Prison Architect was on the market for quite some time now. Only in “Early Access” though. Still, the game already worked surprisingly almost flawless and the content was enough to buy this game, even without the promise of future updates. Now, we finally have version 1.0, so the game is out of “Early Access”. With this comes a big update, bringing new features and content such as a new gamemode. Reason enough to test this game as a whole, so this is not just about what is new.
Prison Architect makes you the CEO of your own prison. Well, your prison-in-progress. Because all you get at first is a place to build and a few workers. So, what does a prison need? Prisoners, indeed. So you start by building a cell. You create walls around it, a door and done. Not that simple, but actually very easy. You can build any structure you want, no templates of every room just placed into the world. The thing is, you mark every room with a purpose. For example the cell: You create a small room (or a giant hall, if you want your prisoners to live in luxury) and name it as a “Cell”, so your guards will know where to put your prisoners. But every room needs special objects to “work”. If you name an empty room “Cell”, you can see what is still missing. A Cell needs to be at least 3X2m with a cell door, a bed and a toilet. This is necessary for the room anything else is up to you. An extra TV maybe?
With this system you increase your prison with more cells. But after at least the second cell you realise that you need a lot more things for your prison. What about guards, showers and a cantine for your prisoners? A yard for some free time. Cleaning staff. And that’s just the basics. Later in the game you can have better security, workplaces for your prisoners, a common room to watch TV or play pool, etc. After some time the game will challenge you with a lot of micromanagement. You can decide, when the prisoners will work, eat, sleep or work. Less sleep of course will make the prisoners unhappy. And unhappy prisoners a likely to riot …
While a small fistfight in the cantine can be handled easily by a few guards, a riot in your whole prison can destroy everything. They will tear down the fences, destroy the rooms and hurt and even kill your staff and each other. If you let it happen, everyone could be dead within minutes. If your guards are not enough you can call emergency units like doctors, firefighters or special forces. But even though it’s sad, that your prison and all your work are being destroyed, bringing a riot under controll is also very challenging and fun to play.
If that’s too much for the start, there is now a campaign in the game, showing all the features step by step. Plus (otherwise it would be a tutorial) those levels come with a small but interesting story around it. The campaign has three levels, all of the focussing on another gameplay-aspect with another story. If you think 5 levels is not much don’t worry, you can spend a lot of time with each level. I would suggest playing the campaign first, even if you are familiar with the gameplay, because the story and levels are cool and detailed designed.
After finishing the campaign you can switch to your own prison and build the world’s largest prison ever. Taking the challenge of managing hundreds of inmates, guards and other staff with lots of special rooms, fulfilling every wish and need of everyone in there. When you are done with that you can watch your prisoners living in there and read all their names and why there are in the prison, because every prisoner has a profile. And the developers obviously had fun creating those.