08 January 2014

Prison Architect is a game about creating and managing a prison. You get a plot of land, and slowly build up a secure facility, getting money from the government for storing prisoners, and from grants (quests).


This game is in Alpha, thus many of the features I recommend and complain about could be planned for. This game was pretty fun, don't drop it just cause of this review

Prison Architect was a pretty fun game to play, though I had some trouble at first, I slowly figured out how to make money and actually expand my prison.

The game itself involves mostly planning out your building and the rooms inside of it. So it lives up to its name as you really are an architect. There is of course more, such as planning out a regime for the prisoners, hiring staff, and setting up patrols, but the main focus is on design.



Controlling your staff is still very raw, they just walk around doing whatever tasks they should do with no input from you. The only staff member you can really control is the Guard. A guard can be told to patrol, or to hang out around a specific room, or just to go somewhere.

The main problem I saw with the staff, was that it was very hard to make multiple Cell Blocks. I tried to make a seperate High Security facility, but all of a sudden all my staff wanted to use its Staff Room to take breaks, "Oh look it has better wi-fi??". This also meant that some of my cooks decided to take over the Kitchen and my other one was understaffed, and other such problems.

Tutorial & Descriptions

The Tutorial was pretty small, and had you start with an already running prison, this meant that I missed out on a lot of the requirements for how to actually build my prison, and instead learned the controls. Instead Tips might have been more useful while I was building my prison from scratch.

While playing the actual game I found most of the object to be completely useless, as I had no idea what they do. I still have no Idea whether people used the TVs I installed, or if they did nothing. The game needs a more sims like interface, you can already see the different criteria for a prisoner's happiness, the in game objects just need a "Recreation++, Energy–" that tells you the result of a prisoner using the object.

Some rooms actually have requirements for their use, such as a workshop needing 2 types of tables (a Saw and Press), and you can't tell how much of each you'll need in the room. A Kitchen has 3 things it needs, and I still am not sure how to make my cooks support more people. Thus the game needs an expanded information window for objects.

Similarily I filled up some rooms with useless looking items, why is a filing cabinet needed for an office? what happens if I install more? There should be some benefit, more importantly do prisoners use the chairs, sofas and tables that normally go for staff?

Looking at utilities it was sometimes hard to work with overlapping water and electricity cables/pipes. Deleting just one was especially hard during such times. Also it wasn't obvious how much electricity/water an object would use, and big vs small pipes should also have a number indicating the maximum they can carry. Electricity also has 2 types of requirements, a small cable, aka if its close enough to the electricity it automatically gets connected, and a big cable, aka it needs a cable to connect to it. It would be nice to know which things need what, though as far as I can tell only lights need small ones. This actually confused me for a bit as CCTV cameras seemed to work, but I guess I just coincidentally put them next to big cables.

Cell Blocks

As mentioned earlier it was hard to divide the place into cell blocks, I could limit areas to staff only, or to max security, but my staff didn't care. So while I wanted a block to have next to no staff, in case of riots I close it down and call in the Riot squad, thus losing no people, I couldn't.

Prison Capacity

In the game you can either have your prison open for new prisoners, or not. It was annoying to have to open then close the prison, as I specifically made the place for 40 people. I couldn't just say my capacity is 40, then have prisoners come in, or better say the prison is for 30 Med risk, 5 Low risk and 5 High risk.

This meant that if my prison was running smoothly, and I needed some prisoners I would turn it on, then go start building my new wing, and forget to turn it back off! Thus I would be over capacity, I knew it was too late, a riot was about to happen as the prisoners near starved. But I could do nothing, it would have been nice to ship people back out.


The game allows for a very nice variaty of rooms, I felt pretty satisfied by them. While more might be nice, it had all I really needed for a prison.

The only real problem I saw with rooms was the minimum size requirements, 5x5 for a holding cell? why not 4*7. Maybe a 25m2 limit instead?


Unlike some of the other people online, I had no problem keeping the number of riots down, and once I got a base prison working riots only happened when I screwed up.

However I'm not sure why, but the prisoners just ran around breaking stuff and killing guards, not trying to escape? Perhaps this was an AI thing though as my prison was sort of confusingly layed out (all the better to trap people in).

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