So, I’ve been following Prison Architect since it’s alpha 12 release, some 2 years or so ago now. I saw, I liked. Bought a Name in the Game edition. (If you want to add me, just search for Auroris in the list.) I’ve been playing it on and off throughout the whole alpha phase.
What I’m saying is, when I came to streaming this, I pretty much knew what was happening, and what I was doing.
For my streaming, I’d left all events and gangs enabled to give myself the chance to see everything that could occur, however I’d disabled money limitations as I was trying to show off the different things you can do, not struggle along trying to remain financially viable.
Anyway, to the game itself.
Prison Architect is a prison construction and management simulator. You get to build a prison, fill it with prisoners, expand, rinse and repeat. All while you have more and more prisoners coming in, all with needs you can see, traits you can’t, and the potential for a riot or a shanking in the showers at any time. (Shanking in the showers will only happen when prisoners are actually in the showers. If prisoners are shanked elsewhere, then this is not being shanked in the showers.)
So, the basics of this game are rather simple, really. You need somewhere for your prisoners to eat, sleep, shower and shit. The interface is pretty easy once you see how it’s doing things.
Then you realise that they also need exercise, to talk to their family, to feel that they have at least a degree of freedom, to feel safe and un-oppressed by the guards. Oh, and the kitchen’s caught fire.
Playing freeplay, having never played the game before, I think it very likely that this would overwhelm a player on their first couple of attempts, until they started to learn what was happening. Having followed the development for 2/3 of the public alpha release, I knew a lot more about what I was wanting to be doing, and my initial layout will not have reflected that, because I suck at games. But it might not have been quite as initially messy as for new players.
Once you begin to understand the information being shown to you, there are so many interacting systems that you can master, and different approaches you can take. You can run a liberal prison, that tries to keep all your prisoners happy, learning and engaging in personal self-development. Or you could have guards everywhere, with everyone suppressed into terror. I personally tend to aim somewhere down the middle.
Put simply, if you enjoy complex management simulators, then you will probably enjoy this. Otherwise, you probably won’t. Myself, I’ve been following it for over 2 years, and am still playing it, so you can tell what I think. If you’ve played it, hopefully you agree. If you’ve not played it, then go find a video to watch and get a copy if you like what you see.