The Escapists Review

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The indie title The Escapists was digitally released feb. 13th on Xbox One and PC [available on Steam].

The game has been developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and the legendary Team 17 LTD Digital (Worms Battlegrounds, Flockers; also both available on Xbox One) who are also the publishers of the game. The boxed copies will be available early on the UK and in the near future on the rest of Europe.

[Game Size: 323,88 MB]

Reviewed on Xbox One; also available on Playstation 4 and PC.

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INTRODUCTION

The Escapists is a prison life simulator where the main objective is escaping successfully out of prison as soon as you can, which will be later reflected on the leaderboard.

In order to get a higher score, you need to keep in mind things such as player stats and reputation, good and bad behaviour, days taken to escape (bonus) and efficiency to get your overall score.

Apparently there is no background story so there is plenty of room for your imagination to run wild; you can be the type of criminal you want to as long as you weren’t wrongly imprisoned… (yeah, that was probably your case…)

GAME FEATURES 

There are 6 fully operational prisons which vary conditions and difficulty by increasing security levels:

  • Center Perks
  • Stalag Flucht
  • Shankton State Penitentiary
  • Jungle Compound
  • San Pancho
  • HMP Irongate

And your task is to eventually discover multiple ways to get out of them without being caught.

The game economy system is simple and effective; you need money to buy items from other inmates and there are only two ways of getting it; working and completing quests, or in other words, favours.

Once you apply for a job (which is completely optional) and get hired (certain level of intellect required depending on the salary), you will have to complete the job quota in order to achieve a well deserved salary. If you fail to complete this quota, you’ll get fired due to your “sheer incompetence and inability” to reach the established quotas.
This is a list of the jobs available (some of them are only accessible in certain prisons):

  • Laundry
  • Kitchen
  • Metal Shop
  • Janitor
  • Wood Work
  • Tailor
  • Deliveries
  • Library
  • Mail Man
  • Gardening
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Janitor job.

If you still need cash you can always earn bigger payouts by taking and completing favours as I said previously. If you do so, you won’t only get more money but you will also raise up other inmate’s opinion about you.

The opinion system is easily understandable; positive actions like giving gifts or helping inmates will increase their opinion (good perception) about you, and, of course, negative actions like stealing or fighting them will lower it.

Your character stats, which needs to be improved and maintained, are strength, speed and intellect. On the screen you may also notice indicators such as your health (depending on strength), your fatigue level and guard heat. Performing manual tasks will raise your fatigue; lower it by sitting down, eating, sleeping or taking a shower. Your fatigue is not the only thing you should be aware of; don’t forget about guard heat. Avoid making risky and suspicious moves!                                                                                                                              ⇓⇓⇓⇓

{SPOILER: This might be easier said than done}

There is also a great amount of items available; combine them in the crafting menu to create weapons/tools and make your life easier. With time you will discover that there are legal and illegal items all over the prison (around 200 items to find including 50+ craftable items). The best place to find some them is in other inmate’s desk.

Leaderboards are also featured in this game providing score for every prison and comparing them with the score of the rest of players around the world.

Another feature is the customizable inmates and guards, focusing vaguely on the appearance. You can also change their names.

Finally I would like to point out (achievement hunters, pay attention!) that there are 16 achievements in the game worth a total 1000G.

GAMEPLAY 

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Can you dig it?

I would like to start saying that this game is really hard, in fact, it’s harder than it seems. Even the achievements require some time to unlock them (don’t expect free achievements like in other games, you’ll have to earn them, just the way it’s supposed to be!) and some of them are really challenging.

After you complete the tutorial, you’ll suddenly wake up in the first prison, and this is where the game starts. It’s highly recommended that you start figuring your way out of prison since the very first minute.

At the beginning you’ll be constantly getting caught (If your behaviour is not the expected one, solitary confinement for three days will be the guard’s solution to the problem) for stashing illegal items, beating up other inmates or officers and generally by doing actions related directly to the preparation of the escape plan, but don’t worry; this game is basically about experimenting, getting caught and learning from it. Your prison time will take as long as it needs to, so try to relax because there is a long journey ahead.

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Workout time! Keeping fit is the ultimate key for survival.

On your first day, you’ll have to get used to attend a series of daily scheduled events; stick to them if you want to remain unnoticed and keep the guards off your back. Your daily routines includes roll calls, optional work time, shower time, exercise periods, meals and sleeping time (when the lights go out).

Depending on the security of the prison you might be lucky and have some more free period times; this is where your preparation movements usually start, use every second wisely.

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Attend the roll call to find out who is getting a cell search.

Hit, run, steal, dig, buy, plan, loot, hide, seek, flush, craft, climb, distract, make favours, make friends, make enemies, get fit, keep your job and call Saul; do whatever it takes in order to escape!

START PLANNING AND GET READY TO MAKE YOUR MOVE!

As soon as you start planning, you will start getting into potential trouble; it doesn’t matter if you try to stay “off the radar” because one thing is for sure: you’ll be making enemies while you are in prison.

Last week I discovered the power of having an ally inside; when other inmate’s opinion about you is high, he’ll become friend and he’ll even act as a “bodyguard”. Keep that in mind!

Your first escape will satisfy you long enough before you start wanting some more; but, being inside once again, will make you regret it.

Freedom will be your deserved reward in exchange of your determination to remain patient, and it’s completely worth it.

GRAPHICS & SOUND
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Lockdown! Trouble in your way.

Nowadays there seems to be a general guarantee; pixel art equals tons of fun.

Like the majority of indie titles, The Escapists provides us an 8-bit and two-dimensional classy look, which is absolutely great. I personally think that this game was meant to be this way; you can’t deny that this game looks extremely cool.

There is not much more to say about graphics, other than textures are detailed enough to make recognisable every element in the game.

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Visit time!

Do you realise how important a game soundtrack is? It needs to deliver the precise amount of intense moments in the correct way.

The soundtrack of this game fits perfectly its main objective; delivering the correct amount of thrill on any given moment and handing over entertaining melodies during some of the scheduled routines in addition to the retro sounds. My favourite song can be heard during the Lights Out at night; it’s a disturbing melody and at the same time it’s relaxing, which is quite difficult to forget.

This soundtrack builds the 4th wall strongly enough to make it unbreakable and to get you opportunely trapped into it, ensuring you believe being inside a prison.

The visuals and sound aspects combined together supply an impressive result; simply outstanding.

PERSONAL OPINION

Valentine’s Day is coming, and that reminds me of something; the first time I played this game it was love at first sight.

The Escapists is a game that needs to be among your game collection on your Xbox One at some point; this type of game is relatively new on consoles and even more on next-gen, and it’s quite fun to play, which are plausible reasons to buy the game.
I think you are definitely going to enjoy this game, especially if you are a fan of the genre, and if you are not, give it a try and you will probably become one soon.

I managed to get early access a couple of weeks ago and I have not been able to finish the game yet; and that means several things:

  • I’m not the best escapist out there (and I’ve tried!)
  • This game is hard and you won’t be able to complete it fast (on your own, without looking tutorials on how to escape of the toughest prisons).

In fact, if you look at the leaderboard you will see that nobody has finished the game yet! That gives you a chance and motivation to try to be the first one to do it.

I had seen the Early Access PC version of the game and I must say that they did a great job adapting it to the Xbox One; this version has got nice controls and menus, and the only thing missing (and that’s a shame) is the Prison Editor (will be available for PC in the future):

Hopefully this will be also available for the Xbox One some day!

From my own experience I can say that I often felt frustrated and thought that I was going to spend the rest of my simulated life on prison, but later on I realised that it was completely normal; there’s no need to panic at all!
Also, I must say I had a great time reading inmate dialogues which are pretty funny and original, containing sometimes various references (I encourage you to find them!)

There are also a few issues (there is always room for improvement in every game, and that is a fact), like the lack of customization options, which is not a huge problem, but it could add more flavour to the game. Another thing I particularly missed is some kind of respect system (the opinion system works well but it could be even deeper).

Overall there are way more positive things than negative ones, and that’s why I totally recommend you this game; it’s your best opportunity to demonstrate your escapist and planning skills, and I’ pretty sure you are willing to prove them!

VERDICT

The Escapists gets a 80,5/100 score.

Michael Scofield approves.

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By the way, there is no “get out of jail” card on this game.