by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
The Prison Issue
Upon starting The Escapists 2, the game promised me many different things to do and ways to escape. As a prison-escape sandbox game, I hoped it would deliver just that and more. I took note of this promise before I played, keeping it in mind as I planned my escape during my time in my dark prison cell.
The Escapists 2 is a game that puts the player into the prison-issued shoes of a criminal looking to escape. Throughout the prison are items which prove to be unlikely tools for escaping the compound, all of which can be found around the prison or bought from other prisoners and then crafted into stronger and more useful items. Money can be obtained through jobs, but may also be earned by doing quests for NPC prisoners. One of my few issues with The Escapists 2 is that many of these quests ask for the player to gather or craft specific items, but even if you already have the items needed for the quest, you cannot use them. Quests require that the player use items which spawn in upon accepting the quest. Sometimes these items can become nearly impossible to acquire if the items have since been found by guards and taken into heavily guarded areas.
And the prison is heavily guarded. As a prisoner you're kept on a strict schedule, which forces the player to plan their escape around the guard patrol and daily schedule as to not arouse suspicion. By not attending scheduled activities the prison will heighten its guard, which only makes escaping more difficult. Sneaking around patrols and getting away with things can be difficult yet extremely satisfying.
And in my experience, The Escapists 2 proves to be very difficult. Alone, escaping sometimes felt nearly impossible, and many times I was caught in my attempts to escape. Being caught in any way can seriously set you back, as your cell is searched and contraband is confiscated. Collecting resources can take quite some time, and so I wish that there had been better alternatives to hiding important items. Moreover, the game doesn't allow the player to save, and so whatever happens to you or your items cannot be undone should you make some small mistake and get caught. Furthermore, most tools such as shovels and cutters degrade quickly, meaning that all the work put into crafting these tools feels a bit wasted when they break after using them just a few times.
Serving Your Time
Digging out under the prison takes a lot of time and resources and once the alarm is triggered the guards and their search dogs come looking for you. In these larger prisons, it proved much more useful to play online with a friend. Gathering resources and formulating a plan is more enjoyable when accompanied by other players looking to escape, but it's also much easier as other players can watch for guards, take turns digging escape tunnels, and even find ways of escaping the prison that are only possible with more than one player. There's also a versus mode which pits players against each other to escape first, if that's more your style.
There are a variety of different prisons to play through as well, from old western camps to super futuristic prisons, each offering a unique set of conditions and craftable items. Among these are also shorter missions that work better with single player gameplay. In these missions, the player is timed in their escape. These prisons are much smaller and have a few different paths for escaping, all of which are easily achieved in the given time limit. My personal favorite was an escape which took place on an old western-style train which was moving speedily toward where the prisoner was to be executed. I had to sneak around the train and either avoid being spotted or take out the guards. Eventually I crafted a fake carrot and lured a horse close enough to the train to hop onto and escape.
I feel as if these timed prisons offer a better single player experience than the other, larger prisons. The task ahead of me never felt too daunting to do on my own but it also didn't feel so easy that it wasn't rewarding. More maps can be unlocked as you play, but it would have been nice if more of these shorter missions were available at the game's beginning to get a feel of the game through these shorter escapes. The shorter mode is by far my favorite way to experience the game while playing alone.
Prison Isn't Too Bad
The Escapists 2 definitely delivered on its promise: there's lots to do and many different ways to escape. However, sometimes this can feel overwhelming while playing single player, and so the game really shines when playing with friends or taking on the timed escape maps. But even when escape seems impossible, there's still something satisfying about playing as a prisoner and testing what you can get away with.
Many different settings, lots of craftable items, modes with different ways to play, fun multiplayer.
Quests require quest-specific items, less fun and more difficult while playing alone.