Team 17 and developer Mouldy Toof initially brought the sandbox prison escape title to Steam through the Early Access program. After selling over 250,000 copies, however, the game is ready for a full release on PC and Xbox One. Over the course of eight prisons of varying security level and size, you'll live the life of a prison inmate. Routine is the only thing that keeps prison life civil, from the moment the sun rises to the last glow from the Moon at night.
Developing and enacting an escape plan isn't an easy feat and you'll spend the first few days in the prison learning the routine and if you can exploit any inmates or guards. Escaping isn't a matter of performing one specific method in each of the prisons as the sandbox nature of the game allows you to explore any means necessary. Think you can knock out a guard secretly, make a copy of a key and stealthily make your way at night without being noticed? How about tunneling underneath the prison for weeks from your prison cell?
From the moment you wake for early morning roll call, you are free to move about the prison to a degree. Get on the wrong side of the guards and you'll find out just how much insubordination they are willing to put up with before you find yourself waking up in the infirmary, missing items and cash. Being in a prison, there are a limited amount of places you can find necessary items, so sneaking into other inmates cells to rummage through their desk and bed is a requirement. Guards may have a short temper, but inmates are even more dangerous with sharpened toothbrushes, combs and anything else that can knock you out.
Don't expect to find the necessary items to escape outright The game has a surprisingly deep crafting system from tools, to weapons, concealment devices, and uniforms. There are well over 185 unique items to find and use in crafting. Subsequent items require previous items to be crafted first, so in order to build the Sturdy Pickaxe you must start with a simple Tool Handle and work your way up. Items can be purchased from other inmates, so make sure to check with each one at the start of the day. Money can be earned by doing favors for other inmates, usually involving fetch quests, distracting guards during breakfast or attacking other inmates. There are also 10 separate job opportunities at the prison, but if your productivity falters, you'll be replaced.
Regardless of the prison you are in, the repetition of the daily routine will set in. Necessary items are completely randomized and you may spend multiple days searching for that one specific item you need. Keeping the game feeling fresh, outside of the brief tutorial prison, and I stress brief, you are left to your own devices. You'll fail throughout the game, especially during the first few days in a prison, but it is a necessity. If you don't fail, you'll never learn just how much you are able to get away with in the game.
Your character has varying stats that can be increased by spending time at the gym, reading books in the library and searching the internet. Accomplishing your plans, however, depends on your interactions with other inmates. Gaining their support requires you build your meaningless relationship with them by completing any favors they require.
You're enjoyment while planning the big escape in The Escapists depends on how much you enjoy building out your own fun in a sandbox prison environment. Watching a plan unfold is undoubtedly satisfying, but putting the plan in motion can be tedious. According to the developers, the game will eventually allow gamers to create and share their own prisons, given you a reason to keep the game installed long after you've escaped the included eight prisons.
Note: Our The Escapists review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review purposes.