Prison Architect Escape Mode (Switch) DLC Review – What a Hit
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Introversion Software, Double Eleven
Publisher: Double Eleven
Release: 27th September 2018 (Switch)
Prison Architect is a great game if you ever dreamt of managing your own prison. Offering anything one could wish for from deep mechanics to dozens of hours of fun. So, while the Switch port was something not for everyone, I enjoyed it nonetheless, however, it didn´t end there and the Switch soon got the Escape Mode DLC too, which puts you into the shoes of a prisoner!
As in the base game, there isn´t much of a story: You´re a prisoner, so escape! Instead, Prison Architect Escape Mode focuses once again purely on mechanics. Naturally, if you look at the game, you might think: Can this even work without any changes in the overall presentation? Yes, surprisingly so! Still played from a top-down perspective on the rather simplistic graphics.
Nonetheless, the DLC can impress with dozens of possibilities for this one simple task, making up for any visual shortcomings once again. Everything one could ask for or dream about in this scenario impossible, from creating your own prisoner to having to fulfil your mundane every-day tasks to digging tunnels, smuggling weapons and more. Beginning like every-day criminal, we start in our cell with nothing except our uniform. Then it´s up to us how we escape and believe me there are a lot of possibilities. You could smuggle a variety of things from the cafeteria, search for a job where you have access to tools you may need and so on.
At the same time, you also have to live your prisoner life, pimped up with a whole skill tree. Yes, Prison Architect Escape Mode is partially an RPG, where you get better at the tasks you perform. This is actually pretty neat since it introduces another progression curve instead of being able to escape or not, especially since the DLC isn´t very easy. It takes a lot of planning and discretion to actually win this, since not only other prisoners can kill you, the guards can too if you get mixed up in trouble or are found out. So having this tree with different skills is great. Additionally, the game also provides you with some sort of guidance in form of missions from your big underground boss outside, that will work as a tutorial and guidance most of the time.
However, the true meat of this expansion is the sheer amount of possibilities. I mean, when digging a tunnel or capping the electricity are some of the most boring options and things to do, there´s something truly right here. For example, it´s possible to build your own prison gang, with leaders and such, which you can employ as your bodyguards, earn money or smuggle things, effectively allowing you to manage and grow a “business”, becoming so powerful you could even threaten the guards. On the other hand, more brute variants like manipulating the facilities or triggering a riot may not look super cool but have great executions since the systems of the prisons rely on the ones known from Prison Architect, introducing a very deep, complex, interstructured prison you´re trying to escape from.
So, while it´s still a quite cheap DLC, Prison Architect Escape Mode offers a ton of content for sandbox fans. It´s a truly new experience, enriched by an interesting and great execution and if it even sounds vaguely interesting, you should definitely go for it. Especially since this mode actually plays pretty well on the Switch due to the greater focus on action elements.
[A Review Code was provided by Double 11]