What is Prison Architect? At its base, a prison management simulator, where you (the player) are in charge of designing and then running a prison, complete with all kinds of shenanigans that comes with management. As of writing, the game is still in Alpha build 17, so there are probably features that will be added later on.
Prison Architect’s greatest strength is in its depth; on the surface, you can design simple prison and manage a mundane day-to-day schedule. When digging deeper though, there are a number of ways to make the prison more efficient or easier to manage and as well as different features and options to enrich the simulation experience. After the introduction/tutorial the game guides you through, you’re left to your own devices; you start the game with an empty plot of land, a bus coming in with eight (8) workers, and ten thousand in cash to spend building your prison. Although it is tempting to just immediately start building, taking the time to plan out where you will be constructing buildings will be much more beneficial in the long run, letting you plan out where to expand when needed and saving time from having to reconstruct buildings.
So you finally get around to building your prison, and you get your first batch of prisoners. Everything is fine and dandy when you realize you’re short a couple of prisoners. Where did they go? They dug a hole and escaped. So you load a save (you’re save-scumming, right?), send in a guard, and discover the tunnel they’re digging, and find the tools they hid away to pull off the heist. As it turns out, they stole away a spoon and made off with a fresh-dug tunnel in less than a day. The next day comes by, and you’re given another eight prisoners. You’re slowly running out of funds, but you should go good enough for now, right? So you stop the prisoner intake. Bu that evening, you hear a strange noise: yelling and shouting from the common room. You send in a security guard and discover a number of unconscious bodies (one may even be dead), and blood every; a riot happened. So you go back a save to hire some more guards, only to realize you lack the funds to do so. So now you’re stuck, but you also realize you should have planned out your buildings better. So you start over and plan out another prison, this time in greater detail and with contingency plans in case things go south. As we have barely scratched the surface of what can be done in Prison Architect, we’re still looking forward to much of what the game has to offer after longer playtime as well as further down the road, when the developers have had more time to add content.