Any fan of the Prison Tycoon games knows that running and designing a prison is not easy. I know because I’ve had my share of frustrations with Prison Tycoon 3. Probably the most difficult thing about PT3 was the managemtn part, as inevitably I’d run out of funding and therefore had little else to do other than watching until my little world fell to pieces. Then, while browsing around on Steam, I discovered a new gem from a studio I’ve played titles from before. The newest game from Introversion Software (makers of DEFCON: Everybody Dies, Uplink, and Darwinia) is Prison Architect, a new prison management simulator where you can design your own prison, right down to the size of the rooms and control exactly how many inmates you want to take in. Prison Tycoon simply kept feeding you prisoners from time to time, but here in Prison Architect, you have the final say on how many prisoners you want and how high of a security threat you want them (the grey-suited minimum security, classic orange medium security, red-orange maximum security, and black-clad Death Row). However, unlike in the Tycoon series, this game has a limited supply of inmates (I’m still waiting on just one Death Row inmate to be available because I have the room ready and all).
The latest alpha update also brought on new changes. For example, you have the option of having gangs in your prison. If a sufficient number of inmates in a particular gang gather, they can and will take over certain parts of the prison if you don’t have enough guards to cover those areas. Thankfully, I only have one gang-banger thus far so it hasn’t come to that quite yet. Other inmates pose danger as well. Sometimes you’ll get prisoners that have certain characteristics that play well within the game’s mechanics. For example, if an inmate is “stoical,” he won’t become suppressed whenever he gets locked into solitary confinement. “Ex law” prisoners will be far more likely to be targeted by the other inmates, while “cop killers” will be more likely to be attacked by your own guards, so you’ll need to keep an eye on them. There is also the option to add fog of war, where you can’t see the interior of your rooms unless you invest in CCTV (prison cameras) or posting guards in the rooms (I suggest the former; it’s far easier than spending money on more guards).
I won’t reveal too much because the Early Access phase is ending very soon, but next week, the game will add a brand new feature: Escape Mode. This puts you into the jumpsuit of an inmate whose sole purpose is to escape from the prison by any means possible. Think The Escapists to a more radical extreme. This game mode, along with the full release, comes out on October 6th. Prison Architect runs for $29.99 on Steam.
Preview Advice: Bask In It
— More in-depth than Prison Tycoon | — Escape Mode more extreme than The Escapists | — Prison design is completely in your hands, right down to room size | — Fog of war and gangs add complexity to game experience