One thing Sifu doesn’t do very often is explain its systems. You can find the rough answers to most questions if you hover over the icons on the bottom left of the Board screen, but that’s about it. As an example, I had played a good six hours before I knew you could permanently unlock Skills. I’d been taking them every mission, one at a time, not realising that there was a Permanent Unlock option.
You use XP to unlock skills and can either do it at jade cobra Shrines, or after you’ve been downed before you choose to rise again. Once you unlock a skill once in a run, you’ll have the option to unlock it permanently by spending XP on it 5 more times. For some Skills this is super costly, but for others it’s not as harsh.
It doesn’t reset this progress, either. Even if you lose, it will retain your unlock count – but you’ll always need to unlock the Skill once before you can start working towards the permanent unlock. So if it says Permanent Unlock x3 because you’ve already done it in a previous run twice, you’ll still need to unlock it 4 times in total.
Essentially, this means that grinding is possible. While some skills aren’t completely essential, certain ones definitely are. The Ground Counter and Push Back Skills are a must, as they allow you to keep the upper hand in a fight where you’re outnumbered. But you can also permanently unlock skills like the Focus Sweep, which downs bosses and allows some sneaky ground damage that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
And remember: you don’t have to find a Shrine to unlock skills. Do it between lives if you have the XP banked.
Having trouble with The Botanist boss fight? Check out our handy guide to taking down Sifu’s first wall.
Sifu is available on PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.