He’s finally here, second title of Sloclap. Acting as a newcomer to the video game industry with only one game to his credit -Absolver-, the French studio has embarked on a brand new project which is even more ambitious, this time putting you in the shoes of a master in Kung-fu. And as you might expect, Sifu is not to be put in all hands, as the challenge is full-bodied.
Suffice to say that he was eagerly awaited here at the editorial office and that we were eager to put our hands on the beast. Hyped to death by a refreshing concept, I threw myself into the adventure, ready to do battle and accomplish this vengeful quest by slaying five antagonists who participated in the assassination of your master.
An endless day…
As you may have read in our columns, Sifu takes advantage of an original concept focused on the aging of your character -male or female, as desired-, and if it may seem trivial, this idea is found at the heart of its game design. Each death, each error, will have a price directly influencing the smooth running of your progress.
It works very simply. Our inveterate fighter is equipped with a 5-piece necklace that allows him to come back to life, knowing that you break one every 10 years. When they are all broken it is the end. At first, a death costs you a year of life, which you can try to recover by killing your executioner. Conversely, at each additional failure the counter increases and your age all the more.
It’s not an easy task, since you can end up taking six years in the gums with each failure. Our hero not being eternal, if we are not careful we quickly find ourselves grandfather, or even dead of old age before having reached the boss of the first level…
In addition to your physical appearance, which is gradually changing to look like a resident of an EHPAD, your age also influences other factors. For example, being young will give you more vitality, while being old will give you extra power. In addition, your technique learning curve is also impacted, because some only unlock when you’re young.
Each death, each error, will have a price directly influencing the smooth running of your progress.
“But how to rejuvenate?” you will ask me. Because yes, inevitably, it can be problematic to be 60 years old at the first level when there are 4 left to go. Do not panic, the youngest age at which you started a level is automatically recorded. So just redo the ones that interest you, and why not all of the ones you’ve covered, to come back even younger and more spirited than during your previous run. This in order to farm xp to unlock new combos and optimize your bonuses. There is a whole panel: increase the lifespan of weapons, improve the restoration of his health after an elimination, reset his death counter to zero… Inevitably, on the other hand, there will be a disadvantage: you will in fact lose your xp, your bonuses acquired along the way -thanks to shrines scattered here and there in the levels-, but also your skills -combos and special moves-, except those you have permanently unlockedwith a good dose of experience spent in shrines, or with each death.
The game borrows the purest mechanics of a rogue-lite one of the key components of which is also your progression curve. And for once you will have the “time” to practice it.
A clever mix of pleasure and pain…
We are not going to teach you, even if you are not Ip Man or Bruce Lee, Kung-fu is an art. In this we can congratulate Sloclap who did a real job to honor him, in particular thanks to the performances of Benjamin ColussiMaster in this discipline having offered his skills for the motion capture. The result is impressive, with ultra-fidelity and realistic animations that never fail during transitions.
Strangely, the combat system is reminiscent of Sekiro Shadow Die Twiceborrowing from this one a bar for health and another for posture.
In short, to overcome an enemy you will have two solutions: the strong method to start his life bar -but it is not recommended-, or the skill by trying to break his posture. To do this, you will have to use the classic attacks -powerful blows, weak blows, combos, special attacks-, the elements of the environment that you can throw, but also parry, riposte and dodge mechanics. These are the ones that will require the most patience and practice, since to adopt the right timing, you will first need tame the patterns of all your enemies to use the appropriate solution. And that’s no small feat, since the panel of adversaries is quite varied. Between bosses, semi-bosses and slightly more common enemies, who are however not devoid of different techniques, and even more so when they are armed with sticks or knives. In short, you will understand, there is plenty to do.
We get fight scenes worthy of the best Hong Kong films.
Unlike a lot of software, they are not the type to be polite and do not hesitate to come in excess, to surround you, even to hit you with several the same time.
This is why, in addition to adopting the right sequences, it is also important to be mobile to keep an advantage over your opponents. Moreover, the environment will help you with a multitude of furniture that you can step over. Once all these elements are superimposed and adopting the right rhythm, we get fight scenes worthy of the best Hong Kong films. Tight shots and punchy visual effects deliver an exhilarating combat feeling barely marred by sometimes hazardous placements of the camera, especially against walls. The cinematic scenes are not to be outdone by offering some plans that sweat the classwell helped by a grain and an absolutely irreproachable artistic touch. The title also relies on the haptic feedback of the DualSenseoffering us some nice effects that accentuate the work on immersion.
An inspired artistic direction, a neat sound design
The artistic direction comes to support the whole by offering a rich and colorful universe giving its little “hand-painted” effect. The levels traversed adopt each a fairly distinct style in terms of colors and architecture, not hesitating to marry the traditional and the modern, even tinting it with a hint of the supernatural. The enemies meanwhile are sometimes slightly recycled and are just content to change skin with one or two rare exceptions.
Everything is enhanced by a contemporary/electro soundtrack composed by Howie Lee which blends in perfectly with the whole. Note that the game is played entirely in VOSTFR and that a dubbing in Chinese, to stick as closely as possible to the universe depicted, is already planned.
The lifespan, specific to each, takes into account your skill but above all… your perseverance.
The level design meanwhile comes in a fairly ordinary form. The levels are very partitioned, offering sequences of corridors and combat arenasbut also sometimes some hidden shortcutsvery useful not to retype everything, and sometimes concealing a handful of items to collect to expand the lore or characters who sometimes offer a few lines of dialogue without consequence on the narration. And of course, at the conclusion of these, a boss. We also feel that the studio has really worked to offer us confrontations as diverse as they are variedboth in terms of design and combat, each adopting a very particular style and weapon.
Every time you complete one, you will come back to Wuguan -your landmark- which also acts as Central hub by allowing you, among other things, to select your next level, consult the investigation board – which brings together all the collected elements -, acquire new skills and train. This last point is of little interest because you don’t have the option of choosing the enemy you want to face to do your scales.
As for the lifespan, it will be specific to each one, taking into account your skill, your degree of adaptation, your determination and above all… your perseverance. Sifu is far from a walk in the parkunless you are “PGM of the first try”. The levels are not very long and sometimes even frankly short, especially if you use the hidden passages. Taking into account all these parameters, it can easily oscillate between 8 and 20 hours of play, or even, why not, a little more.