We often talk about the difficulty of creating a sequel, following up on a previous success and trying to do something new while repeating what made it work. The Escapists 2 from Team 17 and Mouldy Toof Studios has its work cut out for it though. Even if the original game had its fans, The Escapists 2 wants to build on that formula further, introducing larger prisons, more ways to escape, a huge array of customization options and much more. It’s currently available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC with a Nintendo Switch release due later.
However, GamingBolt spoke to designer James Witcomb about the overall improvements, new features and much more that fans can expect from The Escapists 2.
"All of the 10 prisons are designed to be played either single player or together with drop-in, drop-out online and local multiplayer possible for up to 4 players."
What are your thoughts on the first game’s reception? Did you face any obstacles while developing the sequel?
The Escapists was incredibly well received and we’re so humbled by that. The Escapists was originally created by ex-roofer Chris Davis, so to see the community take so well to the game has been a fantastic feeling. By far the most requested feature among the community was multiplayer, but in order to support multiplayer we had to rework many features from the first game!
Can you tell us about some of the new prisons that players can explore and what makes them so unique?
So, there are 10 uniquely themed prisons in the game including the frosty Fort Tundra, a train hurtling through the desert, the western themed Rattlesnake Springs and more! They all have a very distinct look and identity that comes from the setting of the prisons and will also tie in to some unique methods of escape depending on the prison! We made sure we took on ideas from the community with what prisons they would like to see and try to escape from.
How has the character creator been improved for the sequel?
We’ve added a lot more detail to the characters, so that players are able to customize their inmates much further than ever before, and with over 300 customisations you’ll be able to create your perfect con!
As with the previous game, players will need to follow the prison’s schedule, craft items, recruit allies and so on. How has this dynamic further evolved in The Escapists 2?
The big addition for The Escapists 2 is multiplayer. All of the 10 prisons are designed to be played either single player or together with drop-in, drop-out online and local multiplayer possible for up to 4 players. There is also a new alertness system which represents how aware the guards are of an impending escape attempt. Failure to stick to routines, and leaving evidence of escape attempts will cause the alertness to rise. A high alertness will result in more guards and even dogs patrolling the prison. If the alertness reaches its maximum level then a prison lockdown will be triggered, dogs and riot guards will be sent in to suppress unruly inmates!
"We completely redesigned the system to allow for heavy and light attacks, and added the ability to block. "
How do multi-story prisons change up the overall escape plan in some cases? Will players have to clear the entire prison in one shot?
Multiple floors give more options when it comes to gaining access to different areas of the prison. You’ll now have the option to gain access to vent systems from the rooms above them, as well as dropping down into areas of the prison that would otherwise be inaccessible.
You’ll still have the freedom to plan when to perform the break out. You may decide to prepare different parts of the escape in advance, so there’s less risk involved when the time comes.
What are some of the “300 customizations” that have been touted?
We have lots of different customisations possible now, from different hairstyles, hats, facial hair, masks and glasses.
What can you tell us about the new combat system? How does it offer more control to the player and make fights more about skill and perseverance?
Previously the combat system was automated, there wasn’t much involvement. We completely redesigned the system to allow for heavy and light attacks, and added the ability to block. The new system is so much more fun and engaging, especially in multiplayer when facing off against another player!
As far as the escape plans go, what are some of the zanier plans that can be used to escape?
Without spoiling the escapes too much, we can say that there is a film crew in the first prison that players can take advantage of…
"We started by offering a survey to The Escapists fans to see what they felt could be improved from the first game."
How does four player co-op support change the entire experience?
When we started thinking about creating a sequel to The Escapists, online multiplayer was the top of the list of new features we wanted to get in. We spent a lot of time thinking about the unique challenges bringing multiplayer to The Escapists posed, especially surrounding the amount of time it takes to craft the perfect escape plan. We couldn’t have a situation where you and your friends have invested time into an escape, only to be thwarted by a dodgy internet connection or someone having to leave. So we decided that drop-in, drop-out gameplay was the only way to go.
Drop-in, drop-out allows you to commit what you can to an escape. You can plan and execute an intricate escape with your friend and see it all the way through. Or you can drop into a friend’s game to lend a hand. If you’re in the middle of an escape with other people and need to leave the game, you can save the game state and resume it at a later date. Because there are so many different ways to approach escaping a prison, we felt that there was no point in creating separate content for co-op gameplay. You can experience all of the campaign by playing with friends, or playing alone. However, not all escapes can’t be undertaken alone!
What other changes and improvements have you made to the game based on player feedback?
We started by offering a survey to The Escapists fans to see what they felt could be improved from the first game. We re-designed how the crafting system works to make it easier to use and understand, and we also completely changed how the A.I work and how they respond to the players escape attempts. The instant fail pop-up from the first game is now gone. Instead, guards will find and report damage which then gets fixed by dedicated maintenance staff.
Do you have an update on how the Switch version is shaping up?
It’s coming together very nicely! We’re making a few tiny tweaks to make things like the user interface feel a bit more at home on the Switch. Given the visual style of the game and the co-op multiplayer features, I’m happy to say that The Escapists 2 feels like a perfect fit for the Switch.
"The game is 1080p and runs at 30fps. That may surprise some, the game’s visuals are absolutely indie – but what a lot of players don’t see is everything that’s going on under the surface."
Are you using any of the Switch specific features for the game?
The main feature would be supporting play with just a single Joycon. Something we were very keen to do was support the Switch’s main selling point, the idea that it’s a console you can take anywhere and play with friends any time. It’s important to us that people can undock the console, put it on the kickstand and share a Joycon each to have a great split screen local multiplayer experience.
It sounds like a small thing to add, but it hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride. The Escapists 2 is a feature rich game in which the player can perform a lot of different actions, getting all of those features onto a single Joycon has been a little bit of a challenge.
The game is coming on the PS4 and Xbox One as well. What frame rate and resolution are you targeting for both? 1080p and 60fps?
The game is 1080p and runs at 30fps. That may surprise some, the game’s visuals are absolutely indie – but what a lot of players don’t see is everything that’s going on under the surface.
Prisons are vast and sprawling, with a very high number of items, interactive elements – and most importantly a huge number of AI driven inmates, guards, guard dogs, riot control staff, medics, handymen and many other NPCs. The game is also split screen for up to four players, and all of that also has to run drop in/drop out over a network. Targeting a consistently smooth and enjoyable gameplay experience was a high priority for us.