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Prison Architect Review


Prison Architect Review

Introversion Software’s hardcore prison-building sim bursts onto the PC gaming scene.

Prison Architect on PC

There’s a lot to be said for the level of detail that goes into the average builder/simulation game. Prison Architect, from Introversion Software, is no exception to this rule. Tasking players with all the minutiae of design, construction, and administration of their ideal criminal justice destination, the game spans a huge amount of content that will have even genre veterans struggling to meet the demands and realities of their newly-founded prisons. With such a level of detail and planning going into it, though, can the world of prison-building still remain fun when the prisoners start to complain, grumble, or even riot against their overseers?

Prison Architect begins with some kindly-provided and very necessary tutorial missions in the form of a story that guides players through some of the basics. Covering topics like laying foundations, sectioning off rooms, laying the necessary utility lines, and much more, this tour of the game presents a ton of information that players will need to retain if they hope to succeed in building their own prison from the ground up. On top of managing the layout and building of the structures themselves, players will also have to manage staff, access to amenities, and plenty more if they’re hoping to rake in the profits and continue building their ideal iron-barred incarceration center.

Let’s cover some of the basics that Prison Architect players will need to master to move forward. When planning a new building, for instance, you must first outline the foundation. Once this is in place and a door added, the interior can be assigned a purpose, such as cell block, kitchen, staff lounge, or warden’s office. The next step will be to fulfil the room requirements, which will include size, objects, entryways, and the like. After that, connecting the space to the necessary utilities with underground power cables and water pipes completes the process, and finally, your new room is ready to serve its purpose.

Of course, becoming the ultimate Prison Architect is more than just drawing out the plans. Making sure your prisoner intake is bringing in plenty of new inmates, and that your guards, cooks, and other staff are prepared to accommodate, is more important than anything. After all, you’re not getting any funding for running an empty yard, and you’re not going to maintain order if your prisoners are starving or your guards too exhausted to keep the peace. The entire experience is a difficult and ever-shifting balancing act that will force players to react to situations, social pressures, and plenty of other factors if they’re hoping to see the cash keep flowing in.

To keep things moving forward, Prison Architect also has a mission system, presenting players with grant opportunities that pay out big bucks for meeting the conditions. These can range from simple tasks like building a prison with a certain capacity to preparing your facility for high-security, dangerous criminals awaiting their last meal on death row. Keeping prisoners happy will also have its own rewards, and there are plenty of options here, as well, including in-cell TVs, workout rooms, or large outdoor yards for the inmates to while away their sentences. This is all optional, of course; it’s up to players to decide if they’re running a “Club Fed” prison resort, or a lockdown-heavy maximum security dungeon with only the basics.

While Prison Architect offers a vast means of accomplishing your aims, there are certain things players will have to keep in mind as they go. The basic needs of both prisoners and staff will need to be met, including access to food, clothing, and other bare necessities. Losing your grip on any or all of these is sure to result in riots, and it won’t be long before the carefully-planned walls of your complex are burned to cinders. As I said previously, it’s a very delicate balancing act, and it’s not an easy one to keep up on. There’s always something happening, and the tasks pile up as you struggle to keep order and uphold the laws you’re sworn to maintain. Devoted sim players will find plenty of involved things to keep busy with, though play options such as unlimited funds can make things more approachable for the less hardcore.

Ultimately, Prison Architect is an incredibly detail-oriented game that’s an easy pick for fans of the genre. While the level of detail and difficulty may push away outsiders looking to test the waters, it’s not an insurmountable feat. For a fair $29.99 on Steam (or 33% off through October 13th), there’s plenty of content and challenge to justify the sticker price. If you’re already playing Prison Architect, check out our handy guide for building a great prison, or check out some tips on how to assign your guards effectively. Or, of course, check out some of the available mods to change up your experience.

Score: 4/5


  • Great amount of challenge to overcome
  • Plenty of ways to approach play and succeed
  • Fantastic level of detail and player control


  • Not exactly a welcoming experience
  • Very tough to juggle all of the events and missions
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