Back to the Dawn Is An Enormous Prison Life RPG – Preview Impressions

Written by VeryWetLeaf

Back to the Dawn

While we have undoubtedly seen games that are set in prison, there is no denying that the theme only has a handful of games on the table. Let alone one that actually focuses on the prison life and prison escape aspects of the genre. Thankfully, developers Metal Head and publisher Spiral Up Games are here to bring you everything you could ever want in a jailhouse RPG in Back to the Dawn.

Inside Back to the Dawn Preview we are going to discuss:

Back to the Dawn headcount


In Back to the Dawn, you play as a reporter caught up in a dark conspiracy. This results in you being framed and thrown into a maximum-security prison. Now, It is entirely up to you to learn how to survive in this new hostile environment. Explore the prison and learn to exploit anything you can find for your own benefit. As well as befriend or antagonize a colorful cast of fellow inmates, each with their own personalities and backstories.

But being a journalist at heart doesn’t stop you from doing your work even while incarcerated. As you follow the main story, you’ll be working with your attorney friend on the outside. Collect evidence to save yourself and the entire city from grave danger. In a hard-boiled plot fit even for the godfather himself. 


Back to the Dawn features at least three different playable characters, each with their own storylines. The first of the three is Thomas the Fox. A well-known journalist who unfortunately stuck his nose on matters involving influential people and ends up framed and thrown into jail. The next character is Bob. A Black Panther who also happens to be an undercover cop who infiltrated the prison for a police investigation. Aside from the two of them is another mystery character that’s yet to be revealed. For this early preview, we’ll only touch upon Thomas Fox’s story.

After being framed and thrown into prison for being “too good” of a journalist, as Thomas the Fox, you must figure out how you’ll adjust and survive your new prison life. But being the standup journalist being thrown in jail doesn’t stop his journalistic drive. Rather, it only fuels his flame of desire to unravel the dark conspiracy that put him in this predicament.

Make friends or enemies with your fellow inmates and learn about each of their own unique backstories. Work with your newfound allies as well as your lawyer best friend to find evidence of a larger conspiracy. Try to prove your innocence or when push comes to shove, break out of prison.

Boulderton Prison

Boulderton Prison is the maximum security prison where all the dirtiest crooks and bad guys are thrown in for rehabilitation. This will be your main playing field in Back to the Dawn and most of the stories and events will happen here. Confined and monitored, it’s usually a good idea to stick to the rules and behave. Doing so can help you avoid solitary confinement or, worse, a visit to the infirmary. 


Contrary to how it sounds, the prison actually has a lot of ground to explore. The main building alone contains multiple facilities for various activities. From the most essential, like jail cells and shower rooms to the more leisure-oriented TV room. During launch time you’ll be hanging around the cafeteria. This is one of the best places to eat your fill and establish relationships with your fellow inmates.

For the longest part of the day, you’ll be hanging around the prison Yard for various recreational activities. Hang around the compound’s basketball court or the baseball field, work your muscles on the weight pit, hone your intelligence in the general building, or exercise your right to worship inside the chapel. 


With all these facilities, life in prison doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Well, not exactly. You’ll still need some cash in order to avail most of the benefits the prison has to offer. And as an independent member of society, it is entirely up to you how you come up with your daily allowance. You can choose to do what inmates normally do and work various prison jobs for money or you can get a little creative like scavenging and selling your haul to the barber, beg money from people you know outside, extort weaker inmates for their hard-earned cash or even test your luck with the lottery. 

More Areas to Explore

But that’s not all there is to Boulderton Prison. As you progress through the story, you’ll discover a lot of new areas. Some are obvious, while some are quite inconspicuous. Exploration is one of the key components of this game so I don’t want to spoil too much. But what I can say is that the game world is way bigger than you think it is.

Meet The Gang

In Back to the Dawn you’ll meet a colorful cast of inmates. All of varying animal species each with their own unique traits, personalities, and complex backstories. The characters are so diverse that it’s hard to keep track of every single one of them, but thankfully, you can always inspect them to know who they are, what they have, and what they do. Besides that, everyone seems to be doing their own thing depending on the current day and time. Because of this, you won’t always find a specific inmate in one location as they’ll be roaming around the compound doing their own thing. 


Another thing I noticed is the inmates form cliques and seem to develop their own relationships with other inmates over time. For example, there’s a kangaroo going around teaching other inmates boxing, a couple of cats teaching each other magic, and a trio of weird occultists trying to summon a demon or something.


And aside from the usual cliques, you’ll also be interacting with the prison gangs. The gangs are pretty similar to the cliques, with the exception that they each run various businesses and activities inside the prison. If there’s money to be made, you can expect one of the gangs to have a hand on it.

Boulderton Prison is home to three main gangs. The Big Foot Gang, The Sharp Tooth Gang, and The Black Claw Gang.

  • The Big Foot Gang is made up of a bunch of hardened criminals who run the prison’s weight pit and underground boxing matches.
  • The Sharp Tooth Gang is a group of thieves who control the prison’s basketball court and TV room.
  • And the Black Claw Gang is a band of crooks who run the prison’s general building and they also do loansharking.

Each gang also has its very own gang store where you can source specific items and gang quests, specific objectives you can do to gain the favor of a specific gang.

Prison Guards

Aside from the inmates, you’ll be meeting various characters throughout your stay in Boulderton Prison. Interact with a diverse cast of prison guards, each offering a type of “access” for you as a prisoner. From the uptight guard captain who has you spy on your fellow inmates in exchange for good conduct credits to the deputy captain racketeering as a supplies chief where you can exchange your hard-earned cash for additional prison essentials. 

And as a journalist on a mission, work with your lawyer best friend, Reed, as your man on the outside. With the conspiracy involving even Boulderton Prison, you’ll be working side by side to uncover evidence both inside and outside.

Life in Prison

The Clock Ticks

In Back to the Dawn every day has a limited number of hours, and most actions you’ll do will take a certain number of minutes to perform. Walking around or idling won’t progress the timer, so at least you won’t have to worry about running out of time doing nothing.

Stay Healthy

The game also features a bunch of other resources that you need to keep in check, some obvious while others, not so much. The main resources that you’ll be keeping an eye on are time, satiety, body, and mind. Losing body or mind may lead you to collapse and waste your precious time on recuperating.

Satiety makes sure that your body stays fit, and time is your daily allowance for the various activities that you can do. Aside from these, there are also focus and energy. Doing strenuous activities will cost energy points prompting you to rest in between activities. Focus is needed during specific activities like befriending or when rerolling for a failed attempt. 

Aside from these resources that are easily monitored in the HUD are other equally important statuses that are only seen by inspecting your character’s Status. The two essential statuses that you should track are digestion and violation. While other statuses give either detriments or advantages, these two may lead to a massive loss of time when neglected. As for the other statuses, I encourage you to explore them on your own, as there are many of them to list down and explain in one video.

Daily Routines

In Boulderton Prison, you’ll be following a daily routine imposed on all inmates in the prison. 


As soon as you wake up, you’ll be responding to the prison’s daily headcount, making sure all inmates are accounted for. After the assembly and a few announcements comes labor time. This time is allocated for the entire morning before lunch at noon. Usually, you’ll be taking on a specific prison job to earn some money. Iron clothes in the laundry room, sort packages in the mailing room, or help with food prep in the kitchen.

Prison jobs

Every job is played through simple mini-games and every activity differs in gameplay. For example, the laundry job has you timing how long you iron clothing, with every clothing type having its own sweet spot on how many minutes they should be ironed. Iron closer to the recommended time, and you’ll be rewarded with better pay. As for the mailing job, you’ll be marking packages whether they’re safe, suspicious, or letter with a minigame that resembles that of a rhythm game. And the more packages you miss the more it deducts from your payout. These are only two examples of the available jobs in Boulderton Prison

gather resources

But being a goody two shoes can only get you so far in this environment. Most facilities where you can work prison jobs will have some sort of resource or commodity that you can obtain either by earning or stealing. So you’ll have to keep a lookout for things that look important as you’ll never know when you’ll need them in the future.


After labor hours is lunch, which will be conducted in the Cafeteria. Here, you’ll have your daily fill for your satiety but the better food items will cost money, so that’s another thing to keep in mind. Compared to the bread that’s given out for free, the paid food items grant you benefits like buffs or even stat points that you can use to upgrade your skills and abilities.

Aside from eating, the Cafeteria is also one of the best places to befriend other inmates as you can choose to share your meal, which may result in them being more friendly towards you. Alternatively, you can also ask other inmates for their meals instead. 


After lunch, you’ll be spending most of the day at The Yard, which has a bunch of different facilities for recreational activities. Most parts of the yard are controlled by each of the gangs. The Sharp Tooth Gang hangs around the Basketball Court, The Big Foot Gang occupies the Weight Pit, and the Black Claw Gang controls the General Building. Because of this, you’ll need to cough up some of your cash if you wish to use a facility that one of the gangs controls, or you can try buddying up with them, and who knows, maybe they’ll give you free admission. 

There are also other areas of the yard that you can freely hang around in without the gang’s supervision. The bleachers near the basketball court are where a lot of inmates hang around, a perfect place to listen to gossip or establish relationships with other inmates. The baseball field is usually free, and you’ll see physically active inmates playing on a daily basis. And the chapel is there for worship, and you can even donate for a chance to gain certain buffs.


Before the day ends, you’ll all be going back to the main building to grab your dinner, most probably waffles, and enjoy some leisure activities during the night. This is also the only time when you can take a nice shower. Neglecting hygiene will result in debuffs that will lower your charisma, which is needed in establishing and cultivating relationships with other inmates. 

Night Activities

On the second floor of the main building lies the TV Room, the Underground Boxing Arena, and Black Claw Gang’s Bank and Loan Services. These facilities will only be accessible at night during dinner before lockdown. To use these facilities you’ll obviously need to cough up some cash but they are pretty useful depending on your playstyle. 


On lockdown is usually bedtime. But if adventure calls for your free spirit then you can further explore the prison inside its thick walls. Through the toilet is a crawl space accessible once you’ve unscrewed your cell’s toilet. But before that, you’ll need to craft a dummy to be able to fool the guards during lockdown. After that, you’ll finally be able to freely explore the prison’s backrooms and discover its hidden secrets. 

Prison RPG

Back to the Dawn, with its prison break theme, is also a fully-fledged RPG complete with Character Sheets, Equipment, Items, Abilities, Quests, Character Relationships and so much more.

Play Your Way

You’ll be able to build your character the way you want them to be. Whether you focus on your charming personality and befriend every inmate, scour through trash and scavenge to survive, or be the tough guy and beat some sense to these inmates. Anything you do is entirely up to you, and the game supports your choices through various Specialties that can aid you in your playstyle coupled with different skills that you can find by reading books, watching movies, or even by doing specific things within the game. 

Aside from yourself, every inmate also features their own character sheet that you can inspect to figure out their strengths, weaknesses, talents, work locations, and many more. 


Befriending inmates opens up a wide array of benefits depending on who you cultivate your relationships with, as each inmate has their own specialization. You can develop your relationships with other inmates through various ways, like simply chatting with them or gifting them items that they might like. Once friendly, you can do all sorts of things like ask for their food during lunch, discover their past, learn useful skills, and, arguably the most importantly, allow you to buy specific items that only they have access to. 


Trading is also one of the most important features of the game. Every inmate has a variety of items that you can buy using money. However, first, you’ll need to have a good relationship before they let you buy some of their better items. 

Items and Equipment

Some of the items you can have include equipment you can wear, like shoes, gloves, and hats that boost some stats or give positive effects. There are also weapons like shivs and clubs that can help you during combat. Aside from those, some items act as tools that help you do certain activities like opening locks or dismantling objects. And lastly are consumable items that give you buffs or satiety.


Fights in the game are simple 1-on-1 turn-based battles. They aren’t really necessary in Back to the Dawn, but when you do engage in fights, just make sure you win, otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the infirmary. But I guess that’s one way to get inside the infirmary for whatever reason. 


As for the quests, they are mainly offered by either the gangs, the chief of security, or the barber. And depending on who you get the quest from the rewards will be very different. However, sometimes other characters in the game also have subtle requests that you can choose to fulfill. And aside from these side quests of course, you’ll also be working on what put you in this predicament in the first place. The main quest will have you conduct your investigation both inside and outside of prison and follow the main storyline of Back to the Dawn


Back to the Dawn gave me the vibes of prison break mixed with a variety of animal characters. Aside from having its characters be various species of the animal kingdom, it also completely encapsulates the vibe and feel of a prison drama, which is very rare in the video game scene. Coupled with RPG elements and an intriguing story definitely makes this a game that you should check out.

Back to the Dawn is now available on PC via Steam, and for a chance to get the game for free, Spiral Games will be hosting giveaways on their Twitter page, so make sure to also give them a follow. Below is the video preview.


Photo of author


VeryWetLeaf is a writer and content creator bringing you video game related articles and videos. He has been playing turn-based games such as JRPGs, SRPGs, and Grand Strategies for decades. He puts a great emphasis on curation and is fond of giving game suggestions.