I don’t understand Team17’s The Escapists 2 at even a basic level.
Mechanically, I guess I kind of get it. I walk around, go to certain spots at certain times, open desks to find items, and eat food when it’s mealtime. I can go find the library and play a simple minigame to increase my knowledge score, which I need to raise to craft items, and go to a gym where I can play hackey-sack or lift weights to increase strength and fitness.
I guess I get paid by other inmates by completing quests? As far as I can tell, that’s the way you actually earn money. Part of your day is devoted to ‘job time’, and the floating on screen arrow guides you to the job center where you sit down and proceed to not get a job. Maybe you don’t ever get a job. Maybe I’m doing it wrong and sitting in the wrong chair or something. But it seems like you definitely need money. Other inmates have crafting materials available to buy, so you definitely need money. Maybe ‘job time’ is meaningless and quests are the real way to do it. Who knows?
Sometimes you can walk around, with a weapon in hand, and the guards apparently don’t care. Once, I was standing in the cafeteria during meal time when a bunch of guards attacked some of the NPCs. I was decently far away, with a weapon equipped, and after the guards had knocked out all the NPCs they aggroed on me, knocked me out, and took my weapon. So sometimes, apparently, you can have a weapon equipped, and sometimes you can’t have a weapon equipped. Who knows?
There’s some kind of karma system in place between you, the inmates, the guards, and every conceivable combination. Maybe they’re friendly towards you. Maybe they hate you. Does that change anything? Are enemies more likely to fight you unprovoked? Does friendship have any tangible benefits?
I chatted a bit with a streamer of this game, Admirill of Centopocy, who showed off one of the easiest escapes possible in the game, and really highlighted what The Escapists 2 is all about. It’s a puzzle game. It’s a puzzle game tailored for speed runs, with a leader board that reflects that fact.
I need to reiterate this: I cannot wrap my head around this game. But having been shown the easiest solution in the easiest prison a single time, I was able to reproduce it with a minimum of effort. Because it’s a puzzle game, and despite the fact that I am terrible at puzzle games, once you know how to solve something, you know how to solve something.
The individual pieces I don’t really understand aren’t a failing of the game — the game itself seems enjoyable and the ‘serious’ escapes seem quite involved, for those who enjoy puzzles. On the technical side of things, it looks, sounds, and runs well. The actual doing of things, when you figure out how to do them, is simple and intuitive, and the things that aren’t intuitive are easily discovered by experimentation.
There is a fun game here, full of content, if you’re willing to struggle for it. If you’ve got friends, up to four of you can struggle together, as you try and escape from a series of increasingly difficult prisons.
This review is based on a Steam code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher