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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review

Resolving the apparition condition

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Game developers are sometimes haunted by their own creations. A game that was poorly received is like a festering wound that will not heal. Even their successes can become a burden that locks them into a genre or predictable sequels. After a huge breakout hit with Life is Strange, Don’t Nod is a studio that has mostly avoided the sequel trap, aside from the disappointing Life is Strange 2. They have generally focused on two types of games: simple episodic narrative adventures, such as Tell Me Why, and bigger third-person action RPGs, like Vampyr. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is of the latter type, and the studio's largest title to date. It is also one of their better creations, thanks to an excellent main cast, alluring haunting cases, and a decent action loop, offset by pacing issues.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

Red and Antea are Banishers—ghost eradicators—who are called to the main town of New Eden in 1695 to rid the place of an awful curse. Hostile ghosts roam the outskirts and a horrible cold lingers. Pestilence has caused deaths and the children have been sent away, as much of the town remains closed pending the ghost elimination. The main specter that haunts the region is the worst kind, a so-called Nightmare. When the banishing pair confronts it, Antea dies and Red is tossed into the ocean before he is rescued by a witch’s aide and taken to the very edge of the Nightmare’s influence.

Far from ghost ground zero, Red thinks he must face the threat alone, but Antea soon reappears as a ghost herself. She has unfinished business and is bound to Red, able to fulfill her role as mentor. Players can swap between the two characters during exploration and combat, with Antea able to see things hidden from mortal eyes and deploy special powers in battle. Players can also pick the dialogue of both heroes, although most of the living cannot see Antea. Together they cleanse the land of the curse and begin to understand what caused such darkness in the first place.

The pair's secondary ambition is to recover Antea’s body, so she can either ascend or be resurrected. The success of this choice is linked to how they resolve individual haunting cases, producing different endings. The duo must swear an oath towards one path at an early stage, although this promise can be broken by doing the opposite at a potential cost. Antea and Red are also lovers and so their relationship is established, with deep care for one another, strained by the dark influence and second-guessing their choice. They reminisce often, expose old war-wounds, and it compares well to spending time with one suffering a terminal illness. Every time a ghost vanishes, players are reminded of the sword of Damocles that hangs over Antea’s head. The ending is perfectly succinct and may be emotional, depending on your choices.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

With the Nightmare influencing the world, ghosts are causing problems everywhere. The world consists of three major regions, each harboring evacuees of the town that require a banisher to bring salvation that will loosen the Nightmare’s grip. The main hauntings relate directly to the person that became the Nightmare, and it is great to discover these information morsels and see them humanized. Optional hauntings have decent variety, ranging from a deceased Native American who is hunting her tribe’s killers to a haunted mansion with a dead wife who is not what she seems. A few cases also happen after the regional threat is removed, which means players may encounter a person before they ingest poison and become a ghost, which helps strengthen context. The best haunting cases are similar in quality to the lesser monster-hunting quests in The Witcher 3, and the game’s music and mood feel like Geralt’s witcherly adventures.

Solving haunting cases only requires basic steps but each one plays out slightly differently. The first stage usually involves gathering information from whoever is haunted, and sometimes the person might not realize a ghost is lurking. Then Red and Antea follow the trail of deadcrumbs, battle generic specters, read hidden information, kill wolves protecting carcasses, perform basic rituals that expose memories and maybe even conjure the ghost in question. This leads to an object that ties the ghost to the world, and then a final confrontation can take place. Here players can sacrifice the living, for Antea’s later resurrection, or ascend/banish the ghost. In either case, the ghost vanishes.

Players might automatically pick the choice that aligns to their initial promise. It is nice that the future implications are laid bare but it compromises treating each case on its own merits. The game muddies the waters by including deplorable people that murder and lie, or purposely infect others, and it seems perfectly reasonable to execute them. And yet there are many who are innocent, making it impossible to justify their eventual sacrifice. Killing a haunted person tends to lead to an abrupt case ending—sometimes you might get a key to a chest of valuables, if they were a merchant. But for proper conclusions, only the ghost should be exorcised. After a time, the ex-haunted person will offer an additional task, like collecting paint to change a sign. This is the perfect opportunity to catch up, see if they learnt anything and find out what they plan for the future, putting a nice final stamp on each case.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

Naturally the game has a lot of dialogue, and it often comes in big chunks. Most cases begin near settlements, so accepting a few hauntings bombards the player with so much talking that it gets tiring. The dialogue is mostly good, with some rare dry humor, but the delivery can be lethargic. A few voice actors are also reused, which is distracting. Fast readers and the impatient will be thankful that dialogue can be skipped. A linear game might have better discourse distribution, although the exploration aspects in Banishers are a big part of the experience.

The areas of New Eden are large, with metroidvania elements that restrict access to certain paths. Unlocking these routes is linked to the powers that Antea acquires throughout the story—she can explode barriers, teleport over gaps, and clear magical vines. Climbing ledges, scaling waist-high logs, entering narrow crevasses, and opening one-way shortcuts are regular actions that are performed during travel. Some exist for technical reasons, to help stream the upcoming area, while others are used to block players in combat; Red cannot shimmy through a gap when specters are near, which means that every ghost must be eliminated.

Simple activities also clutter the map, including specter nest battles, cursed chests with hidden dolls to locate, void breach dungeons, summonable boss battles, character upgrade altars, treasure chests and more. There are even plants to collect, for upgrades and trade, and valuables hanging in trees that can be shot down. The world has many shelters, with a classic fireplace, used to improve gear, rest, and fast travel. However, some corners of the world are mysteriously lacking a shelter, even though there is plenty of room to place them. At worst, it takes a few minutes to run to the nearest shelter, but over the 30-40 hour campaign this translates into a decent amount of backtracking.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

The world size puts a damper on pacing. Although basically structured like Tomb Raider 2013, the navigable spaces are much larger. It is still fairly brisk and relaxing to explore because of simple tasks and snappy combat encounters, but it is not compressed enough. While in a quest, regular battles might crop up along the main route, but the action is sparse when merely exploring. This frequency of combat is not the problem, but it makes the world size seem out of whack. Void breaches are an extreme example of the needlessly large levels; these other-worldly battle dungeons feature too much empty space between encounters, and a ridiculous amount of climbing those aforementioned ledges; they should have been a battle arena with several combat waves. So the world could have been reduced by half, or more, and offered a more intimate experience with extra detail and just as much action.

Combat is similar to God of War 2018, although not as polished or grandiose. At first it feels too restrictive, with small combat spaces, limited skills, and clunky movement. Eventually it becomes meaty and satisfying, with two heroes that complement each other. Red has a sword that can parry and perform a block-breaking charged attack. His rifle helps maintain distance and can hit specters that perch on rock outcroppings. He can banish ghosts after generating enough charge, offering a huge damage spike. All his attacks fill a spirit gauge, which Antea uses for both health and damage. If she takes too many hits or fights too long, Red battles alone until the gauge refills, or he can swallow a potion that grants health and spirit. Antea is the ghostess with the mostest, able to deploy several cool abilities. She has a leap attack, ensnare trap, and outburst explosion, which is satisfying against groups of weaker ghosts. The balance between the two characters is great thanks to combos and recharging abilities.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

Enemy variety is okay, although the ghosts look similar because most are human shapes with a different color to set them apart. There are ranged attackers, bigger brutes that become furious, spectral orbs, and nimble ones that dodge rifle shots. Some can shield their allies, so they become the priority. Each ghost can also possess any of the dead bodies lying around, which increases their damage and offers them a second life as the body must be killed first (although banishing negates this), so stopping that from happening keeps the battles manageable.

Various upgrades and equipment perks allow players to specialize, with some tradeoffs. You can opt to generate more spirit, allowing Antea to be used for longer, at the cost of taking extra damage or having longer recharge times. During general exploration, battles are easy, but there are tougher challenges in the form of those specter nests and void breaches. These have more enemies and add extra spice via special conditions that basically force an attack style, overpowering certain attacks but making everything else extremely weak, like supercharging Red’s banish move. In void breaches, which feature the hardest battles because ghost health regenerates, such conditions can be annoying. Switching gear might be required in severe circumstances, although this encourages experimentation. The optional combat scenarios are worth doing because they boost stats and facilitate gear upgrades.

The world of New Eden looks good, from the snowy mountain peaks to the grimy swamps. Since the areas are big, it does lack the detail of Vampyr and many regions are generic outdoor environments. The atmosphere is consistent and alluring around settlements, with some cool underground areas, like the mines. There are unfortunately not enough frights or dark themes, considering the haunted setting. Character designs are fine, although the lip-syncing is not quite perfect. The music uses violins and protracted single chords to create the appropriate desolate mood. It performs fine at max settings, with only minor stutters when moving between the bigger areas. Unfortunately it crashed about once every 2-3 hours. Thankfully the saves are frequent during general exploration, and it loads very quickly.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

With a ghostly undercurrent, moral conundrums, and an endearing story, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is definitely worth possessing. It is probably Don’t Nod’s best work since 2015, due to appealing side quests and strong lead characters that have a poignant relationship. Players may need to adjust to the combat quirks, although even that ends up being enjoyable thanks to neat supernatural powers and custom play styles. It is a pity that the persistently over-large areas needed trimming and regular crashes are annoying. Despite this, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is good enough that Don’t Nod should reconsider their aversion to sequels, although there is a ghost of a chance of that happening.

Our ratings for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
80
New Eden looks good across its many regions, with some great combat effects and apt music. Human settlements feel appropriately alive despite all the death.
Gameplay
75
Combat takes some adjustment but is enjoyable due to Antea’s abilities and the dual-character system. There are many simple tasks to undertake, although the world size makes traipsing back and forth a burden.
Single Player
85
The story revolves around uncovering the truth behind a Nightmare, with Antea and Red poised to make a fateful decision. Major characters are good and many optional hauntings are interesting. There is a solid 30-40 hours of content, depending on side task completion.
Multiplayer
NR
N/A
Performance
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
GPU: ASUS 6700 XT DUAL OC 12GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PC Specs

75
Performs well technically but prone to crashes. Thankfully it saves often so progress is retained.
Overall
81
Ordained by a clear narrative, resolute characters, intriguing hauntings and an eventually favorable combat model, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a morally infused spirit smasher set in a large world that needed a little exorcism.
Comments
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden box art Platform:
PC
Our Review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden
81%
Great
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is ranked #402 out of 1971 total reviewed games. It is ranked #5 out of 25 games reviewed in 2024.
401. Eternal Threads
PC
402. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden
403. Prototype
PC
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