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 reputation points, is to walk around and punch some furniture by left clicking on it. One hit is enough, then you can continue to the next object. Wait until guards try to kill you before surrendering. The shower tends to be a good place for this, since showerheads tend to be placed pretty close to one another.

Keys are a godsend - if you see other prisoners get into a fight and take down a few guards, steal the keys and stash them in your (or someone else's, in case you get into trouble and your cell gets searched) cell.

You should now already have a couple of reputation points to spend. Invest one point in each attribute. Next, you should search the kitchen, grab a knife and stab as many people as possible. And again, surrender before the guards kill you. If you truly want long-running fights for reps, the infirmary can be a good place since you can heal from time to time by stopping the fight in the absense of guards and having the doctors do their thing.

Skip the punishment, hire a squad with three to five prisoners, invest your points into every ability of the squad members and start a fight in the shower or canteen against other prisoners. With the deadly reputation, your squad will be able to kill many prisoners, employees or guards. With the gained reputation points, you should hire even more prisoners.

Try not to kill prisoners - ideally, one should only kill guards (including K9 units and armed guards) and emergency crews. If you want to start a riot, don't melee other prisoners with one-hit-kill weapons like hammers or axes. Prisoners don't replenish as quickly as prison staff.

The last part is to find a place where useful weapons can be found. An armory would be best, as a shotgun is very powerful and has unlimited ammunition.[1] In case such a place is well guarded, you might consider taking tools and weapons out of a workshop, kitchen, library, or infirmary. With a squad of five to seven prisoners, it will be pretty easy to simply walk through the main entrance of the prison, as you kill guards faster than they do.

This method is brutal yet pretty easy as long as the prison does not have an extreme amount of (armed) guards.

If you can only afford 2 reputations, get "Tough" and "Quick". It truly pays off to not die after being shot or bludgeoned once. Being quick makes melee combat much easier - you can strike at your target then keep retreating when they strike back at you.


  1. As of Version 1.1, shotguns, like some other guns, have only 6 shots.