Prison Architect is Introversion's latest game in progress. If you didn't know they were developing it, one might assume that "it's just one of those tycoon games", and write it off. You shouldn't. It goes far beyond just making money and things operation. It actually gets quite personal among the inmates, and gives you a connection to the world you create.
This preview is based on the Alpha 7 build of the game
The game's opening pans over a fully functioning prison, constructing an execution chamber to electrify a convicted felon named Edward. And he has a story. But the law has decided his fate, and whether you agree or not, you must do what's necessary. After completing the introductory tease, you're left contemplate over what just transpired, and must start over and build anew.
I found it difficult to know what to do. Being so open and free isn't so bad, but when I'm told a huge transport of prisoners is coming within 24 hours, I become overwhelmed. The game suggests what I should build, but not at what size, causing me to overspend and just about fail before I truly begin. Eventually, after tinkering with the systems and building conservatively, you can expand from there when needed.
A large portion of Prison Architect is balance and meeting the demands of your prison as it grows. It equally deals with moral dilemmas of running and working inside a prison. Over the course of the game's campaign, it'll remind you that these are real people living here, and still have rights as humans. You'll ensure the place has power, adequate space, showers, cells, and toilets to accommodate your inmates. There's also promise of prison escapes and full-on riots which'll require your response. All of which sound incredibly cool and hope they make its way in without overrunning the game with too much.
Of course, not everything about running an operation such as this is just above ground, going into the utilities panel will show you how water and electricity flows through the complex. Careful balance is required here too, as seen in the tutorial level, draw too much power and you'll be left without. Only by adding more capacitors and restarting the power station will you be able to sustain the massive drain of running everything electrical.
Prison Architect is a unique twist on simulation management, and for the better. Introducing the human element, you'll be trying to furnish the warden's office while there's only one communal toilet for the inmates to share. It allows you to be tyrannical or mild-mannered, the choice is yours. Certain emotions will be imposed upon you, but you can choose to deal with them or not. It continues to evolve and grow as it gets feedback from the community and new features get added. It'll be interesting to see what the final product turns out to be.
The game is fully funded, but you can buy-in to the Alpha and get the completed game too: