Prison Architect (PC) Review

Being Warden Ain’t Easy.

I think the last time I played a game even remotely like Prison Architect was when I played SimCity 2000.

Despite its name, it’s actually a game that originally came out in 1993- in that regard, I suppose it would be an understatement to say that I have very little interest in this genre.

However, when I heard that Prison Architect was finally out of early access, I thought it might be a good time to try my hand at the “construction & simulation” genre once more with mostly positive results.

I didn’t do NOTHIN’.

Prison Architect is exactly what it sounds like.

The player is tasked with building and maintaining a prison while keeping the prison populace under control. Whether the player decides to keep them happy by giving them what they want like clean living quarters, entertainment and other amenities or just keep them under an iron fist is entirely up to the player.

The process of constructing a prison is not an easy endeavor, but luckily there’s a great campaign mode that goes through most of the important functions available, while telling an interesting story about corruption, loyalty and the human condition.

From executing a criminal to trying to neutralize a violent riot- it goes through quite the gambit of extreme scenarios and while short, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

The tools available to construct the prison itself seemed numerous, and even though I failed my first attempt at building my own prison from scratch, I quickly grasped what I needed to do and was able to succeed in my second try.

There were also many options to increase or decrease the difficulty of the process by adding dynamic events or even allowing for infinite money from the get-go.

While my prison started out rather modest, I found myself constantly adding new buildings and projects, including new curriculum in an attempt to rehabilitate prisoners. An hour later, I had started a work program and had built an isolation wing for the truly hopeless cases that were irritating the rest of the populace.

The dynamic events can absolutely destroy all the hard work you’ve put into the prison at a moment’s notice but adds a much needed unpredictability to the experience.

Unfortunately, I encountered many instances of janky AI, where it would get stuck on a door indefinitely or refusing to move where I directed without being told to do so repeatedly.

The problem got worse many hours into the game as more and more prisoners were admitted, as the over hundred AI on screen began bogging down my system, resulting in massive framerate drops and hitches that would make the screen freeze for a few seconds at a time.

This basically forced me to abandon the Prison I spent hours building up and start anew, which was not really something I wanted to do.

After some time with Prison Architect, I can’t say that that I’ve completely warmed up to the genre just yet. Still, that doesn’t mean I regret the time I spent playing it either.

Even though Prison Architect has its share of flaws and limitations, it’s still a fun experience I’m sure fans of the genre will enjoy.

Fun Tidbit – While my prison was a series of rectangles and quite lacking in imagination, other people have constructed some truly impressive structures.

Make it so!

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Numerous customization tools
  • Interesting tutorial campaign mode
  • Janky AI
  • Performance issues
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.