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The Escapists: Early Access Impressions
Platform: Windows PC
Developer: Moulty Toof Studios
Publisher: Team 17 Digital Ltd
Release Date: TBA (Early Access)
Orange is the New Black is one of the most talked about shows in television these days and in spite of the critical buzz surrounding Introversion’s Prison Architect, very few game developers have tackled life-behind-bars as subject material.
Mouldy Tuff Studios is taking this challenge head-on with their upcoming title, The Escapists. I spent some time with the current early access build and came away relatively impressed with the potential here.
The Escapists sees players take on the role of an inmate in prison. From there, players go through the motions of daily prison-life – everything from roll-calls, cell inspections, work-assignments and shiv-crafting – and eventually pulling off your own prison-break.
Each prison day starts with breakfast and it’s here that you tend to find most of the game’s missions. Different inmates will offer different missions and completing these tasks will earn you favors – which contribute in your progress towards the endgame of prison escape. The next phase sees you juggle your official work assignments and your own less-official agendas. At this stage, progression feels like it’s very flexible and working your way up the prison hierarchy by snitching, stealing or, hell, even playing by the rules.you’ll be able to work your way up the prison hierarchy through snitching, working out or even just playing by the rules.
There’s a lot of items to collect and use in the game and The Escapists’ inventory and crafting systems are quite effective in bringing a few sandbox-angle to the whole affair. In addition, your inmate has a number of characteristics and attributes that can be improved. Want to be more of a tough guy unafraid to take a hit or two? There’s nothing stopping you from spending your days working out and improving your strength level. There’s a lot of freedom in how you want to experience the game.
Although things take a while to get going, it isn’t long before you get a good feel for the rhythms behind both the systems that moderate prison life and the greater mechanics of The Escapists and things become more enjoyable. While the minimalist controls do help alleviate some of the difficulty curve, it does genuinely suffer from a lack of a proper tutorial and I hope this gets addressed in later builds.
Development on The Escapists is well underway and while the core features in the early access build were quite exciting, the additions on the horizon are almost just as compelling. Mouldy Tuff Studios are looking to include things like new types of prisons, multiple escape routes and even a prison editor. It’ll be exciting to see how it all pans out.
In any case, it’ll make a fascinating counterpart to Introversion’s effort. The Escapists is shaping up to be both a highly compelling sandbox title and another great addition to the growing Prison-Simulator market.