Prison Architect Worth Playing Yet?

I wrote an article last year about how I was inlove with Prison Architect, but also about how it wasn’t worth playing at the moment due to the performance. Once you got above 400 or so Prisoners, the game would lag so bad where you’d probably get 5fps, which made the game pretty much unplayable. 400 Prisoners might sound like alot, but it’s really not. You can reach 400 prisoners within minutes.

Each time there is an update patch for the game I like to scan through the patch notes to see if they addressed the performance. I do really love the game, and want to play it. Update after Update the performance never got dealt with until recently.

They released a patch this week (Update Patch #6), which surprised me by finally addressing the performance:

Performance Work (continued)
Further performance gains were made this month through several different approaches to optimization.- More systems moved to overlap with Render().
– Optimisations to the visible object list builder.
– Singly linked lists mostly replaced with arrays (FastList).
– Avoid copying of containers where possible.
– NeedSystem optimized.

I decided to load up the game and see if they had improved it, and was greatly impressed. My older prison with only 400-500 prisoners that used to lag so badly, now ran smooth. Seems they fixed the performance issue. My current prison has over 1,000 prisoners, and it runs fine.

My problem with the game now is that it requires so much micromanaging. Prisoners are overly fussy criminals, and have so many needs, or it could just be that I’m playing it wrong. I play it in sandbox unlimited cash mode, my reasoning for this is because I wanna learn the game, and its dynamics first, and then get deeper into the game and suffer, but holy hell, the game is a challenge even in this mode due to the micromanaging.

For example, I cannot get the Rioting under control, no matter what I do. It could be because I’m receiving new prisoners so quickly, but even with new prisoners disabled, and enough rooms, and food for the current prisoners, they still seem to riot, which is becoming so damn annoying that it prevents me from wanting to play the game.

My first step to stop the rioting was to separate the classes. So I made a building for just minimum security prisoners, one for normal security, and another for medium security, and each of these buildings had their own showers, yard areas, canteens and kitchens. Didn’t help much.

The devs recently added warmth into the game, where weather and temperature alters the behavior of the prisoners. The way to alleviate prisoners being pissy about the temp is by using and placing radiators to generate heat – all over the place, the radiators themselves need to be attached via HOT WATER PIPES to water-boilers, which they themselves need to be attached via regular water pipes to the water system, along with electrical cables to connect it to the power grid.

The annoying overly complex utility - power, water, hot water, etc system in Prison Architect, as seen in my Minimum security building.
The annoying overly complex utility – power, water, hot water, etc system in Prison Architect, as seen in my Minimum security building.

Once I figured out the warmth/temperature system, I thought I had the rioting under control, but nope. Some how some way, some way…. my prisoners started a fire in a FUCKING SHOWER ROOM, WHICH IS BASCIALLY AN OVEN AND SHOULD ITSELF CONTAIN A FIRE….  which quickly spread uncontrollably throughout my main prison building. AHHH! The game does have firemen which you can temporally hire to come put out the fire, but they’re stupid and seem to do a better job at dying than putting out the fire.

prison architect 2016-05-02 05-48-41-19

Turns out that the game has a sprinkler system that you need to install by placing sprinklers all over the place, which too, need to be connected to the water system.

I thought maybe having armed guards patrol the areas where prisoners usually riot, which is usually around the showers, and canteen areas, would dissuade potential rioters, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. All the armed guards seem to do is trigger even more riots. But the good thing about having armed guards is they’d take out the dangerous threats that were previously killing many of my guards.

I also placed a few snipers around outside to help put an end to the outdoor riots, fights, and staff deaths. Which didn’t seem to help much over all.

I then became angry at the prisoners for their bullshit, so I found some mods via the Steam Workshop that would allow me to give all the guards tactical sniper rifles so that they could defend themselves against these fussy prisoners,  which turned out to not be a very good idea, ha.
Within a minute, over half my prison population was killed off.. I suppose prisoners don’t take kind to witnessing their mates be killed, and it triggers them to riot themselves, so just a domino effect, either way… it felt very satisfying.

Prison Massacre
Prison Massacre


It seems the rioting is uncontrollable, but I’m sure that i’m overlooking something, such as a basic need. I’ll have to start playing but slower, and perhaps look at the tutorial or something, ha.

But its a fun puzzle to solve, and I’m sure that I’ll get there, that is if i don’t punch my monitor due to a fit of  game triggered rage.

But over all, the game is VERY PLAYABLE now. Perhaps even TOO playable due to having so much things to do related to all the micro managing. My only previous complaint was the performance and all the lagging, which seems to be entirely resolved and not an issue now.

Get this game, its fun! Especially if you have alot of time, and are into complex simulations.

Be prepared to lose hair due to stress.