Exploring the surreal and ideal: Hands-on with Dome-King Cabbage

A claymation-esque armored warrior, who looks like they stepped through a portal from a FromSoft game, sits on a throne in a strange land. Circling them endlessly are four blades, sharp as can be, alongside various toys ripped straight from the 1960s — a wooden horse, a phone with a clown face on it, and so on. The scene shifts to the warrior, flying through the air, engaging a spaceship that appears to be made out of Lego. Dismantling it easily, the pieces of the ship scatter in a beautiful explosion of colors. The warrior impales the pilot with the four swords, and the scene shifts yet again — to an endless, dream-like corridor of train cars, made up of what I can only describe as Dippin’ Dots.

This barrage of surreal imagery did its job well. Dome-King Cabbage had me hooked.

When I stood behind the other reporters, watching them play, none of this had been shown to me. The game I witnessed others playing prior to myself was a SNES-esque Dragon Quest Monsters-style game — a player roams a map with a 2D sprite avatar, with a monster trailing behind them. What was the surreal imagery in the intro, and how did it fit into the completely different aesthetic of the 2D gameplay?

After the cutscene finished playing, a little wooden creature began to address me — in fact, thanking me for “tuning” my “current vessel to this psychic channel.” You see, apparently this little creature is a godly being from the far reaches of the universe, and has been trying to communicate with us via our dreams. Our “current vessels” are inadequate to receive these messages, however, because we keep waking up to go pee. “I believe you call it….pee pee poo poo?” the entity states. This being has long since evolved beyond such trivial bodily functions.

After some light banter, the being offers a choice — two galaxies, each named with a random assortment of letters and numbers. Only one of them can survive, and neither of them are our galaxy, (at least, the entity thinks so…) so it doesn’t matter which one we pick to destroy. I chose the one on the right, and 51.2% of all participants agreed with me.

The entity, and others like it, want to communicate with us, but can only do so through the medium of RPG games. This is explained away as something to do with how we perceive reality and the difficulties of streaming information to our brains. With this, you're wished well and whisked away to a game select screen.

Of course Dome-King Cabbage was there, but there were other titles too. “Super Ultra Trombone Quest 64”, which had a preview reel of a player wandering a N64-polygonal town looking for a trombone store, was the most hilarious one. However, I came here to play Dome-King Cabbage, and only had limited time to do so.

Upon loading the game, we’re introduced to a young student of the local Professor of Monsters in a small village on the outskirts of civilization. We’re on a quest to become the Dome-King, but we have to get our first monster and undergo a series of trials before we can qualify. Upon reaching the Professor’s house, we are given the choice of one of three options — the other two go towards the Professor’s “large adult son” — to join us on our journey. Sound familiar?

While the game does draw heavy inspirations from Pokemon and Dragon Quest Monsters, the writing is unmistakably less serious in tone. For example, one of the selectable monsters is basically just a Slime from Dragon Quest, except much goofier looking. His examine text even states “We’re not sure why you would choose this monster, to be honest.” However, I know full well the potential comedy power of Jester-style units (shoutouts to Dragon Quest 3), so I selected the Slime without a second thought. Turns out, he’s quite capable of casting Fire magic, and was able to put it to good use in the subsequent battle.

Unfortunately, that ended the demo — the only other feature of note was the ability to shift into first-person mode while traveling, turning the game into a Etrian Odyssey or Shin Megami Tensei-like, which is a huge plus in my book. The strangest part, however, is that you see none of this SNES-style pixelated adventure on the Steam page for the game. Instead, it’s all surreal imagery that barely relates to each other at first blush.

How does this all connect? What does it all mean? These questions are of course a huge part of the game's intrigue, and something we'll need to wait for the full release to find out. Even after a very short hands-on I can safely say that Dome-King Cabbage is a game I am happy to wait for, however - if only to get the answers I seek.

Dome-King Cabbage has no release date, but you can wishlist it on Steam now.