can throw the weapon you’re holding with .
Every level has at least one shortcut that is unlocked by beating a miniboss — keep an eye out for locked doors, and always try to figure out where the keys you find are used.
We hope this guide was helpful! If you have questions, suggestions, or need some specific help, just drop us a line in the comments below.
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Unabashed FromSoftware fanboy still learning to take his time with games (and everything else, really). The time he doesn't spend on games is spent on music, books, or occasionally going outside.