Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review

Check out our review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden to find out what we thought about the latest game from developer Don’t Nod.

Death to the dead, and life to the living.

The aspect that I loved most about Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden was its willingness to try new things. For starters, look at the setting developer Don’t Nod decided to set their game in – an alternate reality Massachusetts settler colony called New Eden in the 1600s.

In this reality, ghosts are generally accepted to be real and banishing them is a job. A job that has called on our protagonists Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, the game’s titular Banishers to save the puritan community beset by all manners of spectral spookiness because of a curse.

Upon arrival in this remote corner of the world, they get entangled in the lives and the stories of these settlers and about an hour into the game our Banishers get into a fight that claims Antea’s life. The rest of the game hinges upon a decision Red has to take – whether to bring back Antea or to help her move on to a better place. But to bring her back would require abandoning everything both Red and Antea believe in as Banishers.

Death to the dead, and life to the living.

Do you live up to your creed when it is about the love of your life?  It’s a fresh take that is different from the litany of games about chosen ones either set in a fantasy realm, a fictional retelling of an American city or worse, a post-apocalyptic wasteland. 

Secondly, the way the game handles dual protagonists is also a very unique take on the mechanic. You play as both Red, an earnest Scot who is dealing with the death of his life partner and our second protagonist Antea, a quick to anger ghost who used to be a master Banisher in life.

This bond is effectively baked into the gameplay, Red can interact with physical objects while Antea can discern spectral ones. You need both of them to be present in the moment working the same case to be successful.

The combat is equally complimentary – you can freely switch between Antea and Red during combat depending on the enemy that you are facing or the kind of ability you need to use. They are intertwined, in life and in death. Compared to Spider-Man 2 for example, where you could freely switch between Peter and Miles but they would be off in their own part of the city dealing with their own stories – this mechanic was undoubtedly a master stroke by Don’t Nod. It builds on the intimacy of this beautifully told story. 

Thirdly, the game layers its choices and consequences more so than most games – which to be fair is Don’t Nod’s forte. Almost at the very beginning of the game, Red has to decide on whether to resurrect Antea or let her move on.

Choosing to resurrect her means effectively murdering a small town’s worth of pilgrims or “blaming” them for their actions after you work on their “Haunting Cases”. And letting her go equates to banishing – a violent method of dispatching spirits or letting the spirits ascend – a peaceful sendoff.

Your choices through the game decides the ending you get. This narrative driven story is chock full of moral choices and the reason the choices matter is because of the really well written, morally grey characters.

This is not only important in a narrative experience as we, the players, align the choices we make in the game with our own morality – at least in the first playthrough – but because it has gameplay implications too, other than the ending.

For example, vendors in the game provide discounts on their wares if you resolve their hauntings in their favor. Similarly, characters you save affect their surroundings and you can see changes when you go back to visit them.

The decisions you make may not line up with your vow to Antea, depending on your level of roleplaying and how much of your own morality you inject into your games. My issue with this system though is the simplicity of the final choices to each case. Each case you work boils down to basically a straightforward choice of either “Blame” or “Banish” and I do wish they could have designed the quest outcomes in a more nuanced manner. 

The counter argument to the game trying new things  would be mostly in how it is structured and the combat. There is nothing innovative in the structure here – you have a main overarching quest, over twenty side-quests, a middling combat system and a workable skill customisation and a decent buildcraft system.

It borrows heavily from action RPGs of recent years ala God of War or the new Assassin’s Creed games. The weakest part of the game, for sure, is the combat. The combat is a chore with off putting animations and hit detection – you feel like there are animation cycles missing after you dodge as the speed drops significantly and you stall.

I assume these frames are there to allow openings for enemies to get hits in as otherwise you could be infinitely dodging. During combat you build up a meter with Red with smaller hits and then unleash a big move with Antea, depleting the meter.

The combat never really flows – it’s stilted and uneven and I never had fun with it. You can tell this aspect of game design isn’t Dont’ Nod’s bread and butter.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review

The other major issue stems from the repetitive nature of the quests. While I was eagerly chasing down every haunting to get new stories and meet new characters – I did not look forward to them ending. It always ended the same way.

It can be an interesting mechanic, but one that needs more work and preferably more nuance. The structure of the quests – at least the side quests could use a lot more variety. Circumstances might vary but the gameplay loop is largely the same.

Find a character, hear their story, find the item that’s binding the ghost to this earthly realm, get ambushed while you are on your way to retrieve the “bind”, summon the ghost and then bring it all to a conclusion by blaming or banishing the parties involved.

The stories and characters do change and that is the only angle keeping the game interesting.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review

The game is at its best when you let it tell its story through its characters. Amaka Okafor as Antea and Russ Bain as Red put in an absolute shift as the leads – marrying tenderness with a deep sadness in exploring the humanity of these two star crossed lovers.

Crucially, every other character in the game is well acted and voiced. Their existential crisis and their moral leanings required these characters to be well acted to get buy-in from the players. Additionally, the graphics and the atmosphere of the game leads to equal levels of immersion in the setting. Production value and art direction wise this is a stellar outing for Don’t Nod. 

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review

In the end, we’ll all become stories.

And that’s something Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden gets. The stories that it tells are memorable, intimate and ultimately human. Yes, the game has its shortcomings but if you let it – there is a deep, emotional story to live through here. It is a sweeping story of love and death driven by complex emotions that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Developer: Don’t Nod
Country of Origin: France
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Release Date: February 12, 2024 (PS5, PC)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is based on the PC Version of the game.

Thank you for reading our review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Playing the game already? You can check out our walkthrough of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden here.

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This Article was written by: Mahmud Munazil Rahman