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Banishers: Ghosts Of New Eden Review

Who you gonna call?

In an industry where sequels, remakes and remasters are favoured over new IPs, DON’T NOD is one of the few studios happy to go against the grain and frequently give players new experiences. The French outfit has made a name for itself with its story-driven titles, led by Life is Strange, but it’s also found some success veering into the action-RPG space with 2018’s Vampyr. Its latest game, the third-person, semi-open world Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, is a successful fusion of its narrative-focused foundations and action-RPG ambitions, even if one element does a lot of the heavy lifting.

On paper, Banishers has one of the most intriguing premises in recent years (at least for me). Set in 1695, players step into the boots of Red mac Raith and Antea Durate, lovers and Banishers – ghost hunters who protect the living from the dead – summoned by a friend and fellow Banisher to New Eden to deal with a curse plaguing the fictional Massachusetts town. Few remain in New Eden, and those who do are either too stubborn to leave, planning their escape, or putting their eggs in their Banisher basket.

A time before Barry White existed

However, the pair are not prepared for what awaits them – a powerful entity known as a Nightmare that has already claimed the life of their colleague – and tragedy befalls Antea, leaving her as one of the spirits she once swore to hunt. Despite this setback, Red and Antea agree that they must rid New Eden of the Nightmare and lift the curse that threatens to consume the town and its enduring citizens, before embracing Antea’s fate of ascending to the heavens or coming back from the dead – a fate chosen by you.

Playing as a couple in a relationship makes for a compelling dynamic, and it’s something that I wish more video games did because the partnership of Red and Antea is truly captivating thanks to some excellent writing and superb voice acting. It’s hard not to become completely invested in their bond, as there’s a real sense of companionship and romance between the two, along with some authentic chemistry that would make you believe that these lovers have been an item for many years. But the truth is that Red was a broken man, put back together by Antea, and the Scotsman wears his love and admiration on his sleeve with incredible humility and empathy. The couple will often share stories from their history about their family or voice their concerns about what lies ahead as they sit around a crackling fire in one of their many resting places, and each of these moments adds another layer to the characters and further galvanises their union. I’d be lying if people weren’t cutting onions nearby from time to time.

It’s surprising to some folk of New Eden that Antea is the master banisher and Red is (was) her apprentice, and it’s evident early on that DON’T NOD isn’t afraid to tackle some strong topics and themes, such as abuse, grief and slavery. New Eden is a town full of stories and secrets, and through the game’s Haunting Cases you’ll uncover the truth about some of its inhabitants, forcing you to become judge, jury and potentially executor. One case early on involved investigating a camp’s blacksmith whose work had become poor, with his wife convinced that he was possessed. However, the truth is far more sinister, and once faced with all the facts, Red and Antea will need to make a decision to either ascend or banish a spirit, or blame a human involved and take their soul. Choices are a staple of the DON’T NOD blueprint and they are prevalent in Banishers, but none of these choices are ever clear cut and each choice presented does make you consider your options.

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An image you can feel

It’s hard not to become completely invested in their bond, as there’s a real sense of companionship and romance between the two

The world of New Eden is split into a few different regions which players can fast travel between by unlocking campfires strewn throughout the world. Most of New Eden is laden with lush forest but you’ll explore areas thick with snow as well as underground cave systems, and thanks to Unreal Engine 5 the visuals can provide some stellar vistas. Frequently, Antea will need to use her spirit powers to help Red reach areas that are either blocked off or too far away, but the biggest obstacle in the Banishers’ way is the spectres that roam the world, forcing Red and Antea to get physical. There are only a handful of enemy types that you’ll encounter in the wild, including basic spectres, those that can possess dead bodies, those with weapons, and wolves. I do wish there was a little more variety in enemy design, as fighting the same enemies over and over does start to feel dull after you’ve spent roughly 25–30 hours doing so.

Combat in Banishers feels heavily inspired by the recent God of War titles and it certainly holds its own, but I can see why people would find it repetitive. Red offers players a hack-and-slash approach utilising a sabre, as well as dabbling in a bit of gunplay, while Antea’s is more of a supernatural brawler, with a handful of powers at her disposal such as an ethereal blast and the ability to freeze enemies. Red also has a Banish metre that when full can be used to deal increased damage or finish off enemies entirely. The pair’s connection extends to combat too, with Red needing to use his melee and Banish attacks to replenish Antea’s spirit gauge, which when depleted forces Red to fight on his own until it refills.

Switching between the two during combat and mixing their talents makes for some enjoyable moments, but the highlight is the game’s boss fights which are all smartly designed and not so challenging that they’re frustrating. The visual design of the bosses is also fantastic, with each one having a unique look that makes it feel like you’re facing something truly out of this world.

Antea’s ethereal blast is a joy to unleash on enemy spectres

One grievance with the game’s design and something that does make combat feel slightly tiresome is that combat is not optional. Once you trigger a stoush, you’re then gated in that area until all enemies are defeated or you perish – you can’t simply ignore them and keep running towards your objective. It’s definitely felt more late in the game when the narrative is pushing you to the finale but you’re constantly having your momentum stopped by compulsory combat engagements.

As an RPG, players can unlock skills for Red with points earned from levelling up and Antea by completing Haunting cases. However, you can only have a select number of skills activated at any time and some skills come with a catch. For example, one of Red’s skills allowed me to increase damage dealt by 20%, but it meant that damage taken was increased by 10%. Players can also find or purchase gear, as well as upgrade that gear with resources acquired. But like the skills system, different gear offers different boons and drawbacks. It’s this system in particular I feel like could have been streamlined to the point of just upgrading the one set of gear, because aside from a couple pieces of kit, I rarely felt the urge to upgrade.

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Can you pet the beast?

Final Thoughts

Much like its main characters, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden wears its heart on its sleeve and excels at delivering a compelling and emotional narrative featuring some of the best voice acting and character chemistry I’ve heard in years. Its combat may not win any awards and there are some issues with repetition and its RPG systems, but my time in New Eden was a reminder of why I love and play video games – to get lost in worlds and stories that provide deep connections with its characters and make you feel something once credits roll, and there can be little doubt DON’T NOD has succeeded at that.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Banishers: Ghosts Of New Eden Review
Soul Mates
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a compelling tale of love and loss brought to life by phenomenal writing and performances with solid combat to boot, and it serves as a reminder that good storytelling remains a crucial element of video games.
The Good
Emotional and compelling story and characters
Truly superb voice acting and writing that brings the characters to life
Haunting Cases are interesting and pose difficult choices
Boss design and fights are well done
Combat hold its own
The Bad
A lack of enemy variety makes combat feel repetitive in the back half of the game
Combat sequences are not optional
8.5
Get Around It
  • DON’T NOD
  • Focus Entertainment
  • PS5 / Xbox Series X|S / PC
  • February 13, 2024

Banishers: Ghosts Of New Eden Review
Soul Mates
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a compelling tale of love and loss brought to life by phenomenal writing and performances with solid combat to boot, and it serves as a reminder that good storytelling remains a crucial element of video games.
The Good
Emotional and compelling story and characters
Truly superb voice acting and writing that brings the characters to life
Haunting Cases are interesting and pose difficult choices
Boss design and fights are well done
Combat hold its own
The Bad
A lack of enemy variety makes combat feel repetitive in the back half of the game
Combat sequences are not optional
8.5
Get Around It
Written By Zach Jackson

Despite a childhood playing survival horrors, point and clicks and beat ’em ups, these days Zach tries to convince people that Homefront: The Revolution is a good game while pining for a sequel to The Order: 1886 and a live-action Treasure Planet film. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan. Get around him on Twitter @tightinthejorts

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