Plethora Project’s Common’hood, set to be released within the fourth quarter of 2022, is a community building and economy management game where you create a home for a community of squatters in an abandoned factory. Excited at the prospect of a community building game with detailed customisation options, I picked up a preview code to check out the game in its early state. Unfortunately, it leaves an awful lot to be desired, namely an experience that actually allows you to progress past the first few missions.
Common’hood tells the story of Nikki, who becomes homeless after she struggled to keep up with the bills when her father died. With nowhere else to go, Nikki seeks out an abandoned factory where her father used to work in an attempt to find shelter somewhere. It was closed down after a sinkhole appeared in the middle of it. Upon arrival, she finds that several homeless people have already settled down there. The group is full of despair, mainly lost and wandering around the factory with nothing to do and no energy to pick themselves up. Nikki brings with her a unique set of carpentry and machinery skills, and gets started on turning the group into a community and transforming the factory into a place that they can call ‘home’.
You start off by tidying up the place, you can pick up a variety of useful materials and tools during your clear out which will come handy later on. The starting area is relatively small, but offers enough space to get started on some decent build projects. You are prevented by exploring the whole factory by rubble and the sinkhole, though it’s hinted that these areas will eventually become available to you to offer further building space and also a group of new NPCs who are currently residing on the other side of the sinkhole.
The community that you’ll be managing in the factory is called The Hood. Your aim is to keep The Hood happy by ensuring that the food storage is well-stocked and by eventually giving them certain items that they individually desire. You can assign your community members certain types of tasks to do, such as 'farming' or 'building', which you will assign in their day-to-day schedule. This means that they can do one task for one hour and then switch to another depending on what needs doing. You can leave the materials required for these tasks in the community storage crates and the NPCs will look for what they need. You can even order certain objects to be assembled, such as a chair, and the community members will do the building for you if they have been assigned .
There is a research mechanism in Common’hood which allows you to build up your skills in all manner of useful tasks, including robotics, carpentry and cooking. The only thing is that the research aspect of the game is very strange. You’ll unlock paths that you can research, all you have to do is sit at the research station and click on what tree you would like to progress and then just wait for the research to be completed. I felt like it would have been far better for these skills to be built up as you use them, rather than putting in this pretty pointless mechanism in the game. Not to mention the research spreadsheet is pretty confusing when you first open it, and the instructions don’t explain it very well either.
The crafting is exactly how it is described in Common’hood’s product page, it’s incredibly detailed and opens up numerous design possibilities for your shelter. Building works through blueprints. You will either pick up blueprints for specific items, such as a chair, or you can craft something and then turn it into a blueprint for future replication. Once you’ve set the blueprint down, you then select the resource needed and click and drag to draw the material to your project.
It sounds easy, only I feel like it could be simplified in a way. For one, this takes a while, even when building something small like a chair. If you’re using 4 x 4 wooden beams to build a chair, you’ll need to individually drag each beam across the blueprint layout until it’s eventually put together. I didn’t get far enough in the game to craft any big projects for reasons that I’ll explain later on in the preview, but I can imagine that these take even longer and are a lot more complicated, especially when using a variety of materials. It’s also incredibly fiddly, especially when the mouse pointer seems to need a little bit of work. On top of this, you can’t cancel a blueprint and then come back to it later. You can either lay it down and grab the materials without canceling, or you can lay it down and order it to be built by a community member. I found this incredibly odd and couldn’t work out what the reasoning for this would be. Surely it would just be easier to let the player finish a project later? Especially when you consider the fact that they are dragged out of whatever activity they are doing when it comes to the end of the day - meaning that they’ll have to start over the following day.
And this is just one of many odd designs in Common’hood. As mentioned earlier, there is a day/night cycle. Once you draw nearer to ‘bedtime’, you’ll be rudely interrupted from what you are doing and forced to travel back to your tent to sleep - regardless of whether you were in the middle of building or not.
The inventory management system was another overly complicated aspect of the game. Rather than just allowing you to extract the exact number of supplies that you need from a stack, you have to click with [LMB] to move the whole stack, [RMB] to extract one unit, [RMB] + ctrl to take ten units, and [RMB] + shift to take half of the stack.
And this is all if you can actually read the instructions, because the text size is so small that I could barely make out what anything said. Yes, I was playing the game on a laptop screen, but the text size should be readable on whatever device Steam can run the game on. Not to mention that I’m a fairly avid reader, anyone who struggles with reading is going to have a huge issue playing Common’hood if this remains the same on release.
One of the first things that I noticed when I started playing Common’hood was that it’s difficult to even select things. Your pointer doesn’t change when you’re hovering over a button and nothing highlights or changes color, so half the time you’re not even sure if there is a button there or not. And on certain pages, such as the load save page, the text is so small that you can’t even see what the symbols are.
And I haven’t gotten to the multitude of technical issues with Common’hood yet. This is, of course, a preview, so technical issues are to be taken with a pinch of salt until a review build is available. But the technical obstacles that I faced ultimately prevented me from progressing very far in the preview and getting a real feel for the more advanced crafting options and the story’s potential.
Glitches have broken the preview build to a point where I could only complete a few missions and had to stop playing. One of the first missions that you’ll receive involves building a farm and planting crops to feed the community. Easier said than done. My game glitched so that I couldn’t complete the mission that requires you to plant a variety of vegetables. Although I had planted carrots, these wouldn’t be ticked off in the mission status and that pathway was ultimately closed for me. So I tried completing a contract with the main vendor in Common’hood, he wants to put together some money to buy a van so that he can gather more items to sell, which you need to complete the other building missions. I spent ages building 20 chairs for this and selling them to him, which the game encourages you to do to raise the money. When we eventually hit the target, the mission registered as completed but then appeared straight back onto my missions log, with no van. So $1,000 was raised for nothing and I could not progress with the game. I quit playing after this.
Despite my negative experience with the preview build, I feel like Common’hood has the foundations to be a great community management game. As stated previously, the build options are pretty vast and I can see the game really allowing you to make some unique creations. On top of this, the community management system is also really detailed, and I was looking forward to progressing my crafting skills enough to appease the members with better shelters and giving them the items that they wanted. I was even intrigued with the exploration potential, and couldn’t wait to open up the extra sections of the factory.
When Common’hood launches later in the year, it’s set to arrive with a multiplayer extension which will allow co-op building with up to four players. You’ll also be able to share your creations with the online community. I find this to be a pretty bold move before the single player experience has been released or, based on the condition of the preview, is even in a full working condition. Still, we have half a year until the fourth quarter of 2022, so there is time to iron out the faults with Common’hood and I can see this being very fun as a co-op game.
This preview was written based on a preview code provided by the developers. A playable demo of Common’hood is now available on Steam.