Sifu looks pretty neat: a singleplayer brawler that’s focused entirely on one fighting style, Pak Mei Kung Fu, with consultation from one of the school’s masters. It was announced earlier this year with a late 2021 release window, but a new trailer shown on Sony’s State of Play stream today has pushed it back to early 2022.
Also pushed in the trailer: a guy, down some stairs, and another guy, off a balcony.
The main reason I’m curious about Sifu, aside from the cool trailers, is that it comes from Sloclap. The developer’s previous game, Absolver, is a favorite of mine: an unusual, very good multiplayer-focused fighting game with quite a high skill ceiling. It feels clear that this game is going to be distinctive, too, whether or not it’s as successfully designed as that one.
The new trailer focuses on one of Sifu’s more peculiar features: Every time you “die,” you respawn immediately, but the main character gets older. When I interviewed him after Sifu was announced, executive producer Pierre Tarno explained that you don’t get weaker as you age. Rather, you get stronger, becoming an old kung fu master. However, “there is a limit to how much you can age,” Tarno said at the Future Games Show last month. That is reiterated in a new blog post, in which community manager Felix Garczynski says that “eventually you will become too old and have to start your path again.” Presumably, that means restarting the game from the beginning.
I feel like there’s more to learn about that, and I still want to see what the controller inputs look like during these fights. There are some complicated holds and combos in the trailers—but how do you execute those? From Sloclap, I wouldn’t expect complicated inputs to be the focus. Based on my experience with Absolver, I expect attack selection and timing, positioning, and stamina management to have primacy, but I don’t really know.
However the fighting works, I expect it to be a challenge. Tarno suggested to me that “mastery through practice,” the meaning of “kung fu” itself, is the theme of the game, and that has been restated today. I have high hopes, and the slight release window shift is not unexpected. From talking to Sloclap, the fall 2021 date felt a bit uncertain when it was announced.
According to Garczynski’s blog post, adapting to Covid-19 regulations slowed things down a little more than expected. “Remote working has its advantages,” he wrote, “but losing daily informal interactions between team members can also be hard to manage.” You can read the full post here.