The Escapists is a strategy game played from a top-down perspective. The game was developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and following a Steam Early Access release in 2014, was released in 2015 for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It was released on iOS and Android in 2017. A Nintendo Switch version of the game containing all downloadable content was released in 2018. The game was launched on the Epic Games Store on September 23, 2021, with the weekly free game campaign of Epic Games. Players assume the role of an inmate and must escape from prisons of increasing difficulty.
Reviewers praised the freedom of approach the game offered players, yet some were frustrated by the trial-and-error approach required to learn its systems. A sequel, The Escapists 2, was released in 2017.
In The Escapists, the player, who assumes the role of a prisoner, must escape from six primary prisons ranging from very easy to very hard. Each time a prison is escaped the next prison is unlocked. There are additional prisons released as downloadable content (DLC) which can be played in any order regardless of the player’s progress.
In the beginning, the player selects their name and can choose the names of prisoners and guards if desired. Once the names are selected the game starts from day 1 waking up in the player character’s cell. Players can acquire various items to aid in their escape by buying or stealing them from other inmates, or by crafting them by combining two or three items, such as toothpaste and talcum powder which crafts putty that a key can be imprinted then moulded with. Players can do favours for fellow inmates, once the favour is completed the player is rewarded $25. Inmate favours can range from getting them a roll of duct tape to distracting the guards at roll call.
Engaging in exercise and using the library allows players to levels up their characters statics such as strength, speed, and intelligence which improves their abilities and their chance of escape. Each prison has their own daily routines, such as meals, work, exercise and showers. An inmate can skip a meal, showers and exercise without much penalty, however, all roll calls are mandatory and lockdowns will occur if the player character does not attend. Inmates must be careful to hide all contraband as guards will periodically search the inmates’ desks, and if caught with contraband, it is removed from their inventory and the player is sent into solitary confinement and any damage such as chipped walls, broken vents and tunnels are repaired and the weapon is removed.
There are a number of escape methods including inciting riots, via vents, tunnels, roofs, among others. Each prison has layers of security ranging from electric fences to chip resistant high walls. The prisoner will generally need various weapons to win a fight with inmates or guards. There are many types of weapons such as a guard’s baton or plastic fork.