Escape Mode

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Escape Mode.png Escape Mode


Be a Prisoner and try to escape.

Other Information:

  • None provided
See also:
Sandbox Mode

A hard fight against some guards.

Besides from building and managing prisons, there is another game mode in Prison Architect: Escape Mode, where you take control of a prisoner attempting to escape from the prison.

Escape Mode will automatically start if you meet the failure condition of allowing too many deaths in a short period of time. You will be convicted of Criminal Negligence, and will spend time within your own prison as a prisoner. Escape Mode can also be started from the menu directly, where you can load any save game to start playing there as a prisoner.

Being a prisoner[edit]

As a prisoner, you are able to walk around in the prison, obtain contraband items and dig tunnels from your cell. By causing trouble (e.g. damaging furniture, fighting guards), you will build up reputation points, with which you can gather reputations (like "strong", "tough", etc.) or improve existing ones (e.g. "extremely tough") along with using them to recruit other prisoners to join your crew and follow you around, and to gather reputations for them. Prisoners in your crew can help with tunnel progress and aid in causing trouble. If your own character escapes the prison, is knocked unconscious or killed, you can play on with any other prisoner in your squad. Like other prisoners, you and your crew won't be able to interact with anything if handcuffed, and will move at a very slow pace.

You can move around with the WASD or the arrow keys. Most other actions are performed using the mouse. See Controls for more information.

Reputation points[edit]

When you gather reputation points, you can spend them on building up the following reputations:

  • Strong: You hit harder
  • Tough: You can take more hits
  • Deadly: You have a chance to kill with one hit
  • Quick: You can run faster (hold Shift)
  • Instigator: Nearby prisoners will fight when you do
  • Skilled Fighter: You can disarm opponents when hitting them
  • Swimmer: You can swim (only with Island Bound DLC)

Obtaining the reputations in their basic level costs one point, increasing them to their "extreme" level costing five instead.

You can also use your points to recruit other prisoners into your squad, along with building up reputations for other existing members of your squad. (for the same price) Recruiting the first squad member is one reputation point, the second two and so on. Prisoners that come with pre-existing reputations are more expensive to recruit.

You can skip punishments by spending one reputation point. (see Skipping time)


Whilst wandering in a room containing contraband, you may come across contraband icons. When a contraband icon is displayed, move near the icon and hold the right mouse button for several seconds in order to steal it.

You can carry two contraband items at once. They are displayed in your inventory at the bottom of the screen together with their properties (e.g. attack power). Clicking one of the items or pressing 1 or 2 will equip the chosen item on your character to use as a weapon or tool. You can also drop an item by right-clicking on it's inventory icon.

Inside any cell, you can stash your contraband items with right-click to avoid getting caught with them.

In your own cell, you can start digging a tunnel starting from the toilet. Digging tools will wear out when doing so, so you will need to get new ones from time to time.

If you steal an item from a room, there is a three hour timer before that item can be stolen again from that room. These timers end instantly when the player surrenders or is knocked out.


After you have recruited other prisoners to your squad, they will follow you where you go, unless you or they are punished, unconscious or dead. You can also click their name on their icon in the upper left of the screen to toggle whether they should follow you or do their own thing. By clicking on their face, you can switch which prisoner you want to control actively.

A quick way to switch between controlling squad members is by pressing "q". One can order all squad members to stop what they're doing and follow them by pressing "r".

By clicking the "x" in the upper right corner of each prisoner's picture, you can remove him from your squad.

Skipping time[edit]

When you are being punished (i.e. in solitary or locked in your cell), you can skip this punishment via the according button in the upper left of the screen. This will cost you a reputation point. Once you've recruited squad members, you can switch to playing as another squad member while one member is being punished.

When you are in your cell during the night time, you can skip the night by pressing the "Sleep" button in the upper left of the screen. This won't cost you anything.

At any time, you can use the time controls in the upper right of the screen to pause the game or play at double speed.

If you just want to get somewhere faster, you can hold the Shift key to run for a short while. This requires you to have the "Quick" reputation.

Regime and zones[edit]

As a prisoner, you are not allowed to enter any zones which are marked as staff-only or that are designated for another security level than you are. Trying to do so will be counted as an escape attempt and the guards will come after you.

However, you are usually not required to follow any regime. Except for the sleep and lockup regimes, you are always allowed to wander around freely. When caught outside your cell by a guard during these regimes, you might be brought back there (but not punished) by a guard.

Game Over[edit]

The game is finished when you either manage to escape from the prison (with your whole squad), or if the entire squad dies.

A "Game Over" screen giving you a score and some statistics is presented in both cases.

See Winning and Failure Conditions for more information also on how to win or fail in other game modes.

Prison repair[edit]

Once the player surrenders or is knocked out, damage done to a prison and its staff is repaired automatically.

All staff killed are replaced with new hires.

All fires are extinguished, and burnt down walls get construction jobs created to replace them.


An easy way to gain your starting reputation points is to walk around and punch some heavily clustered, easily destroyable furniture by left clicking on it. One hit is enough, then you can continue to the next object. If the prison has a dedicated shower room, that tends to be a good place for this since showerheads are quite fragile and thus easy to fully damage (thus awarding two reputation points rather than one).

The best reputation path for most well constructed prisons is: fully upgrading "Deadly", fully upgrading "Tough", fully upgrading "Skilled Fighter", fully upgrading "Strong", and fully upgrading "Quick" in that order. For most prisons the remaining two reputations should only be invested into after you've recruited a sizeable squad who you've also fully upgraded with the latter reputations.

"Deadly" should always be gotten first due to the fact that killing a staff member gives at least two reputation points and downing them drops their gear which you can use to continue the fight or quickly stash for later use; this allows you to repeatedly start fights with staff and always gain enough points to both skip your punishment and invest into the next reputations/recruitments. While attempting to escape, it's best to only attack staff members as they will stop attacking you once you're unconscious and replenish quite quickly; meanwhile attacking prisoners yields less reputation points, they take more time to be replaced, and they will kill you after you're downed if allowed.

"Tough" should then be fully invested into because the extra durability will allow your fights with staff to last longer, thus further increasing your point gain.

Fully investing into "Skilled Fighter" simply makes combat with armed staff much easier since you will often disarm them of their club, which you can use to deadly efficiency with the fully invested "Deadly" perk. Fully investing into "Strong" will further accelerate your now exponential reputation growth as by this point you will be able to regularly kill multiple members of staff in each fight. Fully investing into "Strong" also makes it easier for you to quickly break through doors.

Finally, fully investing into "Quick" makes general movement and combat faster due to your swiftness, accelerating your progress even more.

On the topic of squad composition, be mindful of who you recruit. Having squad members in multiple different security levels can be extremely useful in reaching out to otherwise inaccessible areas of the prison. Although, never recruit a Death Row inmate as they are both useless as a squad member (due to their extremely restricted regime that keeps them in their cell) and while player controlled are actually unable to pickup any items, fight, recruit anyone, or actually leave the map to escape (thus softlocking you once the rest of the squad escapes as you cannot delete the last remaining member of a squad).

At this stage you should be able to regularly get into fights that yield more than enough points to recruit and upgrade a sizable squad. So, your choice to invest in any of the remaining skills is largely dependent on the layout of the prison you're escaping from and if you have ready accessibility to new recruits. If you do have ready access to new recruits, you should fist fill up your squad and upgrade them with the prior reputations before investing in these last two niche reputations. For example, the "Instigator" perk is only useful in instigating riots or causing minor distractions for guards while the "Swimmer" perk is completely useless in most cases and should always be taken last, if at all, due to it's niche application (especially if there is no water to speak of in or around the prison).

If possible your weapons of choice should be bladed weapons, axes, or clubs from guards. If you have access to a kitchen or farm area, you can easily equip your entire crew with bladed weapons relatively hassle free. Firearms, while deadly, have limited ammo and therefore lose effectiveness rather quickly. Therefore, guns are more of an emergency weapon to clear out advancing guards or get out of a tight situation.

Once you've fully assembled and upgraded your squad to the maximum amount, even large numbers of armed guards and riot police become somewhat trivial. So, escape is now limited strictly by the prison's layout. Often the easiest method of escape is to fight your way out the nearest exit once you've decimated the interior. A surefire way to do this is to obtain a lighter and begin starting massive fires in several locations (to delay the firefighting response and possibly open up a new exit). If the prison has a comprehensive sprinkler system, you'll have to fight your way to the power or water pump and disable that first (although in most cases this would mean simply fighting your way out an exit may be more practical). This should be fairly easy to do at this point due to the quality of your squad and the amount of chaos you've already caused (as the repeated killing of staff/damaging random furniture will clog the roadway and give the replacement maintenance staff other things to worry about).

Tunneling, while a feature of the gamemode, is actually often a much more difficult form of escape when compared to brute forcing your way through the staff and is much less feasible in a well constructed prison with regular dog patrols. So, if done at all, tunneling should be reserved for navigating around the prison rather than use as a form of escape. Also, be mindful that Escape Mode tallies score via the amount of people who escape and the amount of people you kill (both of which are much more limited via tunneling).