Don’t Nod Studio has always been renowned for its strong, multi-threaded stories filled with choices. The same holds true for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, yet this time, there’s a significant leap in gameplay mechanics quality. And don’t be misled by a slight hint of clunkiness, for a certain stiffness still exists in the game, but the creators have managed to craft a title that is decidedly closer to the latest God of War installments than their earlier Vampyr. Let’s start from the beginning.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is an ambiguous tale of ghost banishers
The action unfolds in rather grim times, where death is rampant, and a curse over the residents of New Eden strips them not only of peaceful sleep but also of their humanity. It’s a brutal world filled with ambiguous situations, paranormal phenomena, and tough decisions. In Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, we control the fates of two lovers – Red and Antea, who are specialists in banishing ghosts and apparitions, hence the title’s banishers. They are absolute experts in their field, thus summoned by a friend for assistance, but upon arrival, things take an unexpected turn. Antea dies in a confrontation with a formidable opponent, while Red narrowly escapes with his life. Fortunately, their separation is short-lived, as the woman quickly returns to us in an intangible form. The developers based the entire gameplay on this premise – from the story to the combat system. And they did it really well!
Banishers stands out among other productions on many levels, and I was particularly impressed by the chemistry between the main characters and how their love was portrayed. Despite, to put it mildly, unpleasant circumstances, the creators managed to avoid clichés and excessive sentimentality. The conversations here are dynamic and natural, often humorously so, making it very easy to become attached to the controlled characters. Much credit goes to the excellent voice actors and very well-executed cutscenes. Facial animations are not top-notch, but the direction and acting more than make up for it. Don’t Nod’s craftsmanship is evident at every step and compared to games like the new Avatar, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, or the infamous Forspoken, I followed this story with pleasure and interest.
The main narrative revolves around the decision to bring Antea back to life, which comes with substantial consequences. Almost from the start, the game forces us into a certain kind of pact regarding our further actions, but we are not forced to stick to it – not without repercussions, however. Bringing the heroine back to the living is not a path strewn with roses. To do this, we must sacrifice the lives of other encountered characters. They have a lot on their consciences and are usually responsible for specific crimes, yet the creators do not make our decisions easy and try to justify them in an interesting way, as well as suggest the consequences of death. This theme is closely related to the studio’s previous work, Vampyr, but significantly expanded and more believable.
However, I noticed a slight discrepancy. From the outset, Banishers suggests that without sacrifices, Antea simply weakens and needs them to continue her journey as a spirit, which ultimately was unnoticeable until the very end of the gameplay. Don’t get me wrong – our choices and their consequences mean the title is worth finishing at least twice, it’s just that the attempt to exert pressure on the player seemed rather artificial.
New Eden also features several minor, often optional stories. Due to the curse, the streets are rather deserted, and we do not encounter many independent heroes on our way, but even less important characters have something interesting to say, and side missions are thoughtful additions to which the creators have put a lot of effort. The atmosphere and world-building are further supported by numerous notes, which I read with interest.
Banishers draws heavy inspiration from the newer parts of God of War
Aside from the story, I really enjoyed the pace and overall design of the gameplay in Banishers. It’s not a drawn-out title in a gigantic open world with millions of collectibles, but for exploration enthusiasts, the creators have provided plenty of secrets and activities. In New Eden, on one hand, you follow a beaten path, and on the other, you frequently encounter a path that encourages thorough exploration.
Just like in God of War, as the gameplay progresses, we constantly unlock new abilities, opening up previously inaccessible options. No one forces us to return to locations visited earlier, but treasures await there, battles with elite opponents offering improved stats, or not overly complicated puzzles. The main story leads us by the hand from one biome to another, so it’s impossible to get lost here. I really like this approach, as the game progresses very dynamically, allows for additional exploration of optional places, and occasionally offers fresh and varied views. It’s an adventure that most players will spend between 20 to 30 hours on, which I find to be a very solidly balanced result.
Banishers is a bit of an RPG, but more an action game. By defeating enemies, we gain experience, which we can later use to develop our characters. I deliberately used the plural here, because although we mainly control Red, Antea is our inseparable companion, and as we delve deeper into the forest, she plays an increasingly significant role in battles. The combat initially seemed somewhat clunky and wooden to me, and additionally, the camera suspended close to the heroes’ backs severely limited my movements and often left me feeling disoriented. After a while, as I got used to it and acquired additional abilities, the encounters became more engaging, dynamic, and interesting.
Red fares better against living enemies, while Antea shows her claws in battles with various aberrations. Once we develop our skills sufficiently, a palette of attacks opens up before us, extending beyond standard weak and strong hits, counters, and dodges. Later on, firearms, Antea’s spiritual abilities, or extremely powerful culminating assaults are added to this. We have quite a wide choice and can modify our enhancements at any control point without any problems.
The whole fun lies in the fact that with the press of a button, we can switch between characters, combine our attacks into combinations, and each opponent has their strengths and weaknesses. Their visual variety is somewhat disappointing, as almost throughout the game, we simply encounter ghosts, apparitions, or wolves. There are also flashy boss fights, but they are very few. Despite these limitations, the creators have delivered many solid solutions that keep the game from becoming boring. Often, you need to first assess the situation and choose priorities in selecting targets. To give examples, I’ll mention ghosts that can regenerate in the bodies of fallen enemies, others that enhance the resilience of their companions, and some that shoot at us from heights until we take them down. I had no major problems on medium difficulty, but I did die a few times. Banishers is a very accessible title, so we can adjust the level of challenge according to our needs.
The gathering system of various plants, ores, and other useful items plays quite an important role in the game. There’s no problem with the availability of materials, and the title never forces unnecessary wandering in search of a missing weed. The process is very natural and does not detract from the storyline. We can use the findings not only to upgrade weapons and equipment but also to perform rituals. Surprisingly, I thought this last element would be key in a production about banishing specters, but it turned out to be extremely simplified.
Before summoning a spirit, we are presented with a few options. Only one is correct, and in case of a mistake, we are not penalized in any way and can repeat the process after a moment. Ideally, based on a minor investigation and examination of the surroundings, we should draw the correct conclusions that allow for a proper summoning, but the trial-and-error method works just as well.
Additionally, I’d like to return to the issue of weapons, armors, and other accessories. Along the way, we’ll come across a few sets, but in Banishers, this is rather a secondary matter, and by upgrading our equipment, we can easily reach the end of the game even with the basic setup. The differences between types are mainly the bonuses, which allow us to tailor the gameplay more to ourselves and our style of play.
I’ve referred to God of War several times in this review, and this is another element clearly borrowed from that series. Additionally, a similarly conducted narrative, characteristic camera work, the relative openness of a rather linear world, and clear inspirations in the combat system or even the design of menus constantly reminded me of the Santa Monica production. Despite this, Ghosts of Eden has plenty of character, and such design is not a flaw for me.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a complete production
The creators additionally deserve praise for what should be a standard. Despite its scope, Banishers is complete, polished, and well-optimized, which is not so obvious with the Unreal Engine 5. The graphics are quite good, the landscapes look very charming and are full of details, the post-processing effects, oppressive rain, or beams of light passing through trees look great. The game’s action always takes place at specific times, and there is no day-night cycle, which allowed the mood to be finely tuned.
One might find fault with the weaker textures, invisible walls, slight lags during location loading, and average mouth movement animations in cutscenes, but these are really minor details. The production runs very solidly even on Steam Deck and offers a range of options that allow performance to be adjusted for most current devices. It features AMD FSR 2 scaling, TSR, and of course, the king of quality in this regard, DLSS 3, which works great here, allowing the game to be played in full detail on 4K screens at a very high frame rate. If you play on Valve’s hardware, I invite you to the post with optimized graphic settings for Steam Deck.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden left a very positive impression on me, much better than I expected. This time, a very successful story, excellently written characters, and unconventional choices went hand in hand with successful gameplay mechanics, which I performed not out of obligation, but with pleasure. It’s not a perfect game, as you’ve learned in this review, but as a whole, it provides a range of positive emotions and plenty of adrenaline. While rating, I hesitated a bit between 8 and 8+/10, but when I saw that the title will debut on PC at a price of 49,99USD, the choice was only one. I am grateful for the many hours of truly enjoyable gameplay I spent here, and in time, I look forward to thoroughly checking the entire game again, making radically different choices.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden: is a very successful blend of action gameplay with RPG elements, a rich narrative, and choices that carry significant consequences. – Paweł Mikulski