Prison Architect – My New Favorite Game!

Update: October 22nd, 2015 – Can no longer recommend this game –  Read at bottom

Dang, is it already 7Pm? I’ve been playing this game since I woke up at 6am, and dang, I’m still going!

The game of course, is Prison Architect, which has recently been upgraded from BETA to version 1, and I must say, This damn game is fun as heck.

If you haven’t heard of this game, it’s pretty much an open sandbox game where you build and manage a prison. The game looks simple, but it’s very in depth and there is alot to do. Most of my day today has been trying to solve problems, which seem to be bugs at first, but they are all correctable it seems.

Prison Architect has been out for a few years now, and a buddy of mine told me about it ages ago, but like Minecraft, I didn’t bother with it at first due to it just looking ugly, and even more like minecraft, once I actually gave it ago, I was hugely addicted.

What led me to finally give the game a serious ago, is the review by Mack, who gives awesome reviews, and him and I usually share the same opinion on games. I bought the Mad Max last month due to one of his reviews as well, which I didn’t regret.

I started playing the story mode at first just to get the hang of the game, but I kinda got bored, so I immediately went into open sandbox mode, and have been playing it most of yesterday, and all day today (damn gotta get my work out in!!!).  I should go back and finish the story mode, because the things I’m having trouble with could just be features of the game, like I said before, each of these issues i’m having seems to be solved some how, which could just be a temporize work around though, but its a puzzle. The fact that you can workaround the issues are nice.

I think some of the issues could just be that the game is so deep and in depth, So there are alot of small things you sometimes have to do to get apparent simple things to work.

It’s not a simple is just making rooms and accepting prisoners. You have to have water, electric, and other systems in place, that are slightly complex on their own.

Not only, that, you have to also worry about laundry as well. Making a large enough laundry room, and employing enough prisoners to manage it is an issue in itself. I believe the janitors you hire also handle the laundry.

One of the main issues I’ve had is with the CCTV Monitor, and Door Control stations that allow you to open doors remotely, which only work when there are guards stationed and managing them. The guards seem to wonder off for no good reason at all. The Door stations, especially, only work when there is a guard at the other end. So, i kept running into issues with the doors not opening for the staff, nor for the inmates, which would lead to many more issues, such as the inmates getting hungry, frustrated, and then they’d riot, and such. Things would break, and keep getting worse, and worse if the impatience staff can’t get in to fix things, and injured people and staff would die due to not being able to get treatment. It’d be a serious game breaking issue if there weren’t a workaround. Luckily, there is.

It turns out, the reason the staff leave their positions at the stations is because they get tired. The game allows you to create staff rooms, which allows the staff to  rest, and get all of their energy back. You’d think that another guard would take their place, rather than just leaving the stations unmanned, but they don’t. Sometimes, another guard will eventually show up and managed the stations for a bit, but they’ll leave as well.

The workaround on this issue is to create a small room that allows you to fit both a security section (required for the monitoring/door control stations), and a staff room. THEN LOCK THE DOORS! It’s a bit tricky because the guards will wonder off leaving their stations, so you gotta make sure there are enough staff left over to manage each station. I like to leave a few extra guards. So if I have 5 stations in the room, i’ll trap about 7 guards in there, this way if one gets tired, he can go rest, if they do even rest using this method, and the stations will be always manned. Works nicely.

Security / Staff room set up.
Security / Staff room set up.

Another bug I’m having is related to the remote doors too. You’d think it’d be easier to just not use the since its not required, but i have some Maximum security units, which I don’t want the guards to have constant contact with the inmates due to security risks. The bug is the remote doors require a Servo thing, which is a remote machine that opens the remote door (oh, i know, super complex). And this device can break. For some reason the maintenance worker guys wont come fix them, and I end up running into the same problem with people not being able to get out and in. I have no idea how to fix this one though. I end up manually opening those broken doors so people can get in and out. I noticed earlier when I was having the issue, I saved and left my game, I came back, and the servo’s were fixed. I also noticed them sometimes randomly get fixed. I think the trick is to just fix the doors themselves, but I’m not sure.

There are some other tiny bugs, but nothing game killing and I am having so much fun.

I am having an issue with inmates tunneling their way out of the prison, which  is preventable if you micromanage the prison. I’ve been doing so much building that this happens before I realize its happening. I’ve read that the developers put this in the game so that it keeps you on your toes. So you can’t just leave the game on and let the prison manage itself. Maybe that’s why things randomly break too, I’m not sure, but it does keep the game fun.

I think you can have dog patrols and such, which smell out tunnels. I’ve noticed many times the guards walking the dogs will put flags down where the dogs sense the tunnels, and a shovel icon will popup and alert me. When this happens you can search the entire block, or do a shakedown which searches the cells and inmates for tools, weapons, and other things they aren’t supposed to have.

Just destroy and rebuild the cell!
Just destroy and rebuild the cell!

I just had a small bug while getting some screenshots for this article. For some reason, one of my prison cells was throwing up an alert. The alert was the room wasn’t enclosed, which it obviously was. I removed all the objects from a room, and saw a tile/block that wouldn’t allow me to build on it. No idea why. After messing with it for a good 5-10 minutes, I finally just bulldozed that area, laid another foundation in the spot, recreated the room, and wallah, was 100% again. This bugs are annoying, but at least you can usually fix them!

There is so much more to the game that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m learning alot as I go, and I keep tweaking, adding, and fixing things on my prison, making it better and better. I don’t see myself getting bored of this one anytime soon.

Prison Architect Kitchen
Prison Architect Kitchen with its own dedicated power source!

I’ve been spending alot of time on the kitchen and canteens.  I thought my kitchens were large enough, guess not. Many prisoners still weren’t eating. Hiring more cooks didn’t help, so I made three large kitchens and canteens and placed them on different sides of my Prison. I think the key is just to have a large kitchen and canteen. I don’t think having as many cooks as prisoners is the answer. My next prison I’ll just place a large food place in the center of the prison. That’s what’s fun about this game, trial and error!

I have put in a death row unit, and executed a rapist/killer. Not a guy who rapes killers, but a guy who is both a rapist and a killer….. It’s was very dramatic, but was very lackluster when the switch was flipped, ha. But I think my prison earned a few thousand dollars for the kill.

I do want to try the Escape mode soon. Mack said in his video that its pretty fun.

There is still alot more in this game that I haven’t gotten to! and I’ve already put probably 20+ hours into it.

This game is much worth the price tag of $30 on steam, and you can get it for half that price using sites such as G2a, and Kinguin. Use those sites at your own risk, but I’ve bought many games from them and never had an issue.

Again, this game proves that graphics aren’t everything. Many of the games I’ve enjoyed the most these past years have had lower graphic styles, as as Minecraft, The Long Dark, and Banished, of which all are fantastic games.

Update: October 22nd, 2015 – I can no longer recommend this game, at least for now. Reason is, it gets sluggish as hell once you reach over 500-1000 prisoners depending on how many staff members you have. I have decent hardware and there is no reason why the game should perform like this. It doesn’t matter which graphic settings, or resolution I use. It must be a bug in the way the game calculates and moves around the people. I have no idea what it is, but it ruins the game for me.

Like Cities Skylines, these games claim to be sandbox and open and such, but are limited, limited to an extent that makes them unfun. Sure, its fun if you want a tiny prison, but everything has to grow.

Once they fix this issue, if they ever fix this issue, the game will be great.

I’ll keep looking into some tweaks that I may be able to perform that may help these issues.