The ID@Xbox program has brought us quite a few gems from the indie developers since its announcement. Developer Mouldy Toof Studios
's new offering, The Escapists
, is the latest quality addition to the program and places us in a role that hopefully none of us have experienced, escaping from prison. Spanning across six different prisons, this game challenges wits and demands your patience as you attempt to escape each prison.
The brief tutorial shows players the basics of the game and gives them the false impression, "Hey, this is going to be easy!" After that tutorial you'll wake up from that dream of ease and enter the real game which features a steep learning curve. This is the biggest issue I found with the game. The start can be brutal, unforgiving, and may discourage players from continuing on, but after learning a few recipes to build a few items, it becomes more clear as to what you can do to escape these prisons.
Within the prison walls, inmates are put on a daily schedule that they will have to follow or face the consequences. If you decide to skip out on a roll call or miss lunch, the prison guards will come after you. If they succeed in beating you down, you will lose all of the "illegal" items you have in your possession and be swiftly sent to the infirmary. As with most prisons (I'm assuming), you have random cell searches that are performed throughout the day. During roll call, the guard will call out the names of the prisoners that will be searched. Should they call your name and find any "illegal" items stashed away in your cell, you will be sent to solitary for three days and all of those hard-earned items will be confiscated. Sucks right? It's times like this when I found it best to reload to the save from the previous day. In fact, I used the load button a lot; it's your best friend when something goes wrong. You're able to save the game at the end of each day when it's time to go to sleep, so when something does go wrong you can revert back to when you woke up. Yes, you have to start the whole day over and you lose progress and items that you made that day, but most times it's worth it.
One of the most tedious things about this game is finding the right components for recipes. There are numerous ways you can find these components. Inmates, if they like you, will sell you certain hard-to-find items, you can also search through their desks, and/or knock them out and loot their bodies. It's a grinding task that you must perform if you want to escape, but it has to be done. Certain items can only be created with a high enough intelligence level, which you can raise by "LOLing at cats" and reading books. You can also increase your strength by lifting weights, which also increases your maximum health, and you can bump up your speed by using the yoga mats. These stats will decrease over time if you do not revisit the exercise gym and keep them pumped up. The most critical stat to stay on top of is intelligence, as you need it to create the best items the game has to offer.
You can earn money by doing quests for inmates and performing jobs. The quests for inmates vary between finding certain items for them, beating up a rival, and distracting guards during a certain time so they can sneak out. There are a total of ten different jobs you can do while in prison. Not all jobs are available at each prison. Each one requires you to complete a certain task. For instance, the laundry job requires you to wash "X" amount of clothes in "X" amount of time. If you fail, you lose your job and it will be filled by another inmate. To get another job, you have to make another inmate fail their task during work hours. This can be accomplished by beating them down during that time frame, or punching them once and leading them around in circles until work hours are up. All of these manipulations result in the inmate getting fired. Once relieved of their job, you can then apply for it via the Jobs board found within the prison.
Each prison offers up different challenges and difficulty increases as you progress to each new prison. The first prison, Center Perks, offers up a fairly easy challenge to the escapist. The difficulty sees a spike when going to the second prison, Stalag Flucht, which features electric fences, metal detectors and security cameras. There are plenty of escape options at your disposal, such as impersonating a guard, digging your way out, using a grappling hook to climb the walls, and even taking over the prison. While there are plenty of options for escape, the hard part is figuring out which one will work best in the prison that you're trapped in.
The achievements in The Escapists
aren't that difficult, apart from escaping all six prisons which will net you 150 Gamerscore. A few of these will require grinding, such as having 100 visitors come to see you. Said achievement isn't hard at all, but it does take some time. Other than that one, most of the achievements will come as you progress your way through each of the six prisons. At the time of writing this review, only three people of 1,200 have unlocked that achievement.
Prison life isn't easy, that much I have learned from my time playing The Escapists
. This game can be frustrating, make you angry, and want to quit altogether. That is, until that one thing you've been missing finally hits you and you make your escape out of a prison. It's a satisfying feeling that I haven't had from playing recent games. That feeling of accomplishment is one that a lot of mainstream games have lacked for some time. The Escapists
, if you have the patience to figure it out without using walkthroughs, will leave you feeling a bit frustrated, but incredibly gratified. In a sea of ID@Xbox titles, The Escapists
is one not to be missed.
The reviewer spent twelve hours trying to perfect escaping the various prisons. Along the way, he unlocked 9 of the 16 achievements. This Xbox One copy of the game was provided courtesy of the developer.