After being well received on PC, Introversion Software have decided that console gamers should be getting in on the act of becoming a prison architect, warden and councillor all in one as they prepare to drop Prison Architect on to Xbox One and PS4 later this year. Making the most of the Xbox One’s Game Preview feature, the developers have allowed console owners the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most dangerous criminals, all whilst getting feedback, dropping new features and ensuring the console version lives up to the same hype that surrounded its PC brother.
We’ve been lucky enough to get our hands dirty with building some of the world’s best new prisons in the Xbox One version of the game and whilst it’s still slightly limited in features (and currently contains a fair few bugs), what is in place certainly cements the foundations for some stunning building opportunities in the future.
Prison Architect does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to design and build your own prison; after which it’ll be filled with jailbirds, all requiring different standards of care and methods of housing. You’ll need to keep them happy or there will be riots, And believe me, you don’t want riots! A strategic, building sim that requires a huge deal of management won’t be new to many gamers, but unless you’ve been lucky enough to spend hours on end with the likes of Sim City, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Theme Hospital or the likes, then you may find it all a bit daunting. At least initially.
Thankfully, the included ‘Prison Stories’, a small section of predefined game scenarios, can be treated much like a tutorial, playing through them and gaining the knowledge needed in order to survive on your own. Learning the basics of construction, the requirements of each room and the utilities that you can build are essentials and the Prison Stories will quite happily take you through the building basics as well as a few slightly more interesting aspects such as demolition and exactly how you can keep your prisoners happy at all times. With each and every lag, staff member or visitor having an in-depth background, many hours can be lost just observing everything that is going on. You must remember however that the game is currently in Xbox One Game Preview mode and that in itself dictates that a couple of the Stories are still out of bounds (read: under development). You’ll still be able to get the jist of what is going on prior to taking things on in the game proper though.
And that game proper consists of two fundamental areas. Prison Architect will no doubt be where the vast majority of Xbox One owners start off. An empty plot is all too tempting and those of us who enjoyed the good old days of a thriving Sims community will jump at the chance to design and build an entire prison from scratch. Multiple Warden types, prison sizes, starting funds and more ensure that the game is played out to match your own skill level. Find juggling the need for basic food and water with the bigger plans of sending guys to the execution chair a bit too easy? Just start again with a tougher opening plan. You’ll find yourself needing to plan your prison well, ensuring that all manner of services are available at all times and initially things may seem a bit overwhelming. With a simple to use interface that includes pre-fabricated ‘quick rooms’ though, if you want to just chuck a prison cell or five down, following them up with a shower block, canteen and that all important staff room, then you can do so in just a few clicks. It saves time and cuts out the initial messing around with building sizes, floor types and accessory issues.
The Prison Warden section meanwhile does away with the time consuming pre-planning, instead chucking you in to one of ten pre-built prisons which are already up and running. If your imagination is lacking or you just want to get deep immediately, putting your own stamp on things at a later date then this is the option for you. You can of course add new buildings and facilities in order to really make it your own when the need arises. With small, medium and large facilities ready to roll and absolutely thousands of prisoners requiring daily interference, it may sound a bit formidable, but if you’ve gained your stripes in the other modes then there should be nothing to be afraid of. Again though, meddling with the numerous gameplay options prior to taking charge will give you the best opportunity of success. Or an easy life. You decide.
One of the most interesting ideas to be included in the console versions of Prison Architect however is that of World of Wardens. This will give you the option to browse, download and then play through a friend or strangers prison, checking out their detailed plans and picking up tips of your own. Unfortunately due to the game still being in preview, this is still locked down. The premise however is a great one and could ensure that Prison Architect is the modern day gamers Sim City…at least on consoles.
And that is something which Introversion Software are hoping will happen. It won’t be until nearer the full release date in June 2016 when we will begin to know exactly how well things are turning but initial signs are very, very promising.
It may just be time to book a few days off work as Prison Architect on Xbox One threatens to consume your life.
Thanks to Xbox for the code.