I’ve been a big fan of Prison Architect for a while. Currently in Alpha 33, there’s plenty more the small but dedicated team of developers have planned.
The first thing from my 20mins to note is how fantastically quick Prison Architect loads up. It took me just 20 seconds to load into the game and into my prison.
Fort Solitude awaited me. I’ve spent somewhere in the region of 40 hours on Fort Solitude (a lovely ironic name, as it’s anything but a place of solitude!) in total and it’s a fully functioning prison of over 500 prisoners. I have the failure conditions set off as well, so the entire prison can be murdered and I won’t get fired – and I have unlimited cash. Not that I’m hoping that’ll happen of course! It’s kinda like cheating, but I find it fun to just play my prison how I fancy without the added challenge of not getting fired and affording it. If that’s your kind of thing, the game gives you that option as well.
Anyway! My 20mins began and my first task was to upgrade my showers. I had a giant communal block that all prisoners used. It was an extended version of the one I originally built, and it just wasn’t fit for service anymore. It was also the usual place that inter-prisoner killings happened – so it was time for a change.
I have 6 separate cell blocks – 2 max sec, 2 normal sec and 2 min sec. I also have two isolated units for Super Max and Protected Custody, which already had their own internal showers. Each of the 6 major blocks got an extension built on of dedicated showers with plenty of guard/CCTV coverage. My main remaining challenge is the tiny canteen I built in a boxed-in area at the start of my prison, but I’m hoping the space I’ve left from the old shower block will allow me to expand that. I can see in the future I might end up outsourcing the canteens to each cell block, but I prefer them central for now so that I can pool security resources to keep them safe.
My next challenge was Death Row. Without wanting to make a social statement, I don’t agree with Capital Punishment, but when they added it into the game a few builds back I wanted to see how it worked. I built a unit for one Death Row prisoner to trial it, and I did just that. They did a good job of making an execution a big event in the prison, I’m impressed and horrified in equal measure. I did that and then demolished that unit – to be replaced, slightly ironically, by a second parole hearing room. This was when the game decided to tell me that evidence had been unearthed to show that the executed prisoner was, in fact, innocent. Way to make me feel even worse game!
Last but not least, my final minutes were spent doing a Shakedown of all prisoners and their cells. They’re a damned resourceful group when it comes to making trouble. As the 20mins timer went off, I was ⅔ of the way through the sweep and had discovered a couple of dozen contraband items (including an alarming number of inmate-made weapons) and 2 tunnels! I’ll have to see what the rest of the sweep yields in the future!
All in all I feel like I got lots done in my 20mins on Prison Architect. It was good fun and not too depressing either for such a serious topic. The lighthearted appearance of the game does it wonders on that front. Like most sandbox games, though, its so difficult to tear yourself away after only a short time. I have so many plans going on in my head for Fort Solitude right now I just want to go back on. Damn you sandbox games!
Last but not least, time to give Prison Architect a score.
I say it’s a rare thing for me, but I’m actually going to give it a perfect 5/5 based on the 20 minutes of game play I had with it – maybe I’m not as harsh in my marks as I thought I was! I’d really recommend picking it up when its on offer (which is fairly often as a heads up). I’ll actually be kind of sad when it leaves alpha though.
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