The Escapists 2 has already been released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One but now it’s finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch. Is it worth buying again? Let’s find out.
The core concept of The Escapists 2 is pretty simple. You’re a prisoner and you’d rather not be, so it’s up to you to get out. How do you get out? Well that’s up to you. The game starts out with a short tutorial explaining the basics like crafting supplies, checking your map, crawling through vents and digging under walls. There is a bit more to learn after that but that’s all you really need to know to get started.
Once you move on from the tutorial the first prison you get to play in is a small one with only 2 floors. There is a timer that ticks down during the day and as a prisoner you must be in certain places at certain times. I like the idea behind it. Obviously you don’t want to draw attention to yourself when you’re trying to escape so you have to be a good prisoner. Go to the yard for roll call at 8, go to the food court for an hour after, then two hours of free time, back for dinner and then lights out etc.
The period of free time is where you’ll do most of the actual gameplay. During this time you’re allowed to wander the prison freely and you can use this time to raise your stats at the exercise room, learn the layout of the prison or do side quests for other inmates. The side quests are the best way to earn money and at first they seem like they’d be fun. You get requests from other prisoners that want you to beat down someone they don’t like or they’ve stashed something and lost it so you’ve got to get it back for them. Only problem is, the way the quests work doesn’t adhere to the sandbox nature of the game.
Take one of the beat down quests for example. You might get asked to smash Tim over the head with a super sock mace. That’s a sock with batteries in it. But you can’t do it with one you already have. You have to craft it yourself. Fine, except you have to craft it from specific components in locations marked on your map. This is pretty ridiculous. If you have all you need, the game should just let you get on with it instead of making you waste your time. On that matter, wasting time constitutes a whole lot of the gameplay in The Escapists 2.
Like I said, most of the time you have to be in a specific part of the prison or the guards will beat the hell out of you. Sure you can do some crafting during that time but there isn’t really much gameplay to be had there, so a lot of the time you’re just waiting about. Then when you’re not, you’re trying to find components to craft items you need to escape. Some can be found around the prison but others have to be bought from other prisoners. Of course, their inventories change every day so you might have to wait an arbitrary amount of time before someone has the thing you need to make your tools. Then if you should happen to fail an escape attempt or get knocked out while you’re carrying contraband it will be taken from you and you’ll have to make them again.
That’s pretty much the only consequence for failure in this game. You just have to do whatever you already did again or try something else. And since money is easy to earn it’s only a matter of time before you have all you need. It’s hard to feel like your actions matter when there are basically no consequences except wasted time. Sure the prison’s security level increases but that goes down the next day as long as you don’t do anything illegal for an in-game day, which is only a few minutes. So basically there’s no punishment for failure.
That and the fact that you have to do all the things a prisoner would do combine to make this game rather monotonous. I like the idea of planning a prison escape. Learning guard routes, hiding supplies, getting your crew together and sneaking away under cover of night but the exciting part is the escape. The rest of it isn’t all that interesting. It’s not actually that hard to keep your contraband goods because guards only check your pockets when you get knocked out after doing something illegal. The items necessary for escape are rarely difficult to get. I forgot to mention this game also has online play but as far as I can see there is no good way to communicate with other players. You’re limited to short phrases like “hello”, “dig here” and “follow me.” This just isn’t enough to actually communicate with other people.
With actual chat features you could get a group together and plan a proper prison escape. Getting one guy to distract a guard while you sneak into his office and steal a key or something like that. As it is, you just have to go and hope the other person is thinking the same thing as you are, otherwise they might as well just be an NPC.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about The Escapists 2. The core gameplay is fairly dull and monotonous. It made a good first impression but when I realised that I could max out all my stats in 10 minutes and have infinite retries at escape the excitement of it all just sort of went away. Technically wasting your time isn’t the only negative consequence for not doing well. At the end of each level you’re graded on your performance. You get points for escaping quickly and doing more quests. If you enjoy the gameplay I suppose this would offer up a more interesting challenge to keep you playing. Personally I wasn’t too bothered with my F grade.
If you liked the first one then you’ll probably enjoy this one. This game just isn’t for me. I really like sandbox style gameplay but not when there are practically no consequences for failure. As much as I found the gameplay boring and repetitive I must give credit where it’s due. The Escapists 2 has a pretty good sound track and the well drawn pixel art was pleasing to my eyes. I’ll also give kudos to the devs for trying to mix things up by having different styles of prisons in the game. For example, one of them is a prison on a train, with each carriage being a different room.
However, much like the inmates in prison once I got out I had no desire to go back in. Also I should note, the Switch version lacks the feature to create and share your own prison levels so if you have a PC that can run it you’re probably better off getting the PC version.