The Escapists 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 30.05.2019

Review for The Escapists 2 on PlayStation 4

With The Escapists 2 Mouldy Toof Studios have attempted to build on the success of the original The Escapists - success widely owed to the coverage the game received by YouTubers JackSepticEye and DanTDM (who the developers have included as characters in the game to show their appreciation for this fact). The Escapists 2 is a prison simulator on par in style with its predecessor and does a commendable job of capturing the everyday tedium of life as a convict. But can it pull this off while retaining the all-important fun factor?

The Escapists 2 offers the player a handful of wonderfully crafted sandbox prisons from which to make a getaway, each with multiple escape opportunities. These diversely designed penitentiaries all boast a unique aesthetic which for the most part feel fresh and distinguished from each other - from a high-tech space station to a moving train, the player is tasked with getting out by any means necessary with whatever is at hand. The tools and basic requirements for a successful escape are presented, and then it's up to the escapee to do the legwork.

This is a roundabout way of saying that The Escapists 2 is ruthless in its lack of handholding. The sensation of helplessness can be palpable - almost every detail of each escape relies on the ingenuity of the fugitive-to-be. Resourcefulness must be channelled through the game's various mechanics: an extensive crafting menu, building relationships with guards and inmates, attending mandatory prison exercises and a light-RPG combat system are the primary tools to be utilised. To truly "beat" this, one must decipher and exploit this tightly run machine.

On paper, this has the makings of a great experience. Unfortunately, the experience is mostly hit-or-miss. The player is expected to figure out what works and what doesn't on their own, which is odd given that there are a couple of designated tutorial missions. The tutorials glance over the basics, but fail to truly capture what is required of the player once they're thrust into the underbelly of each prison, and this negatively colours the rest of the experience. The result is a very janky, difficult to absorb introduction to it all, which most newcomers might abandon right off the bat.

Screenshot for The Escapists 2 on PlayStation 4

Not only are the mechanics difficult to decipher, but they can be incredibly punishing when they're not respected. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if the parameters for what is "illegal" were better defined, but the game sorely lacks direction thanks to the aforementioned weak tutorials. That being said, The Escapists 2, like its predecessor, rewards experimentation. For those who take the time to learn the ins and outs, it can become interesting and even enjoyable at times. The numerous prisons all have different conditions and some unique escape opportunities, but it unfortunately almost all boils down to doing the same thing in only minorly different ways.

Screenshot for The Escapists 2 on PlayStation 4

There are only so many methods of tunnelling under a cell or cutting through a fence, and once these have been exhausted the game has little lasting appeal. Even so, it's difficult to call The Escapists 2 bad based on its tedium alone. It is a game about prison, and it does the prison thing well. It just doesn't do the 'game' thing very well. It is often a chore to play; the boredom induced through hours of going through the motions of each prison often outweighs the fleeting joy of finally making an escape.

There is an option to play most of the prisons in co-op, but this only works if the other player understands the game as well - which, as mentioned, takes a long time to achieve. Other notable flaws are the overlong loading screens, which are frankly unforgivable given that The Escapists 2 is not a graphically demanding game. The menus are clunky and outdated and a veritable chore to navigate on consoles - they were clearly designed for PC and not properly optimised for a gamepad. There are few things less infuriating for the modern gamer than an underwhelming port.

Screenshot for The Escapists 2 on PlayStation 4

This prison sim - like all strategy video games - is not for everyone, as it requires a level of patience that is in danger of becoming extinct amongst gamers. The Escapists 2 excels in its subject matter, but in terms of gameplay alone it often stumbles and struggles along, and first-time players will need to be prepared for some frustrations before they can immerse themselves fully in the experience.

Screenshot for The Escapists 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The Escapists 2 makes a valiant effort at being a challenging, realistic take on prison life, but is a let-down in some crucial areas. The inadequate tutorials fail to capture what the rest of the experience demands, and even when this code is cracked it all becomes tedious quickly. It's a game behind the times, from the way it plays to its awkward design choices, and its weak performance and optimisation on consoles is further cause for frustration. For those willing to put themselves through an unbalanced learning curve there is some enjoyment to be had on the far side, but beyond the fleeting charm of some of the levels, the rest of the experience falls flat.

Developer

Team 17

Publisher

Team17

Genre

Simulation

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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