So, apparently prison architect started a trend. The influence on Machiavillain is pretty apparent. From the blocky, faintly papercraft-looking characters to the simple management game quickly revealing a surprising amount of depth, it’s clear that attention has been paid to Introversion’s frolicking funtime simulation of the grim prison industrial complex.
But while Prison Architect clearly had some intense moral points to make regarding the prisons that you were tasked with building, Machiavillain has no greater point to make. Rather, it is a system for manufacturing the kind of dark horror slashers of the 70s and 80s. You know the rules. A small cadre of victims are lured into a house, then gradually separated and picked off by a cast of ghouls and horrors. In this case, you are building the house, guiding the monsters, and building elaborate systems of traps and distractions to ensure that your monsters have a steady supply of food.
I have to give credit – this idea alone is fascinating and the simulation could probably be remarkably shallow and still be a lot of fun. Instead, the game has the kind of complexity and depth that makes Prison Architect pop. All of your monsters have their own personality, specialisations and needs. Your victims can come in a variety of flavours, from the classical nerd that can’t resist a bookshelf, to the banker seeking his fortune, to the fabled virgin, who evil mastermind law requires be killed last.
So yes, overall, I would say that Machiavillain works. It is certainly worth playing. But we’re only 250+ words into this review. Which would indicate that a certain word is coming.
Machiavillain is recommended…
However, Machiavillain is not a finished product, and is currently simply not worth the current £14.99 pricetag. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare this game to Prison Architect, which was developed by a significantly larger studio, but the game seems fairly willing to crib a lot of moves from that game so it seems only fair to point out where they have failed to match it.
This is a game in desperate need of a campaign, or at the very least a tutorial.
The game simply fails to explain its mechanics well, or indeed at all. The first half of this review actually is a lot more praiseworthy than it was initially going to be. My first few sessions with Machiavillain, I pretty much completely bounced off it. This is a game in desperate need of a campaign, or at the very least a tutorial.
The most damning comparison to Prison Architect is that it doesn’t actually play like the version of Prison Architect that was released. Instead, this plays like one of the early access builds that were available long before the game went 1.0.
You see, Steam publishers, this is why we can’t have nice things like early access. Machiavillain could thrive in early access, where people willing to figure the game out for themselves could invest in it and figure out exactly how to tutorialise it for the players coming in at 1.0.
Unfortunately, early access was transformed into an utter cesspit and eventually trashed. I will return to Machiavillain in the future, after some patches. But as much as I like the concepts and ideas behind this game, it just doesn’t deserve your money yet.