I’m a moderate fan of sim-like games, and though I’ve steered clear of games like Sim 3; SimTower, SimCity, SimFarm and the like have been favorites of mine for years. On a completely different, but still somehow related, topic, another game I’m a huge fan of is called DEFCON, and it’s made by Introversion. When I saw that Introversion was the maker of the newly-released-on-Steam game Prison Architect, I hit the buy button immediately. It’s still very much in an alpha-slash-beta stage, but it’s oh so much fun even this early in its development.
While the game is, without a doubt, still in Alpha, it’s already got a lot of cool little features to manage for your prison. The tutorial “mission” is quite impressive and shows that a lot of work has gone into it even this early in the game. You start a typical game with $10,000 – a relatively low amount considering what you have to build at the start – and proceed to construct a prison for the inmates that will start arriving the next day. Like most simulations, the clock can be sped up or slowed down (though it desperately needs a faster speed), though this really only makes a noticeable impact on constructing buildings.
“Grants” give you extra money on top of your base $10,000 to achieve specific goals, like building a basic prison, building an administration center and so on. While the availability of these grants wasn’t immediately apparent to me – and thus my first few prisons failed horribly – once I found out about the grants, the game became infinitely more fun.
Staff members ranging from guards to janitors, including specialized staff like a warden or workman supervisor, are available for hire, though you have to be careful not to blow through your budget too early. Extra money comes in every time you take in new prisoners in the form of a $100/day/prisoner grant. The flipside of this, though, is that you have to keep expanding your prison to accomodate the new inmates, which is time-consuming and can lead to more than a few escape attempts.
The building, floor plan and object laying tools are relatively intuitive, despite the many bugs that plague them, and once you spend a few minutes getting used to the controls, it becomes very easy to quickly lay down whatever you need on the fly.
The draft planning feature, while interesting, needs more work to become useful, though again, this is an Alpha, so complaining about anything at this point is ridiculous.
At last check, the base price for the standard alpha-access to Prison Architect is thirty bucks, with a few higher levels available as well that will give you additional goodies. It’s a steep price to pay for a game that’s so early in its development, but this is one situation where I think that it’s well worth the price. If you like DEFCON, Darwinia, Multiwinia or Uplink, or you’re just a fan of Introversion Software, go get this now on Steam, under the Early Access section.
I’ll have a more detailed review of Prison Architect once the game goes into Beta or finalized release, but until then, I’ll be releasing occasional videos of the game to show off new features, bug fixes and examples of how to not manage your prison.