Prison Architect Review – Superb Jail Builder is a Breakthrough in Gaming

Prison Architect Review

I’ll be honest here, simulation games are not really my genre as I’ve always found that they move too slowly and that there is never a good story. After reading our original review of Prison Architect I was interested to find out just how differently it played from the PC version, and if it really is an exception to the rule in the simulation genre. Indeed, Prison Architect is a prime example of what companies should do when porting a game from the PC to the consoles. Introversion Software and Double Eleven did a superb job making sure Prison Architect was more than your typical simulation game.

Aptly named Prison Stories, the five instructional levels of the campaign come with an interesting story, one that depicts personal stories about individuals serving their time. From prisoners on death row to an enraged mob boss caught in a prison fire, the story keeps you hooked through all of the instructional levels, and adds so much fun to the instructional walkthrough. Beginning with the basics of construction: laying foundation and wiring for buildings and increasing in complexity to choosing regimes and comfort for staff and inmates, you learn how to be both the architect and the warden of the prison. While the controls are fairly straightforward, Prison Architect becomes difficult with the many different design options and management capabilities that require memorization.


“Introversion Software and Double Eleven did a superb job making sure Prison Architect was more than your typical simulation game.”

Upon completion of the Prison Stories, there are two modes available, both single player. The first is Prison Architect, which was available in the original game for the PC and the second, all shiny and new, is Prison Warden. In Prison Architect, you use the information given in the story to create your own prison from scratch. From building and designing the prison to hiring staff and maintaining order, this game mode has it all. It takes hours to first set up the prison, as the intricacies of building and supplying water and power to all of the buildings are necessary to complete before moving on to managing the prison. Ideally, if you are someone who likes everything done quickly, pick the second game mode of Prison Warden. This mode gives you 10 pre-designed prisons to choose from, and over 10 more with the DLC. As the prison facilities have already been built, you can begin managing the prison as the warden right away and still have the ability to build additional buildings at any time.

For both game modes, there are three difficulties to choose from which change the starting budget, the temperament and difficulty of the inmate population, as well as fail conditions. There are also multiple wardens to choose from, each with differing ideas on how the prison should be run, and subsequent bonuses or consequences associated with each.

Prison Architect

There is a multiplayer component available on this console version, one that highlights player creativity: World of Wardens. This multiplayer mode gives players the opportunity to share their prisons and building designs, as well as download ones they like from other players around the world. Prison Architect has many options available that allow for endless replayability. It is necessary to put a few hours aside just to discover which difficulties and wardens work best for your play style.

For the most part, Prison Architect is a game that is both well done and entertaining, save for a few small flaws of note. Firstly, while the graphics look better on the console version, they remain too simplistic and I was left wishing the graphics were better. Secondly, because there are so many aspects to the game, it is difficult to remember and master everything. This can become very frustrating when building a prison from scratch, and while you can start as a warden, managing the prison is just as complicated as building it. Lastly, there are often problems zooming in and out to look at the prison, including zooming in too quickly, the view changing places from the chosen spot, and the eagle eye view of the prison often being too small.

With a few small flaws that did not impact the enjoyability of the game significantly, Prison Architect is a breakthrough game in the simulation genre. It demonstrates that an engaging story, a massive amount of content and endless replayability is more important than the bare bones idea of simulation and construction. Prison Architect went beyond the boundaries of the simulation genre, proving that a simulation game can be so much more than construction and design. With the additional content released with the console version, Prison Architect is better than ever!

***An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Abundant replayability options
  • Interesting Story
  • Loads of content/simulation inventory

The Bad

  • Simplistic Graphics
  • System complexities difficult to master
  • Poor overhead view of larger prisons