Prison Architect + DLC (XB1) Review

Penitentiary Planning .

Building and managing a prison is something I never thought I’d do. It’s also something I never thought I wanted to do. But, I was wrong on both accounts. I did build a prison, and had quite a good time, save for a few annoyances along the way.

Prison Architect, the simulation game that lets players make the prison of their dreams, has recently seen a re-release of the game that came out a year ago. This new edition comes with the base game, the Psych Ward DLC, and the “A Day and a Night” DLC.

MSRP: $29.99
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $29.99

Building a Prison

In Prison Architect mode (the crux of the game) players will start from scratch and design their prison. Managing prisoners, managing staff, and building their required rooms are the three key areas of running a prison.

Prisoner intake is the main source of income for a prison. It’s obviously important to supply them with necessities, but it’s also advantageous to go above and beyond that so they are less likely to riot or attempt escape. Creating nicer cells, reformation programs, and prisoner jobs are major ways in improving prisoner moral. Players can decide on what security level prisoners they want to accept with the more dangerous prisoners offering a higher initial and daily profit.

Much of the prisons’ staff will consist of guards, construction workers, cooks, doctors, etc., but administrative workers will open will open up new opportunities for management. Hiring a ‘chief of security’ allows guards to be upgraded; a psychologist will allow the player to see the needs of the prisoner population.

Building rooms is easy to do in prison architect, mostly due to two great features. The first feature is the Quick Room. These developer-made rooms have all the essentials that one must have. This is quite useful in the early stages of prison-building when functionality trumps the aesthetics. The other feature is Room/Object Cloning. Once a custom design for a room is built, the player has the option to clone a room and plop it anywhere. Unfortunately, the max cloning dimensions are smaller than I would have liked, but it was still useful in saving time.

Why is this Happening?!

Considering the options available in Prison Architect, the story-driven tutorial is adequate in explaining and walking the player through the majority of what they need to know. However, at times I did find myself very confused about why certain things were happening.

At one point, none of my prisoners would leave their cells. The reason – I eventually found out – was that they were all scheduled for solitary confinement and I didn’t have any solitary confinement cells. Then I was confused as to why my prisoners that had a personal shower, weren’t showering. That was fixed by modifying their daily schedule (giving them free time, just after being confined to their cell).

Several similar things like these happened to me as I developed my prison, which brought spurts of frustration. When something wasn’t working, I wanted more info as to why that was – Info that I don’t need to search online for.

Included DLC

The Psych Ward DLC ($3.99 separately) allows the intake of criminally insane individuals as well as the opportunity to hire Psychiatrists to assist them. These prisoners bring in as much money as the “normal” maximum security prisoners.

The other DLC, All day and a Night ($9.99), adds 8 new wardens, 8 new prison maps, and 8 new plots of land for prison building. Each warden has a unique perk and the prison maps are premade prisons that a player can takeover.

As it stands now, the base game and the “All Day and a Psych” edition are the same price. The included DLC obviously makes for better value, but not by a considerably margin. If the base game price dips in any meaningful way, then that is the way to go.


Now that the DLC and minor complaints are out of the way, I can say that the majority of my time with the game was stimulating and enjoyable. Hours flew by and it was hard at times to find a stopping place – there was always some project that I needed, and wanted to get done.

Prison Architect allows for freedom and creativity with its deep simulation systems and the multitude of player options. Players may become surprisingly invested in their prison and in their prisoners, something that can only be achieved by letting them mess with every small detail.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Written by
Wyatt is a recent college graduate of Ohio University’s Journalism program. He’s an Xbox guy, but loves playing great PlayStation exclusives. Also, he has far too much nostalgia for the old Nintendo.