When Sifu first launched in February, its steep difficulty curve wasn’t necessarily criticized, but it was enough to put off many potential players. In fact, even if you take a look at our review, which was posted before launch, the comments section is full of people wondering if they’d be willing to spend time on what can be such a demanding game.
As we all know, the conversation surrounding difficulty in video games breaks out regularly, usually sparked by the arrival of a particularly challenging title like Elden Ring. We’re not here trying to add to that debate, but we do want to highlight just how good Sifu’s latest update is. Patch 1009 (released May 3, 2022) adds two difficulty levels to the brawler: Student (easy) and Master (hard).
Some might argue that Sifu is falling short by including an easier difficulty level months after launch, but we think developer SloClap has done a fantastic job of implementing something that makes the game more accessible on a fundamental level, without really damage the title. ability to challenge the player.
In fact, Sifu’s Student mode is a fantastic way to learn the game. On his normal difficulty, Sifu is fair but very ruthless. The title’s aging mechanic means that multiple kills in quick succession can propel you to an ending very, very quickly. Obstacles in the form of especially tricky encounters or boss battles can be a common occurrence, and there isn’t much room for moment-to-moment adaptation. Most of the time, you’ll be forced to repeat the same levels over and over again until you get the hang of things – that’s how Sifu is designed.
But Student Mode reduces Sifu’s ruthless nature to a point where it feels like you can learn the nuances of his combat system without enduring repetition. For starters, the aging mechanic is significantly toned down. Each kill ages your character by a year, never more, and this alone is enough to make Sifu seem relatively welcoming. Combine that with a larger player health bar, as well as less aggressive enemies, and it’s now possible for newcomers to progress through at least a couple of Sifu levels before the dreaded endgame hits.
That’s the thing, though: student mode doesn’t make Sifu a walk in the park. You still have to understand and use the game’s systems if you want to be successful; it is easier more than easy. But if he bounced off Sifu after a vicious butt kick and just never felt the need to go back, this upgrade shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a great way to make the experience easier for you.
And then there’s Master mode, which, based on our time with it, is a borderline nightmare – in a good way, of course. If you’re the type of player who memorized every boss combo and can blast through Sifu without breaking a sweat, then Master Mode has your name. While we do not believe it provides a enormous increases in overall difficulty, its clever use of remixed enemy combos, and relentless AI brings a whole new challenge to the table.
In many ways, Master mode will make you relearn Sifu, and that’s probably what a lot of expert players want. SloClap effectively added a revamped campaign to its game, and for free, no less.
So there you have it: Sifu’s difficulty update is a really good one and proves that with the right kind of implementation, difficult games don’t have to sacrifice their identity to broaden their appeal. Again, if Sifu didn’t quite sell you, or you were put off by all the talk about his difficulty, then this might be the time to strike.
Have you given Sifu a chance since this update? Remember to keep your workout going in the comments section below.