Antea in ethereal form resting with Red in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden – Review: At a Crossroads Between Life and Death

Not for you if:

  • Gameplay is king for you
  • You can't stand dealing with downtime in between story beats
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Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is not a game I planned on playing this month. But I am glad I did. Sandwiched between high-profile releases such as Tekken 8 and Persona 3 Reload, and even with surprise gems like Helldivers 2, it’s not really a title that immediately stands out in the calendar. Regardless, knowing that Focus Entertainment constantly pumps out quality games like A Plague Tale: Requiem, that for some reason fail to stay in the limelight for long, I was tempted to give it a try.

Is Banishers Ghosts of New Eden the perfect game? Far from it. Banishers has a lot of great ideas in the mix, and there’s no doubt that the studio DON’T NOD has put a lot of work into this project. However, it still fails to convince in the most crucial areas of the experience, and because of that even the aspects of the game that are good, fall apart quickly. Let’s get right into it:

TL;DR

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is a game that is easy to like a little but hard to like a lot. It ticks all of the optional boxes with a nice story, great visuals, and even better voice acting, but ultimately it fails to impress where it really matters.

All images in this article are screenshots from the PlayStation 5 version of Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden: Story

The plotline of Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is very intriguing and a big factor in why you should give this game a chance. Storytelling flows naturally, the premise is very exciting if you’re into horror games, and there’s some decent world-building at play through the side-missions the game has you complete to progress in the main story.

Arriving at New Eden Town in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

Banishers in a Haunted World

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden takes place in a world where ghosts run rampant and torment those who are haunted by them. Banishers take on the role of a 17th-century Ghostbuster, having to investigate what keeps the ghost bound to the world of the living and sever the ties, allowing them to rest in eternal peace, or sometimes exorcise them by force, thus banishing them from the world of the living. The dead have no business with the living.

Antea and Red are a pair of Banishers turned lovers who venture out on a mission to the small town of New Eden after they receive a distress call from one of their close friends. After a long trip, they arrive in the previously warm and welcoming New Eden only to find that the town is being held hostage by one of the most mythical spirits in existence – a Nightmare. Nightmares, as their name implies, terrorize people in their sleep, slowly driving them into insanity. Their power is so great that they even have an influence on the weather and attract lesser ghosts and demons. “It is the biggest of injustices that create the most vengeful of spirits” and that’s why our banishers will have to investigate the true reason behind the haunting of New Eden.

However, even our Banishers underestimate the threat that the Nightmare can pose. On their first encounter with the evil spirit, Antea is killed and Red is dropped from a cliff into the stormy sea, barely managing to stay alive. Once Red regains his consciousness and starts making his way to New Eden again, vowing to take vengeance for the death of his loved one, he is confronted by the ghost of Antea, who is still tied to the world of the living because the Nightmare keeps her body hostage in New Eden. Now, this is where things get extra interesting: banishers are privy to some taboo techniques that can revive a ghost, through sacrificing other haunted people. This puts Red at an ethical crossroads: should he retrieve Antea’s body to help her find eternal rest or should he walk a bloodstained path to resurrect his loved one?

  • An oath in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

The Ghost of a Relationship

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is the dynamic between the two leads. Antea is the mentor who falls for Red, her student. She is calm and composed, while Red is humorous and jumps in the fight without a second thought. I genuinely enjoyed their interactions. It certainly helps that both VAs give an outstanding performance.

Most romance stories go with the “until death do us part” bit, but not this one. Antea keeps accompanying Red even in death, but now she’s a ghost with all that may entail. We slowly see the moral compass of both characters start to waver as they are put in the shoes of the people they initially judged for hurting others, just to cling to their loved ones for a little longer. But now, will they walk along the same path? The choice is ultimately left up to the player.

Drip Feeding Story Beats

The pacing in this story is somewhat slow. Although the world is built on open-world principles and you are free to roam around the map as you like, most of the story progression is linear. There’s no problem with that, I actually prefer it. You usually have only one objective to follow, and even if multiple objectives are present, it’s mostly busy work until you get to the next story beat. And that’s what should keep the pacing tight, but what it really is doing is prolonging your wait for the next story beat. You get to take some time and enjoy the relationship between the two leads, but the pacing generally lacks the kick that we’re used to from DON’T NOD classics like Life is Strange and my personal favourite, Tell Me Why.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden: Gameplay

The gameplay is arguably the make-or-break aspect of all things gaming. There are a lot of things we can brush under the carpet if they’re based on a good gameplay loop. Both story and presentation tend to take the passenger seat, regardless of how good they may be. Unfortunately for Banishers Ghosts of New Eden, the gameplay is its weakest aspect. And it’s also where this game starts falling apart.

Hurts Itself in its Confusion

The biggest problem with the gameplay loop is of course the combat. For the most part, it’s a two-button system where you just smash the right bumper and the right trigger to attack enemies until they die. You can spice it up by involving Antea’s ethereal form to deal some extra damage to the spirits, but this is contained to occasionally pressing Δ/Y once every few minutes and then back to mashing the two buttons. There’s also no feeling of power progression in this game. It’s hard to feel like you’re actually getting stronger, aside from unlocking a few abilities that only kick in when you string together the most basic of combos. Everything about combat feels very surface-level, and the limited enemy variety certainly doesn’t help, but I’ll give this a pass as Banishers is not a long game.

The camera in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden helps provide an additional aspect to difficulty. In fights with multiple enemies, where they tend to surround you, I found myself constantly struggling with camera angles, as the camera bumped into terrain and enemies, or just had trouble keeping up when I used the dash ability. Not the best experience overall.

Bonfire rest sequence in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Ultimately, there are some bright spots in the gameplay. This game really gives you the power of choice, the choice to influence other people’s lives from a power position, which is an interesting mechanic. The morality behind this system is not only a gameplay mechanic but also takes into account the player’s moral compass. Are you willing to destroy other people’s lives to bring back your loved ones?

Also, another interesting mechanic is that of the investigations. All the “side” quests in this game are treated like cases you have to investigate and solve. To find the haunting ghosts, you need to ask questions, come to conclusions, and then make a choice. But sadly, these conclusions are made automatically as soon as you gather all the clues and tidbits about the people you are investigating. We’re used to better problem-solving than this from DON’T NOD.

An Open World with Limited Exploration Value

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden has an open-world-esque take on the in-game world. There’s an open map for you to explore, at certain points, but exploration is at no point encouraged or even worse, rewarded. Open-world activities and events are also absent. When you run into someone, and engage in a “side” quest, it’s always scripted like that, you don’t actually stumble into them. And for me, there’s no problem with that, I would much rather the story be linear because it would totally fit the theme of this game. But if the plan is for the player to have limited interaction, why bother with the open world at all?

And sadly, it’s not like taking the time to explore in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is rewarding. The only rewards you can get from exploring is limited lore fluff and resources to upgrade your weapons. After Antea joins you as a ghost, you can use her vision to see marks that ghosts leave in the real world (I wonder where they got that idea from). But this ability is used sparingly, only to overcome obstacles in your way of traversing the world, collecting resources, and in some story beats. There’s very limited creativity here, that clashes with how creative the story is. At least the world is amazing to look at, so it’s not all wrong.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden: Presentation

Gameplay issues aside, I’m happy to report that the presentation of Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is stellar across the board, with one of the most exciting grim but realistic aesthetics in recent memory, and a phenomenal performance from the two lead voice actors.

Grim, Yet Realistic Vibe

I can’t really say much about the visuals of this game that you won’t see in the images in this article, I think the imagery speaks for itself. Banishers Ghosts of New Eden definitely looks right. It’s got a striking aesthetic, on par with what we’ve come to expect from the light horror genre, but also a step above that in production quality. This is an AA game, but it certainly looks like a big-budget release.

Animations are fluid whether on performance or quality mode and DON’T NOD have certainly poured a lot of their love into this game, as is evident in the environment, with both indoor and outdoor spaces giving you this comfort horror feel. Every still from this game could very well be used as wallpaper, and that says a lot.

If I had one minor complaint about the visuals in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden, it’s that the mouth animations don’t match the voiced lines. It’s just random mouth movements. And it’s a shame because the voice work is impeccable.

  • Ghost vision in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden
  • New Eden Town shore in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden
  • First investigation in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

A Haunting Soundscape

DON’T NOD is well known for its excellent casting so this is barely a surprise, but the voice acting is truly noteworthy in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden. Russ Bain and Amaka Okafor do a fantastic job as Red and Antea respectively. Red’s thick Scottish accent mixed with Antea’s African American one does wonders for building a world that looks as diverse as the real one. For a game whose story is built on its characters, great VA work is crucial, and Banishers definitely delivers on that aspect.

But the soundscape of Banishers Ghosts of New Eden as a whole is also great. There are lots of ambient sounds that play a part in building tension during combat and contribute to building an eerie vibe during investigations. Music is also great and expertly used to build tension, but the absence of a soundtrack DLC, even in the Collector’s Editio is worthy of a head-scratch.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden: Verdict

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden is a nice story-driven game if you take it at face value. It’s got an interesting story, nails the visuals, gets the atmosphere right and some incredible voice-acting performances. However, it all falls apart quickly if you start to notice the cracks in gameplay and the pacing of the story. DON’T NOD have some interesting ideas, but don’t get it quite right when it comes to the execution of these ideas. I can be very forgiving when it comes to “not getting it quite right”, but it’s hard to justify spending 60€ on Banishers Ghosts of New Eden when so many games that came out the same month feel like a more complete package than this.

Did I enjoy Banishers Ghosts of New Eden? Yes, I did. Despite its shortcomings, this is still a game that I would recommend getting at a discount, especially to those who enjoy story-driven games where your choice can affect the outcome of the story (somewhat). If you enjoyed DON’T NOD’s previous offerings, then no doubt you can find a place in your heart for Banishers Ghosts of New Eden, as it tries to take what already worked for DON’T NOD and spice it up a little. Not all of it works, but you have to fail first before you get it right. I’m looking forward to what the developers are cooking up next, and I really hope that they can achieve mainstream success again, like they did with Life is Strange.

The Nightmare terrorizes Red in Banishers Ghosts of New Eden

We would like to thank Focus Entertainment and AVE for providing the review copy we used.

George Makridis

Posts published: 140

Editor in Chief. Studying Communication & Media. Listening to Hip-Hop. Watching advanced humor sitcoms and dumb superhero flicks. Has way too many games in his library and not that much time to actually play them.