Though my time spent with the first entry in The Escapists series was brief, it was enough to get me interested in the idea of a sequel. Fortunately for me, The Escapists 2 takes everything found in the original and adds to it. This results in a game that existing fans will love but also one that has the potential to overwhelm newcomers.
As the title suggests, The Escapists 2 is a game about escaping. Like the original, The Escapists 2 is top-down strategy simulation game where players take on the role of an inmate trying to escape from prison. The Escapists 2 still uses a pixel art graphic style but with a lot more detail than the first entry. New to the series is a character customization mode that lets players create and name their own inmate. While I appreciate the feature being present, it’s limited in a few strange ways such as certain hair colors being locked to different styles.
On paper, The Escapists 2 sounds like a relatively simple game. You follow the daily routine of a prisoner trying to discreetly gather tools and search for the best escape route to use for the big prison break. When I started playing, I went through the game’s first prison, which serves as the tutorial stage. It was only after starting the game’s first real level that I noticed a problem that might hinder newcomers: the tutorial is set up in a way where everything is laid out in plain sight. All of the necessary tools are already gathered and the escape route is basically in mapped out for you. None of the game’s exploration elements are present in the tutorial, creating a large divide between itself and the main campaign. The Escapists 2 is all about learning your environment which will likely take far longer than the tutorial will lead you to believe.
There are a lot of different mechanics used in The Escapists 2, and one of the most important is the schedule. In order to keep the prison guards off your back, players are required to attend events such as roll call and work duties at different stations. Players can use these times—along with the free time in-between—to gather tools and materials. The majority of these items can be used within the game’s robust crafting system, but this is where things start to get overwhelming. While The Escapists 2 improves on the original by showing the ingredients needed to craft each item, there are so many items that can be made but no real way to tell what will be useful.
Most of the quests involve either distracting guards or teaching another prisoner a lesson, both of which involve combat. Fighting in The Escapists 2 is simple, but it works. There is one attack button which can be charged as well as the ability to guard and to lock onto a target. The Escapists 2 also features some light RPG mechanics, letting players perform stronger attacks by equipping weapons and by increasing the strength stat by working out. Things can get a little chaotic when the NPCs get into fights with each other randomly, resulting in the guards freaking out and beating down everyone involved.
Multiplayer is the most notable addition to The Escapists 2 and it’s one of the best things about the game. Up to four players can play online or locally, working together or racing in versus mode. Having a companion in this game heightens the experiences. Prisons in The Escapists 2 are large so it helps to have extra people covering the grounds and coming up with escape plans. Multiplayer also adds to the hilarity of the game. While it can be fun to beat up a guard and steal his uniform, nothing is better than watching your friend getting chased around the prison by guard dogs after missing roll call.
Naturally, escaping the prison is the most difficult part of The Escapists 2. The main source of this difficulty stems from the game’s lack of information and trial-and-error gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, while the tutorial does explain basic controls and the goal of the game, it doesn’t tell you much beyond that. I wasted a couple of in-game days trying to figure out how to apply for a job position before finding the notice board. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the prison’s solitary confinement cell and infirmary for each failed attempt until you finally get it right.
While I enjoyed playing The Escapists 2, I would have had a lot more fun with it if the game taught me more about what to do rather than leaving me to figure it out on my own. It was a lot easier to forgive this with the new multiplayer modes that allowed me to mess around with friends while we figure the game out together. Fans of the first game shouldn’t hesitate to get their hands on The Escapists 2. Everything found in the first game is present here and expanded on. Small grievances aside, The Escapists 2 is a worthy sequel that rewards those willing to explore all of the game’s mechanics.