To be honest. For the longest time I though The Escapists game was in relation to Escapist Magazine and video reviews. Similar to when Penny Arcade released a game called On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. Sometime later, and maybe it was in recommendations from Prison Architect did I learn that The Escapists was a deep prison break strategy game. I loved the show Prison Break, greatly in part for its story and intricate challenges that Michael would plan out for the escape. So by playing The Escapists, you should in theory be able to play out that scenario in becoming the next great prisoner escape artist.
The great thing about The Escapists is that you create your story. You are thrown into a prison with a scenario and a varied prison layout in which you are determined to complete one goal: escape. Light humour and silly prison banter is present with the added violence you assume happens all the time in the prison system largely viewed through Television and Movies. You learn the day to day of the prison, the people, the routines and the jobs. Rooms are available to improve your skills such as exercise and reading and quests are thrown in to progress your item collecting, skill growth, and to keep the game exciting. Crafting is a big part as well, which is pretty neat. Then you plan your escape and hope you manage to flee from the confinement of the prison walls. So with that said, this game is pretty deep. Not to mention there is a prison editor on the PC version for those who think they can outsmart even the best escapee. However some people believed the game needed more and that it was missing something. Co-op and multiplayer for instance are often very attractive components to any game.
Fast forward to now and prepare for the hilarious sequel with vast improvements to the first game. Many of the core mechanics that made The Escapists great are still very much present in this sequel. Learning the prison layout, attending to routines, building up your strength and intellect, crafting and escaping are still there and improved. Crafting now has a recipe menu which can show the ingredients, so to speak, needed to craft the item of your choosing. Some recipes need to be found first though before the ingredients are revealed.
The tutorial mission was interesting and featured a story being told as you quickly learned the controls and made your first escape. I thought this was a neat approach for the tutorial, which is very similar to the first game, but with a clear objective and funny dialog. Some games just focus on a training area while others sort of incorporate it into the beginning of the story. Since this is a prison escape game, it needs to be different, and the approach was great.
Unlike the first game, The Escapists 2 features a deep character customization component. Previously you could choose a preset look for a character and change their name. Now you can change more pixels on the character with head choices, clothing, eye colour, etc. In addition, upon immediately starting up the first prison, I felt a sense of joy seeing a new mini map system which can be expanded to view a full map of the prison. This map also indicates item locations for quests, where people are located and room names. It’s very useful and something I wanted for the first game. Some keybindings have changed and took a little to get used to.The left mouse button is now always set to attack. This caused some issues for me as I would click away from the open window and accidentally attack a guard. I also found myself getting into many tricky situations where I didn’t think I was in the wrong, but apparently at some point I did something suspicious that the guards noticed and they would start to attack me randomly.
Graphically, there has been a huge update to the pixel models and textures making the game look really polished as well as additions to the UI which not only help single player, but greatly benefits the multiplayer component.
One possible scenario I attempted:
I tried to play a careful prisoner named Clive who went about his day without talking to many people, following routine and getting to understand the layout of the prison. Over a very short time, Clive realized he needed to make some eye contact and would occasionally talk to people between roll call and lunch. Sometimes Clive would complete quests for people and quickly gain money. But this caused Clive to be involved in some shady, suspicious activity and the guards would randomly pick on him. So Clive would spend all his free time bulking up and increasing his speed. Occasionally taking the evening to read so he could craft smarter weapons and escape tools. Clive now started to be noticed by the other prisoners as someone who gets stuff done. He was now a tank who could take on anyone who wanted to fight. He started to plan his escape route. Going through the vent in a hidden area, and digging out under the fence when everyone was asleep. He did a few tests over multiple days and discovered new recipes for crafting. Access to new areas with useful items. He got caught a few times and had to peel potatoes in solitary, but he kept a low heat from the guards and flew under the radar. That one eventful night, when the crew created a distraction while everyone was going to their cell for the night is when Clive made his escape. Following through with the plan he made it out and was free!
Now that I know what The Escapists is all about, I’ll be sure to try and understand the game more and plan my multiple escapes through various stories I can create for myself. Adding the multiplayer component will make it super fun and replayable in that I can have a crew of friends roaming the prison system as we complete tasks, beat up goons and plan our escape.
The Escapist 2 comes out on August 22 for PC, Xbox One and PS4 with the Nintendo Switch edition following soon after.
A Steam code for this preview was provided for free for preview purposes. This does not affect the opinion of the content or value of released game.