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‘Prison Architect’ Indie Game Review

‘Prison Architect’ Indie Game Review


Genre: Indie, Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Introversion Software
Publisher: Introversion Software
Release Date: 6 Oct, 2015
Mode: Single Player


Indie Developer Introversion Software puts together a crowd-funded prison construction and management simulation that sold over a million copies in pre-order. A top-down 2D construction game where players take control of creating and running every aspect of a new prison system, from all the finances to hiring and distributing staff and keeping the inmates content.

There was a long time where it seemed Prison Architect, this gem from indie developers Introversion was never going to get out of early access. The game ran fine, there weren’t any bugs (that I noticed), but the team was dedicated to adding as many features as possible. A few months back it finally came out of early access and even though I had already clocked up over 200 hours, I was ecstatic. And they are still adding content – for free – which is what good developers do.

Introversion were arguably the pioneers of indie gaming as we know it today, with games like DEFCON and Darwinia, among others. This though is a big departure, and they have spent a lot of time and love honing this game.

Prison Architect

Now let me honest for a second: I hate tycoon games. Rollercoaster, Sims, all those sorta games are not my thing at all. Perhaps hate is a strong word but I have never liked them, have never played them, they just bore me quickly. This though is a different game to its cousins. The level of management you have control over is incredible; for example, you can hire a lawyer to rig the laws so the minimum size for an inmate’s cell can be only one tile big. Which isn’t much. A good way to annoy your prisoners!

Building the prison itself can be difficult, unless using mods to add extra cash. You need to plan it out, while being careful not to build too much before your inmates begin to arrive. The inmates are your source of income, so to cater to them you need to gradually expand the prison to hold more prisoners. I usually expand at night when they are all sleeping and can’t just bolt and escape as I’m rebuilding the outer wall.

There are almost too many features to cover, but we’ll run down some of them, just to give you an idea of the insane levels of detail that has gone into this game. Once you have your prisoners settled, you’ll have already hired a warden. Now the best thing about this game is you can approach it however you want. Just have a look at the steam community for this game, it boggles belief how some of these people built those prisons.

You could be a nice warden, have a nice big infirmary, common room, and classes for drug abuse and anger management. You can let them have visitation rights, you can build a mosque. You can hire gardeners and janitors to keep the place clean.

Prison Architect

But, that could lead to excessive contraband floating around your prison, meaning you’ll need sniffer-dogs or a full prison shakedown to remove the contraband. Contraband is my one niggle with this game – it doesn’t seem to matter where you place metal detectors and locked doors, contraband always seems rife. Perhaps these are the repercussions of running a prison so softly. You could have shakedowns daily and sniffer-dogs and armed guards roaming around. Or a healthy mix – there are so many ways you can not only run, but of course design, your jail.

You could move a little to the side of evil, and give the inmates no free-time in the yards at all. You can have marksmen watching the perimeters while guards with sniffer-dogs roam around – you can put them on a patrol that they will follow, or you can let them be. There is an almost overwhelming amount of options at first, but soon you’ll be running prisons the way you want to.

As I said I can’t stand this genre but this game has won me over. There is simply so much to do, so many ways to go about running a prison, it is almost the perfect game. My only complaint is that the budget is quite weak to begin with, but that can easily be fixed with a mod. That and the contraband, it seems impossible to keep massive amounts out. But other than that, I love it. I love Introversion, and this is by far their best game yet.

Visit Jordan at his review site here.

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One Response

  1. the Well-Red Mage April 9, 2016