Prison Architect is the most intense tycoon simulator you can play on PC. It touches on a subject that has never been seen in a game until now. Prison Architect places you in control of your very own prison. Not only do you have to develop and manage a prison, but the inmates as well.
Prison Architect is unlike any simulator you have ever played before. It’s so deeply involving, you can design your prison starting with the most simplistic of details. You are only limited by your imagination; if you can dream it up, you can design it.
There are many different ways to tackle your prison. The game starts by giving you the option to play in either a small, medium or large environment. The small environment is recommended for beginners; this will help the player understand the main concept of the game and what should and shouldn’t be done. The game can feel rather overwhelming in the beginning since you are given a blank canvas to develop your own prison, but there is a tutorial system that guides you through the basics to help you understand the building mechanics.
Prison Architect is a brilliant simulation that is realistic and very involving. Not only do you have to worry about prisoners, but you must also have to manage your staff as well. This involves staffing your prison with enough guards, janitors, doctors and even workers to help keep your prison running efficiently. It’s not as simple as building a few rooms and thinking you have a prison. There are countless ways to design your prison, and technically there is no right or wrong way to do it.
Prison Architect is basically an open sandbox concept that plays similar to games such as Dwarf Fortress, Towns and Gnomoria in that you can design, develop and mold the game anyway you see fit.
The game plays a lot like other simulations in the genre where you control the camera from a top-down perspective. You begin building your prison by selecting the Foundations option from the bottom menu. From there you can click anywhere on the playfield and then click and drag to design.
You can also control time during the designing process. This is achieved by using the pause (stop time), fast-forward or continue features. Pausing the gameplay is important because there’s no way you could ever micromanage your workers, officers and prisoners without it.
When you’re done giving your workers their orders, you can unpause the gameplay and carry on with your other important duties. There is another way to draft up new plans without pausing the gameplay. There is a feature called ‘Planning’ which allows the player to draft up new ideas on the current playfield in real-time without ordering any workers to do it.
What happens when you design in real-time is that your workers can grow tired; this causes work to back up. Every time you design a room or place objects within the environment, a work order gets issued for that change or design. If you happen to not like an addition that was added to your design, you can instruct your workers to dismantle or even demolish it, but this will cause an additional work order to be issued.
This is why it’s wise to either pause the game or take advantage of the planning option when making changes or designing something new. The planning feature can save valuable time and resources. You can sink countless hours into developing your prison.
The construction system is so extensive that you even have to design your own electricity and plumbing system whenever you add a new shower, toilet or anything else that requires water or electricity. Things can get complicated rather quickly, but that’s half the fun.
One feature that really makes your job easier is the “to-do” list. The “to-do” list is the equivalent of a quest log or journal from a role-playing game. This list contains simple tasks or quests that must be completed. In the beginning, it can be rather difficult to complete these tasks since funding is minimal for a new prison.
This is where the grant system comes into play. You can ask for grants from the State, which will then give you extra capital, but it requires the player to do certain tasks such as building a recreational yard, infirmary (hospital) or hiring different personnel to work within the prison. As your prison grows in size, you will unlock different personnel who can perform different tasks.
There are about nineteen different personnel you can unlock. Keeping in mind that Prison Architect is still in the alpha stage, there is still plenty of content that needs to be added by the developer. You can locate the different personnel by navigating to the Bureaucracy menu located in the bottom task bar. All of the personnel located in the Bureaucracy menu come with their own set of requirements that must be met before they can be unlocked.
The Bureaucracy menu is one big talent tree like the ones found in role-playing games; it contains different tiers and levels. The Bureaucracy menu unlocks new content as you level along with the growth of your prison. The amount of time that goes into micromanaging your workers, officers and prisoners is staggering. You can play Prison Architect multiple times and never get the same results twice.
It’s simple to control your officers, especially if you are familiar with RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games. Some units, like workers, don’t need any input from the player to do their jobs. All that is required is a work order; the workers will fulfill the request on their own. The officers (i.e. prison guards) work in the same fashion; you can issue them orders on the fly. By clicking and dragging a box over your officers, you can select multiple units at the same time. You can then select a section on the map to issue a ‘move’ command.
Your officers can also perform other tasks, including random prisoner searches. This feature is essential; you never know when a prisoner might have contraband hidden on their person. Adding metal detectors at key locations inside the prison can help reduce prisoner contraband from being smuggled from the cafeteria area.
Prison Architect is extremely realistic in this regard. The prisoners will exploit any opportunity possible to steal contraband and use it for their benefit. It’s possible to rule your prison with an iron fist (which isn’t a bad thing), but placing too much pressure on your prisoners may upset them. Your actions can easily start a full-scale riot. You can lose control of the situation rather quickly, so it’s always important to be on your guard (no pun intended).
Thanks to a recent update, you can share your prisons with other gamers on the Steam Workshop. This has allowed creativity to flourish in the Steam Community and it is easily accessible through the Prison Architect client. This is a great idea; it allows gamers to experiment with already finished prisons without having to design your own.
Even though building a prison is half the fun, you can still enjoy the game by using ready-made player designs. Plus, seeing different designs will help you build your own prison. And before you know it, you’ll be sharing your own creations on the Steam Workshop.
While still in the alpha stages of development, Prison Architect is available through Steam’s Early Access section. This means you can purchase Prison Architect now during the development stages. This not only gives you early access to the game, but it allows you to voice constructive feedback on the game so the developer can deliver a polished product. Who knows? Some of your ideas might even make it into the final release.
There is so much content that it’s impossible to cover it all in a single review. Prison Architect is a fantastic simulation; it allows your imagination to run free. It’s the type of game where if you can dream it up, you can build it.
James ‘Daripp3r’ Pittaro
PC System Requirements
Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 2.4Ghz or Higher / AMD 3Ghz or Higher
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia 8600 / Radeon equivalent (2009 era)
Hard Drive: 100 MB HD space
Developer: Introversion Software
|The graphics may not appear it at first, but they’re actually quite detailed.|
|Authentic sounds that you would expect hear inside a prison environment|
|The gameplay will keep you busy for hours.|
|Prison Architect is a unique experience; it takes you where no other game in the genre has.|