Common’Hood immediately caught my attention as a cozy yet immersive building simulator with a poignant story about a community of people who fell through the cracks of society. I was excited to create my own little world and fill it with all the different personalities I could meet during my adventures.
Unfortunately, my journey to take the Common’s residents from surviving to thriving was marred by one headache after another – either in the form of technical glitches, game-halting bugs, or simply a wonky crafting system. The middle-to-late hours of the campaign provide an addicting loop that helped me ignore some of the otherwise glaring technical issues, but even then, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that Common’Hood wasn’t meant to be experienced on a home console.
Common’Hood opens with 20-year-old Nikki being evicted from her house because she is unable to pay back her late father’s hospital bills. Nikki decides she cannot leave town without first visiting the now-abandoned factory where both her parents worked – a place she spent a lot of time growing up. When she arrives, Nikki finds the factory is now home to several squatters from all walks of life, and what began as a nostalgic visit quickly evolves into an elongated stay.
From here you play as Nikki as she farms, scavenges, crafts, and recruits new residents to help build up what is referred to as the “Common” – the abandoned factory and the community that has taken refuge in it. Most of the game’s early hours play like a cozy farming sim, but players are quickly thrown into the deep end with seemingly endless customization and building options that grow in complexity as the campaign progresses.
My first impression of Common’Hood is that it didn’t appear to be well-optimized for consoles. From the opening dialogue, I was immediately forced to dust off my glasses just to make out the minuscule text on my 65-inch OLED television. I concluded the game was likely built for someone who was sitting at their computer desk, mere inches from their monitor. I quickly shrugged this problem off but was reminded again and again that this is likely an experience best suited for PC players.
Honestly, the small text was the least of my issues. I was met with sidebars that needed to be scrolled to read important information, but the game wouldn’t let me scroll using the Xbox controller. It was also obvious that craftable items should reveal important information (like their name and description) if hovered over with a mouse cursor. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this on the console version, so I simply built everything I could just to find out what each item and machine was.
There were times when I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to advance to the next section of the game due to the restraints of the console version or various glitches, but, to its credit (?), I was able to squeak by at just about every turn. Still, the concessions I made for playing this game on my Xbox Series X as opposed to my PC made it feel as though I had chosen an artificially ultra-hard difficulty setting.
Despite these issues, I still found myself addicted to the game’s rewarding loop of unlocking new areas, crafting items with new materials found at these locations, and discovering more blueprints to add to my collection so I could customize my space even further. Each discovery led to another, making Common’Hood quite difficult to set down several hours into the campaign. One more task before bed occasionally turned into another hour of gameplay because of all the new items, areas, and mechanics that could be unlocked after just one mission.
New sections of the factory introduce new characters, materials, visuals, and possibilities. Each locale surprisingly differs quite drastically in aesthetics from one another, giving each area its own unique feel. Unlocking every new area feels incredibly rewarding and the overall flow of the campaign becomes even more addictive.
Unfortunately, this momentum eventually comes to a screeching halt due to some tedious crafting mechanics or massive debris piles scattered throughout the world that can take over five minutes to fully break down. This isn’t an exaggeration, either; I timed myself and found that I spent five minutes holding down the same button while watching the same shoveling animation on repeat. To pass the time, I paced in my room and watched YouTube videos until the debris cleared.
Still, I admit that the scope of the builds as well as the sheer amount of customization options are astounding. Housing can take on virtually countless shapes and sizes that feel limited only to the imagination. It’s hard to imagine that any two players’ communities will look similar in the later hours of the campaign. Still, I was hampered by one glaring issue: the building mechanics simply don’t feel fun and intuitive.
Again, I’m not sure if this is a result of playing on a console as opposed to a PC, but the act of building in Common’Hood often is the most frustrating aspect of the game. This is usually thanks to several bugs that crop up while crafting, but it doesn’t feel great even when everything goes according to plan either. Clicking and dragging is a natural action with a mouse and keyboard, but it doesn’t translate well to the controller. I would often find myself overshooting how far I would need to drag out a given material and was occasionally forced to start the entire project over – not just that step, but the entire project. This is something that I admittedly got better at as the game went on, but it never got to the point where it felt comfortable.
Unfortunately, that’s where I found myself throughout most of my Common’Hood playthrough – going against the grain. Common’Hood provides you with all the tools you need to craft a beautiful world with a vibrant community, but it needs a bit more than sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges.