First Impressions: Prison Architect
Introversion Software have worked very hard on this title, that much is apparent. It’s a highly polished game, which you’d expect considering it’s officially been out since October 2015. We’re now all the way in version 2 of Prison Architect, so I’m surprised it’s taken me as long as it has to play this title. There’s no reason, other than the fact I was playing other games and doing other reviews. With this in mind then, I thought I’d boot it up and see what it’s like. This is my experience from installation through my first hour of gameplay:
Clocking in at an impressive 815mb, this is a light-weight game to install. On a modern day broadband connection, I was able to install the game within 5 minutes, which is always a good experience. Of course, because it’s a Steam game, it installed very easily with no effort required. It’s worth noting that Prison Architect is available on Windows, Mac (OS X) and Linux, so I didn’t even have to use WINE to play the game. That’s always a bonus to me!
Considering how simple the graphics are on this game, if you run an older machine, or if yours is just getting a bit out of date, then you should be able to run this game with no issues what-so-ever. Later in the game, there are some fire effects which seem to cause a bit of a hit, but nothing too catastrophic on an older computer.
One thing that somewhat confused me, but made sense rather quickly, was the fact that on your first time booting up, the game sort of just throws you straight into it. There’s no warning, nothing – You’re just in the game after you’ve seen the Introversion Software logo. You’re shown some prisoners, some guards and the likes, in a rather effective cutscene. Sitting through this however, you eventually get control of the game as the prison architect. In true builder-game fashion, you get someone who helps you understand what’s happening throughout the game, by telling you what’s happening in the scenario. The in-game helper this time is The CEO of the prison.
He tells you that you need to build some facilities, as you’ve got someone who has been put on death row. It’s up to you to build an area for him to be executed properly. It cleanly points out where certain parts of the game are kept, such as where the buildings button is. The layout feels fresh and easy to understand, but me with my inquisitive brain decided “No, hold on, I want to mess around a little bit” and before too long, I found something that I found rather humorous. You can scale the menu icons up and down by pressing Ctrl and + or – buttons on your keyboard respectively. The results can be seen below.
After I finished messing around, I got on with the game itself and it runs incredibly well. In the opening tutorial where you must create the execution chamber, you are shown many different parts of this resource management game. From clicking and dragging an area to create a suitable place to call an execution chamber, to things such as power management. This is an exciting little building-game, which allows you to seriously think about your resources, even if in the opening sections you are given so much money that you certainly can’t lose (good luck doing so. Perhaps I should do that?)
Once you’ve built your execution chamber, they tell you about optional things you can do, such as improving the flooring and improving the lighting around the building. In the cell you build in the execution chamber, they tell you that you can add things such as a bookshelf (for some reason) and a window. Now, I’m all for the window, but this man is to be sentenced to death… It seems odd to give him a bookshelf, but never mind! I guess they say there should be a TV in a cell or some form of entertainment, so I guess that was the most neutral way they could do it – and it didn’t detract from the rather powerful scene.
Interestingly, once everything is done, you get to click on a polaroid picture, which allows you to progress the story. You get to see how the murderer committed his crime and why he did it. It’s a game that weighs heavily on your conscience, but they are quick to point out that you’re not the law in this game, but rather the facilitator of the law. It’s an interesting spin, but the game can get pretty dark, pretty quickly. It’s fair to say that the gritty subject matter has been pulled through beautifully and the music really helps to set the scene of each scenario. It’s simple, but it’s atmospheric, which is all this game needs.
There’s seemingly very little or even nothing wrong with the game at all, except perhaps my aforementioned giggle with scaling up and down the menu. If you’ve been thinking about playing this game for a while, but want to know what to compare it to, think of a darker themed Theme Hospital – That’s the easiest way to explain it. It’s also a lot more complex than the classic title, more akin to the classic Sim City, however that doesn’t make it hard to understand. The opening section was fun and enjoyable. I will be writing a full and comprehensive review in the near future, complete with a video. So stick around – This seems to be a lot of fun!