We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Prison Architect: everything we know


Prison Architect has broken free onto Early Access; here’s our Prison Architect review.

Prison Architect is exactly that: a prison management simulator in which you build, maintain, and occasionally ruin a prison. It’s funny, clever and deep. It’s also still being improved: it’s available to play now as an Alpha, but developers Introversion are still working on making it better. 

Should you give Prison Architect a play? Here’s everything we know.

Prisons are tough

This is a prison, not a theme park. You should expect fighting, murders, fires, riots, flooding and the odd Shawshank style escape. Maintaining law and order won’t be easy. If you aren’t vigilant, you’ll discover your favourite janitor just took a shiv to the vitals because you didn’t spot “Big Joe” giving him evils earlier.

Check out this trailer for a taste of prison life:

Managing your prisons infrastructure is vital

If you enjoy placing pipes, Prison Architect has you covered: you’re asked to do the plumbing, wiring, lay out the rooms and hire and fire staff. But it’s the people skills that are the most interesting part of the simulation.

Prison Architect isn’t just about keeping the inmates fed and watered. If they get bored, they might just start a riot. Your job is to keep them entertained and busy: to keep them out of trouble. You can let them some exercise in the yard or get them to do the laundry and cleaning. They’ll even bang out number plates in the workshop that can be turned for a profit. Rotating these jobs is key, as no one likes to be stuck with the dirty jobs for too long.

That might be the prisoners taken care of, but there’s one more person. You.

It learned from the best

The sim genre isn’t exactly new. Introversion have taken lessons from the best and sprinkled their own ideas on top. Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital are huge influences to the developers, but they understand they can’t just copy and paste their success.

Take a look at this video from Rezzed last year:

It’s really violent

Some of your inmates are proper nutjobs. You’ll see them wearing red jumpsuits. They’re such a threat you’ll need to designate entire areas to them and only them in order to protect your staff and other prisoners. Less threatening inmates can equally turn into a high risk while inside if not given enough attention.

It will be constant war against your diligence and their wits. Miss something or make a mistake and you could be responsible for a death or two. If your name is Steve Hogarty, four hours will be more than enough for your entire prison to be dead. Ouch.

It’s still in alpha

Prison Architect is still in alpha. This isn’t a bad thing: as long as you are fully aware before you throw down some cash. Introversion are listening to the community during development, an making significant changes according to their feedback. Think of something cool, an improvement or even a game breaking bug, you can pop on the forums and get it fixed.

It’s being made by the UK’s lovely indie heroes

The developers behind Prison Architect, Introversion are responsible for some of the best indie games of the past decade. Uplink, Darwinia, and DEFCON all came from this tiny company. They’re putting everything they have into Prison Architect: and the alpha testers really do make a difference.

You can buy into the alpha here.