First I must clarify this is a game preview review, the game could change over the course of the preview to release. Although I don’t expect it to change much, im sure bugs and such will be ironed out heading closer to the full release.
So finally, the game I’ve spent over 200 hours on PC has come to consoles. Prison Architect is a game that works great with a mouse and keyboard, I was a bit weary of using a controller. The controller as with most games takes getting used to especially with RTS or sandbox games like Rollercoaster Tycoon or Halo Wars on the Xbox 360 as a great example, It will take you A LOT of time to get the controls nailed, especially as I’ve been using the planning to set up my layout and making a mistake and having to scrap the whole thing and start again. Thankfully the devs are planning to alter the planning tool to remove one block at a time rather than the whole design. You can use pre-built rooms to create the prison of your dreams (if you’ve ever dreamt about that sort of thing) quickly and easily which is nice little feature, which i never got to experience on the PC version.
The Console version has two exclusive game modes including: Prison Warden Mode: Allows players to jump in and take control of one of several pre‐built prisons right away to get into the action faster and World of Wardens: A feature that grants you the ability to share your prisons online and try your hand at governing prisons that others have uploaded. Along with these two new game modes the sandbox mode has a few new options to help you on your way as a beginner or expert at the game, you can now choose your starting money, FOG is on/off, gangs on/off and various other options, You can also choose which warden you would like to use to overwatch your prison, some with various stat boosts.
For those that haven’t played the PC version and those that have, You have a nice Prison Stories game mode which is effectively a tutorial with a very good storyline implemented and draws you in and also throws some twists into it. The Prison stories mode takes you through 5 scenarios teaching and showing you how to operate and effectively build a prison and keep the escapes and deaths to a minimum or maximum if you like that sort of thing. You will learn how to control riots, put out fires and even electrocute your first victim in an electric chair.
The music in the game I didn’t really notice until i tried listening for it, it’s quite subtle but it is there. It’s always this tense music you see in movies when something is about to go down. The sound effects around the prison is great to listen to, from jail doors closing to prisoners getting high rate cause I had no money to feed them. Every room has the sound effects you expect, from the kitchen cooking pots, to the workshop buzzsaw’s going all the way to the showers spraying water. Laying foundations and building also has the right sound effects you expect when building a building if you’ve even experienced that sort of thing. The only thing I would have liked to of seen in the game is some voice acting as it is none existent, so with the prison stories missions your left reading the story rather than listening to it.
The graphics and animation is a fun and enjoyable thing to look at, the character animations and models are all unique and you don’t often see two models looking the same (except all their scrubs and uniforms, it is prison after all), each prisoner has their own bio with a detailed description of their crimes and a little about them. Although none of the models have legs, so they look like ghosts floating across the floor, it’s not a horrible thing to look at but more laughable, their hands will pop up every now and than when they are doing something like building objects or working in the kitchen or are handcuffed. The objects and rooms around the prison all are detailed a little, some more than others for example the bookshelf has a lot more detail then the payphone. The Prison stories mission is all done through still images with some text from the characters narrating the story.