REVIEWS

Prison Architect

Prison Architect

Prison Architect

The sooner you sit…

Economic simulations and related strategies not only entertain fans of this genre, but also scratch their sense of their own greatness: “Look, my brilliant intellect and commercial streak helped me build a financial empire literally from scratch, and without dads, moms and „ Rocketbank “!” Unlike military strategies, such sims are close to reality, because we are engaged in earning money almost every day, but we rarely go to war, and ideally never.

Even more economic simulators and managers delight us with topics. You can create your own film studio, become a game publisher or sports team manager, build a metropolis, establish a giant trade network, or lead a galactic economic expansion. The choice is so great that the eyes run wide, and our current guest is still a very rare, almost piece product. Today we will undertake to build a prison, yes, such that even Ray Breslin, who has teamed up with Michael Scofield, will not be able to go beyond it until the end of his term.

We take mortar, concrete blocks, a couple of strong workers and start building the prison of our dreams (although it sounds strange). At first, your resources are very limited, so the building will be small, unsightly, with one common cell for all occasions, as well as a warehouse for workers. Of course, prisoners are people too, they need care: they need to be washed, fed, put to bed. But they won’t let you do everything at once – there won’t be enough money or a bureaucratic apparatus that would conduct research and introduce new orders and opportunities in your prison. Therefore, the construction of cells for the first batch of prisoners can not even be taken seriously, such isolation wards are only a small fraction of all that you have to do and build for a normally functioning large prison.

Those players who decide that a bench, a bed and a toilet in the corner are enough for prisoners to be happy will be very disappointed, because most likely the prisoners will start to cut the staff with sharpeners, get drug addicted in black, break furniture, kill each other and flee en masse from your inhospitable dungeons. So you will have to lighten your bank account and become something of a father and mentor to all the guest performers that come into your prison. But you will be a good daddy or a very bad stepfather – here the choice is entirely yours. Both models of your behavior and your reforms will work, the main thing is to put pressure on the necessary levers.

A good prison manager will make sure that the prisoners not only serve their sentences, but also re-educate. In the end, many of your guests may be unfairly accused at all, which means you should not use the whip once again when both criminals and innocent people who came to you by mistake like the gingerbread. Give your prisoners an education, teach them to read and write, teach them how to work in the kitchen or how to use machines. Provide access to exercise equipment, a library, a psychologist, and religion. Cure the poor from alcohol or drug addiction. Give them the opportunity to wash clean, roam in the fresh air, buy magazines and chocolates in the inner prison store, and then feed them tasty marbled beef. Finally, give prisoners the opportunity to see their families, call them or at least get mail from them, as well as a chance to get out of the parole program for good behavior. After this, even the most hardened urka, leaving your walls, will be able to become a person ready for life in a normal society.

On the other hand, playing the evil prison manager is also useful. Too good conditions will make people soft, they will have a feeling of permissiveness, and the most unpleasant thing, they may feel that prison is their home. Why would they get out of prison if it’s so good in it? A normal lazy person will definitely want to come back to you and to your delicious free three meals a day, but you don’t need this at all. So the prisoners can be overwhelmed with work, poorly fed, daily searched in cells, locked in punishment cells for several days without food and a bathroom, but so that no one shakes their rights, recruit a brigade of guards with shotguns. The prisoners, of course, will not be happy about this, but if they live to the end of their term in such conditions, then they certainly will not want to look at your light again.

On the balance of these two methods, you can develop your own, hybrid one. Why not torture the convict with work, but then give him tasty food and more time for himself? Yes, such options will also work, you just have to keep your eyes on the wards: turn your back a little – and even the most well-fed and contented prisoner will definitely try to dig a tunnel out for himself, moreover, through a small hole in the toilet bowl. As one wise man said: “Freedom is better than lack of freedom,” and this must be remembered even when the object of observation is getting fat from your gingerbread.

But you only have to keep an eye on it, because you still have much more to do than just check whether all the killers and thieves ate well at lunch. Not only the construction, but also the administrative part hangs on you. Establish daily routines, explore opportunities, assign programs, fire and hire employees, set up security patrols, manage surveillance equipment, allocate prison zones so that, say, convicted of minor crimes do not encounter serial killers in the same corridors. Electrification and a properly functioning plumbing after this will seem like a trifling job that does not require even a minimum set of knowledge.

In addition, you can’t write off all sorts of random troubles: floods, fires, earthquakes, various epidemics, and even the fact that another prison may break down somewhere nearby and the state government will order you to place all its prisoners in you. And if before starting the game in the settings you check the box next to the “Gangs” item, then get ready for regular bunts. Gang members are completely hopeless in terms of re-education, and in addition, they constantly arrange clan wars wherever they meet.

In a nutshell, it’s very addictive. The game has been in “Early Access” for so long that it has quadrupled, maybe even five times its size. By release, Prison Architect had new leaders, new bureaucratic options (electrically roasted an innocent? Trust your lawyer, he will cover everything up), and even a story campaign that looks more like an extended version of the training, but in fact it is. Also added is Escape, a heavily cut version of The Escapists, in which you have to become one of the prisoners in a prison you built yourself. Here you can create your own gangs, upgrade your reputation and strive to one day arrange a grand riot in the prison, kill the guards and escape.

After leaving the “early access” Prison Architect was not forgotten by the authors. Relatively recently, he received another interesting extension. In addition to solitary and general cells, doubles with bunk beds, which are canonical by the standards of Western prisons, appeared here. But that is a trifle compared to another innovation – the ability to create not only men’s prisons, but also women’s ones. In words, the difference is small, add long hair and chest to the finished male models – and release the supplement. However, in reality, everything turned out to be more complicated, because women often end up in prison along with their babies. So you, as an architect, will have to create separate cells with cribs, as well as a nursery, to give the delinquent mothers to work for the good of society.

The work of prisoners, both men and women, is not only the re-education of immoral subjects and savings on staff, in particular on cooks and cleaners. It is also an additional way to earn money. In addition to government grants for prisoners and federal grants for the creation of a model prison, you may well get your share of the profits for the work of prisoners. Put them to the machine – let them make road signs and beds for sale. Not the most profitable source of income, but at least it will give you the opportunity to equip the prison with frills: remote-opening doors, smart locks and a dog handler team whose dogs will sniff out contraband and drugs, allowing you to do mass searches less often.

But what then, when the prison has already been built and consistently generates income? If it’s unique, then upload it to the Steam Workshop mod directory, but more often than not, people just dump the prison to start over. Don’t think it’s like starting a New Game. In fact, when resetting, this prison is sold, the player receives monetary compensation for the previous one during the construction of the next one, and already at the start he can create an object much larger and more expensive than at the first entry. The math is simple: the better the prison was, the more profitable it was, and the fewer accidents and recidivism among prisoners who left it, the more money they will give you for it.

Thus, you can build in this game almost endlessly, each time adding difficulties to yourself in the initial conditions (“fog of war”, uneven terrain, frequent random unpleasant events, etc.). Add to this the fact that the authors continue to make new things for Prison Architect even after the release, and you can think for a second that we have the perfect construction game. But no, it’s not perfect.

Unfortunately, despite a bunch of updates, the game still has something that cannot be fixed for any virtual dollars – flaws. Do you want your prisoners to never dig? Put them in a common cell: there the toilets are not part of the escape system, and you still cannot escape through them, and for some reason the authors cannot fix this. And if you want to cure a patient of an illness, then don’t expect your doctors to run to heal him. Each doctor will need to be personally sent to each patient, even if there are a hundred of them, at least two. And security control panels will also not automatically connect to all phones, video cameras and remotely opening doors – they will all have to be connected manually, even if there are five hundred cameras. Well, the most unpleasant thing is the traditional places where workers cannot get because of minor bugs in the environment.

This doesn’t happen often, but it’s always extremely annoying, as it may cause you to have to rebuild part of the outer prison wall just to let the worker go where he wants to go. There is a lot of trouble, and this slightly spoils the whole idealistic picture of this good indie game.

If we forget about such bugs, then the second largest minus is the power of the local engine. You cannot fill the prison with people endlessly, you should not dream about thousands of prisoners. At a certain point, due to the number of “little men”, Prison Architect will start to slow down, so much so that it will become absolutely impossible to play it. Actually, it is recommended to sell the prison at the moment when the game begins to show the first signs of dissatisfaction with your appetites. Only with this approach will you avoid being surprised by the fact that your PC, which is calmly pulling The Witcher 3 and other big releases, cannot cope with some kind of two-dimensional “turkey”.

But, alas, it will not be possible to completely avoid problems, and therefore no medals, only strong praise for a good student. Fans of custom managers and economic construction sims should definitely play it, even if you usually like something prettier. Something where the graphics don’t look like a child’s first experiences with video games. This thing is addictive. And it’s really good, especially in contrast to the many sequels to Prison Tycoon. You may well lose a month of your life, understanding the intricacies of the project, and even then you will not know all its secrets.

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