A guard brings us back to our cell after the last roll call of the day and locks the door behind him as he leaves. We wait until he rounds a corner before climbing to the top of the desk in the middle of the room, remove the fake vent cover and climb up into the ventilation system. It took hours to saw through the metal with plastic knives smuggled out of the dining hall. Bedsheets hung over the bars of the cell will keep patrolling guards unaware of our absence until morning. When they search the cell they'll discover the paper mache vent cover, which consists of torn up toilet paper and superglue stolen from other prisoners.
The ventilation system now stores dozens of the 100+ unique items found in The Escapists. As we crawl towards the ladder that leads to the roof, we pass everything from files bought from other prisoners and homemade weaponry, to guard uniforms stolen from the laundry room. For nearly 100 days we've been preparing to escape Shankton State Penitentiary.
It'll be one of six prisons in The Escapists. These thematic prisons vary in difficulty and range from a relatively open P.O.W. camp to a high-security prison with surveillance cameras in every cell. If you get in early - while it's still in Early Access - you get a 7th prison that eases you into the escapist mindset.
As the game nears completion, indie developer Mouldy Toof Studios plans to introduce additional prison jobs and items that can used to craft weapons and gear. A Prison Editor will let you create your own Alcatraz and share it with the Steam Community, which means prospective escapists are likely to find fresh challenges for quite some time.
To forge this path from cell to prison roof, we had to saw through a series of metal slats that section up the ventilation system, often with little more than plastic knives. But it is the rigid schedule of prison life that has kept us behind bars for nearly three months. Prisoners in Shankton live by a set schedule, interrupted by frequent roll calls.
Prisoners often forsake up to a third of their leisure hours to sign up for one of three prison jobs offered by Shankton, because it gives them access to useful materials. Those who toil in the laundry room can make off with guard uniforms, while prisoners who build chairs can get the wood needed to keep the tunnels dug beneath their cell from collapsing as they escape.
Guards become suspicious when you depart from the prison schedule and if you're gone for too long they'll organize a search and beat you up on sight. Stay hidden and the prison goes into lockdown until you're found. To escape, you must go through the motions of prison life, but sneak off at every opportunity to work on whatever escape plan you've hatched.
Up on the roof, we dodge the searchlights and dart over some power cables that stretch to the nearby metal shop, where prisoners make number plates. Only a few already weakened wire fences and a brick wall separate us from the outside world.
After cutting through the first fence we're exhausted and must eat chicken to restore our energy. Every time you exercise, read or dig holes in the floor, you expend energy. When you become exhausted you're unable to do anything until you've slept, eaten or had a shower to regain strength.
Flashlight-toting guards make it risky to work on the second fence for too long at a time. Morning nears as the wires succumb to our file. A brick wall several meters high is all that remains, but we're nearly out of time: if the sun comes up while we're out here, the snipers in Shankton's four guard towers will spot us. We hack wildly at the brick, but realize that it is too late. With nothing to loose, We sprint towards the nearest guard with a glass shank in hand. A shot rings out. We wake up in the infirmary, already plotting the next breakout.
The Escapists entered Steam Early Access last week and currently features the aptly named Fhurst Peak Correctional, a minimum security prison. The game will be out on Xbox One next year, but if you've got a computer within reach you owe it to yourself to boot up Steam right now and prepare to set an escape plan in motion.
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