Prison Architect (Preview)
I played “Prison Tycoon” years ago and really, really tried to like it. I followed the series for a while and the reviews of following sequels weren’t promising, so I chalked that up to yet another sim-subgenre that I’d never have a chance to love. Then along came “Prison Architect”, which (as of 11/8/12) is still in the Alpha stage. Will Morris from Introversion Software was kind enough to send me a copy, which I will share via a preview with you today. Like all Alphas, Betas, and previews, the features and mechanics that you may see or read about in this article are subject to change.
Currently, the game features an introductory level, a sandbox mode which is under the “new prison” option, and a link to a wiki page which is accessible if you are signed up and registered with Introversion Software. A PDF came with my download that instructed me on how to do this as I had to sign up / register in a few different places. You’ll also be able to load saved games from this menu. For a game that is in the Alpha stage, it functions very well so far and I didn’t have any technical hiccups in regards to navigating the menus. The quick start guide on the wiki page was also extremely helpful in getting me up to speed.
“Prison Architect” is more than just watching a bunch of NPCs walking around, interacting with each other and the environment. You’ll need electricity, water, staff, and some sort of functional building design to make it all come together. If you want your facilities to work, you’ll have to lay pipes for water flow and cables for electricity. Before you ask, yes…these pipes and cables must connect to the object or building in question. That level of detail in simulators has diminished over these past years and it’s refreshing to see that you’re forced to nitpick over small details. As realistic (and sometimes difficult) as the game’s mechanics are, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction when you see things running like a well-oiled machine.
The introductory level introduces you to the process of building a foundation, assigning rooms, placing objects, and more. Normally I skip levels like this, but I quickly found myself blundering around the new prison / sandbox mode not knowing what the heck I was doing. I eventually had to admit that I didn’t know how to build an entrance and couldn’t figure out why the foundations weren’t being completely built. Once I got past the learning curve and figured out how things worked, the sandbox mode was a lot more fun to play.
The “new prison” option is where the real fun begins, giving you a blank slate, a little bit of cash, and some construction workers. From there, you’ll be free to create the prison how you want, but in a way that won’t cause you to go bankrupt. You can set the game to allow criminals to automatically arrive on a reoccurring basis or limit your arrivals based on how much space you actually have. The former will force you to grow your prison quickly while the latter gives you a bit more leeway.
Once you get everything working the way you want it to, you’ll have to ensure that your prisoners’ needs are met. Despite my best efforts to provide for them, they still seemed hellbent in beating the tar out of each other, as if it was a Fight Club free-for-all twenty-four hours a day. I’m still rather new to the game, so I’m sure I could have done things better to prevent this from happening. I put a shower head in the cell block and one drain underneath, for example, and somehow the room got flooded with water when the inmate went to take a shower. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t compelled me to keep going and find the most efficient way of coming out on top. I suspect that this is the main reason we play simulators in the first place.
There is a limited “tech tree” of sorts under the bureaucracy menu, which gives you access to services you don’t start out with in the beginning. Just as an example, one of my inmates was injured in a scuffle with a guard and I didn’t know how to heal him. For a fee, I was able to unlock the ability to provide medical services to my prison.
Those seeking instant gratification won’t find their fix playing this game. There is no, “Build Prison” button and to be honest, those who aren’t willing to take the time to learn simulators are playing the wrong genre anyway. “Prison Architect” is no different in that regard and those of you willing to stick with it will find it to be a pretty fun diversion. I’m anxious to see how the game will progress over these next few months as features are added and bugs worked out. Time permitting, I’ll keep you all updated on new features and release dates as they are implemented.
You can learn more about “Prison Architect” and join the Alpha by visiting the following website: