While there has been a number of depictions of prison life over the years from great movies like The Great Escape and The Shawshank Redemption to the hardcore TV shows like Oz and Orange is the New Black there hasn’t been a true prison simulator game that sees you as the inmate…until now.
The team behind the classic ‘Worms’ and ‘Alien Breed’ series has brought us a playground in which to live out all your prison fantasies. You will be able to barter with the other inmates, complete favors, even do the stinky laundry, yes sir Team17 has brought to life a hardcore prison sim in glorious 16 bit graphics.
The Escapists is a straight forward game with a straight forward objective…escape from the prison. But while you are chasing after that objective the open world game gives you quite a few activities to partake in. The game is very lighthearted in nature and the graphics are a bit cutsy but don’t let that fool you this game is difficult. You will need to manage relationships, build your skills, perform your daily tasks all while maintaining the prisons time schedule for your activities. When you first boot the game up you are asked to choose your prisoner and name them. While there are a few different selections to choose from all in all it is quite bare, and the level of customization with your prisoner is non-extent. I hope this is something that will be added in the full game, as it will help to connect with your avatar.
Once your prisoner is selected you are seen sleeping in your cell shortly before the morning roll call. Once the alarm goes off the prison is full of activity, while you are required to attend the roll call you do not have to if you don’t want to. You are free to explore to a point, you are in prison after all and have to do what they say and this game is no different. You will see a meter that will begin to get higher the more suspicious the guards become from your absence in whatever the given task of the hour is. If you don’t show at all they will punch you and throw you in the med center to recover. If this happens you will lose any items you have on your person, and if they find a crafted weapon such as a shiv, or razor’s you will be thrown in to solitary confinement.
This game is quite unique in that it beautifully blends rpg elements with an open world. While you are plotting your escape plan you will have to work out to increase your strength, run on a treadmill to see your speed increase, and read books to see your intelligence levels go up. All the while balancing your fatigue level, and the guards who might think you need to be somewhere else. While it sounds like quite a bit to monitor I assure you it is not difficult at all. One or two days in games and you will find the perfect balance and what you can and cannot do during the day.
Exploring and Crafting are a big part of rpg’s and this game is no different. Right now you can craft over 100+ different items from razor blade combs to the typical shivs. As you explore you will find recipe’s for crafting various tools, some of which will add you in your escape plan and others you can use to trade with your fellow inmates in return for favors, or better items.
Speaking of exploration you will notice that there are quite a few locked doors (this is prison after all) so you will have to harass and beat up some guards from time to time to gain access to certain areas. I wouldn’t recommend this for a while, at least until you can craft a decent weapon and build up your strength a bit. But you will find multiple escape routes to try, and you will need to pay close attention to the patterns of the guards and the cameras in order to successfully escape.
The full game is expected to launch with multiple prisons, and the ability to create your own prison and share it with the community for them to try and escape from. It will also offer more job types, right now you are in the laundry room cleaning everyone’s clothes. There will be more craftable items, and more than one save slot.
At this time I would say this game is fantastic, and you would be hard pressed to know that this wasn’t the complete version. While playing I didn’t see any major bugs or glitches but as I said in the beginning I will revisit this review once the full game launches just to see if the new changes made the game better or worse. But for now, if the thought of growing with the game interest you then I would say pick this gem up…you will not be disappointed.
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