03rd Jul2014

‘The Escapists’ – Hands On Preview (PC)

by Paul Metcalf


Prison is hell, if you are not being beaten up by the other inmates you are being bullied by the guards to follow their orders. What do you do to survive? You learn to fit in, learn the schedules of the guards, form a team and make your escape! That’s not what you really do of course, but it’s the main aim of The Escapists.

The game starts with you sleeping in your cell, what you did to get there isn’t important, this is just another day in prison. Soon you’ll go through roll call, eat with the other inmates, get your work done then maybe have some time for exercise and learning. The first few times you play you learn the layout of the jail and take notice of the guards schedule, you’ll also probably fail at your job and lose that privilege, but that’s not really important. Once you are used to the way the game plays then you have a choice, do you work to escape or do you just live the life of an inmate?

Walking around the prison you’ll find rooms such as the gym and library that can be used to build up your stats. This can be important if you want to escape, you’ll need to be at your best if you are not going to get caught. You’ll also have the chance to form friendships and extra cash by doing favours for the other inmates. These people can also help you escape from the prison if you decide to work as a team. As with any prison though there are often inmates who’d rather fight you than help, so you have to be on your guard, though the odd riot can often help you gather resources for your escape and the building of tools.

Actually escaping the prison isn’t just a case of hunting down a hole in the fence or a conveniently placed tunnel, you have to work on making these yourself. To do this you have to collect your supplies, build tools and strategise your escape. You need to know the guards schedules and also know which inmates could be of use to you. The game has a system and you have to know how to make it work for you. If you don’t, you’ll soon see yourself in solitary with all your collected contraband taken out of your cell, meaning you’ll have to start your plans all over again.

The Escapists is a game that requires plenty of patience. Rushing your plans and acting too quickly leads to you easily being caught by the guards, you need to take your time and plan things out carefully. Just think about Prison Break and the work they put into their escapes, nothing is easy. Putting your plans into effect and actually escaping requires you to have your plan all set out, know the guards schedules and know the prisons weaknesses, nothing is easy. This isn’t a game that will just leave the front door open for you and let you just make a run for it.

The look and feel of The Escapists is 2D top down retro 8-bit, which most people will recognise straight away, it’s all the rage with the indie games right now, just think Hotline Miami. Although I do think gamers are going to tire of this look, in The Escapists defence it is a style that fits the game. The Escapists is more about strategy rather than action so having a top down map like view of the prison rather than first person or even third person perspective helps with planning.

The preview version of the game I was given access to has changed quite a bit just in the time I’ve been playing and will continue to grow once it hits Early Access on Steam so really this review is based on the functionality I have now, which will be updated. What I can tell from this though is that strategy fans with patience, willing to put time into the game will get a lot out of The Escapists. It’ll be interesting to see what the final product will be with the game and it’s nice to see that Team 17 have given their backing to Mouldy Toof to create an indie game that doesn’t have to try and fit into the instant gratification style that most have to these days, but looks to make the player spend a little time and put a little thought into their actions.

The Escapists Early Access starts July 9th 2014 on Steam – click to join the Steam group for updates and announcements: http://steamcommunity.com/app/298630

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