Ever watch TV shows like Oz, Prison Break or Orange is the New Black and want to run your own prison? Now is your chance! Prison Architect is a simple, fun, top down, real time strategy, management, building game with a lot of depth yet it is so easy to pick up and play. While it is still ‘Early access,’ it feels complete and polished.
Prison Architect is not like the Sims. You are just building a prison. Everything is not instantly done when you place it. You have workers that take time to go through your prison to carry out what you want. Not just that, but the trucks with the items need to arrive. It is a really nice system and the workers are fast and efficient enough to quickly carry out things. Your workers can die and if things aren’t getting done quick enough, hire more workers. Every staff costs X amount to hire them, and Y amount to keep them employed every day. You have funds and a daily budget. Your daily budget cannot be in the red, that becomes the limitation and challenge of the game.
Since this is a prison, every 24 hours new inmates arrive. You need to get ready for them. So you build walls, a holding cell, dozens of private cells, a shower, a yard, a kitchen and a canteen. Then you hire staff and place objects into each room to make them functional. Objects such as beds, benches, tables, kitchen cookers, freezers, a wide sofa for your staff room, desks for your offices and of course a variety of doors. Jail doors, large jail doors, staff doors, solitary confinement doors. These are all objects. Only guards can open jail doors so if one of your worker / laborers needs to get through they need to wait for a guard to let them through.
When you start a game, you can select different things to make your game different, such as having randomly generated empty rooms and landscape. You can select whether or not to have 8 normal prisoners per day or a random number of maximum, minimum or normal security prisoners. This adds a lot of variety to each time you start a new game.
The game lets you do whatever you want, but as a guide, it gives you optional objectives. You can only do 2 objectives at once. That’s the beauty of this game, you pick the objectives whenever you want at any time. You’re not pigeon holed into a scenario. When you select an objective you will receive a money grant to carry out the objective. There is no time limit. There is just a money limit. Run out of money doing a project and you’ll be stuck waiting until your funds build back up. For the most part you are given more than enough money and once you’re done with the objective you get the other half of the money. The objectives have a list of mini objectives that benefit and grow your prison. Everything to build a cell block that can hold 15 prisoners to all the steps needed to have a functional medical ward, which involve offices, doctors, an intermarry and a psychiatrist that need to be unlocked in bureaucracy.
Once you hire a warden, he will open up bureaucracy, which is the game’s version of unlocks. You can unlock a slew of new personnel such as a security chief that can unlock cameras, an armory and other things. You can even unlock an accountant that leads to land purchases for when you outgrow your plot of land. These are all nice touches that really let the game feel like your own.
Since you are an architect, you need to lay out pipes and wires. Not just that, but you need to place water pumps, generators and conduits. Every room needs to have wires to it, big items such as freezers and monitors need wires directly to them. If you use too much power for your generator and conduits, it’ll result in a power outage and then chaos happens. When it comes to toilets and showers, you have small pipes and large pipes, small pipes lose pressure the further they go, so you need to have large pipes, but the catch is inmates can use large pipes to crawl in and escape. So never have large pipes near inmates. There are other ways inmates can escape, such as tunneling, walking out if they break a door lock and go over an unattended wall.
The game has emergency services so if you get uncontrollable riots, you can send in an emergency swat team and tell them where to go. If you have a fire, then call for the fire department and you’ll see their hoses strung through your prison. EMTs can also be called in, but for the most part your medical ward / infirmary should handle things.
You have a lot of control over the prisoners including their schedule, how much free time they have, when the have it, when they eat and when they shower. It is helpful for big prisons that have small facilities, you can have the minimum security prisoners eat when the maximums are showering and when the normal prisoners are in the yard. You can unlock restricting certain levels of prisoners to certain areas. On top of that you can even sell and buy stock from your prison.
There is also a lot of unintentional comedy such as a K9 patrol using a broken toilet, workers getting cemented into walls, inmates killing guards with spoons, and of course the names of inmates and why they’re in prison. On top of that there are mods and prison downloads, the game is really about having your fun the way you want to have it.
In all the game is probably worth $30 and I rarely say that, but its been on sale plenty of times. You can sink a lot of time into the game and enjoy every second of it.