The Escapists Hands-On Preview

For those that have ever wondered if they’d have what it takes to survive in prison, Moudly Tooth Studios may have just the game for you. As an antithesis to the popular and long-in-development Prison Architect, The Escapists throws you in the slammer as an inmate and allows you to formulate your very own perfect escape plan.

As you would expect, the prison is teeming with guards that are on the lookout for insubordination, and are more than willing to assert control through a vicious beating or two. To stay off of the guard’s radar, you’ll need to try and blend in with the general population by following a routine. Make sure you attend roll call in the morning, shower, and eat lunch at the same time as the other inmates. By following procedure, the guards are less likely to notice your suspicious behaviour and, most importantly, this will save you a trip to the infirmary.

During our brief hands-on at Manchester Play Expo this past weekend, our character ended up at the brutal end of a prison beating twice – once for walking off during the morning assembly, and once for seemingly bumping into a guard.

As you explore the prison, you’ll find some humorous dialogue from guards and the other inmates, including thinly-veiled references to soap in the prison showers. Despite having soap in our inventory during shower time, we were initially disappointed to find that we couldn’t use the soap on other inmates, before we felt a deep shame in ourselves for even attempting it.

I understand that the guards have to watch us in the shower, but do they have to wink?

The Escapists features a crafting system that allows you create shivs, dummies, and shovels – all with obvious uses. It’s amazing that you can make such a wide variety of tools from seemingly innocuous items like soap and combs. You can pick up these items by raiding other inmates’ cells when they aren’t around, or by doing tasks. In prison, favours will earn you items and currency, all of which will help you build up to finale where you finally escape the compound.

While the demo we played was heavily task-focused to give us an idea as to what was achievable in The Escapists, the game is open to experimentation and offers the player a large amount of freedom. Doing tasks for inmates will make them friendly towards you, meaning that they’re more likely to turn a blind eye to your shenanigans. You can increase strength stats in the gym, which will come in handy for fighting your way out of the prison later. Intelligence stats can be increased in the library, allowing you to conduct more complicated escape plans. Considering that the game is being developed by Chris Davis, the one man studio behind the Mouldy Toof name, the scope of the game is suitably impressive.

For those looking to recreate The Great Escape, The Escapists offers plenty of variety, even in its current state. Current features include three working prisons, 100+ items to find and craft, and multiple escape routes from each facility. The game is currently in early access on Steam, so expect gameplay features to change by the game’s release (tentatively scheduled for early/mid–2015).

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