Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden review – Ghostly adventure delivers more than just scares
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is one of the biggest games of February 2024, but does the spooky horror adventure achieve ascension? Or should it be buried six feet under?
You wouldn’t know it from publisher Focus Entertainment’s low-key marketing campaign, but Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is one of the biggest game releases of 2024. At least in the first couple of months. When we started playing it, we found ourselves continuously asking, “Why don’t more people know about this game?” The issue is it’s rather hard to explain exactly what Banishers is, so let’s try and nail that down here.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a semi-open world action-adventure game with RPG and survival horror elements. It also borrows from the Souls games and third-person shooters, but most importantly, it’s also a narrative-driven game where the player’s decisions impact everything. While the game is far more ambitious than the Dark Pictures Anthology, this is a good comparison, at least for this element of the game.
Those who’ve played Don’t Nod’s Life is Strange series will be familiar with this approach, but Banishers features far more mechanics than that franchise. The good news is Banishers succeeds in juggling all of these different gameplay systems, giving equal time and importance to them all.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden key details
- Price: £58.99/$49.99
- Developer: Don’t Nod
- Release Date: February 13, 2024
- Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
A Haunting in New England
As Banishers is a story-driven experience, let’s start at the beginning. The Banishers, Antea and Red, are part of an ancient order of ghost hunters whose job is to ensure that the spirits of the dead move on to whatever is next, and that they don’t remain on earth haunting the living. In this universe, ghosts walk among us and sometimes want to stay with their loved ones and continue to live a semblance of their old lives.
This issue is that ghosts require the essence of life to continue to exist, which they hunger for and will unwittingly drain their loved ones of over time. As ghosts get hungrier for essence, they’ll become more desperate and will begin to prey on the living, even if they don’t want to. Their fear of the great beyond and not being close to those they knew in life motivates them until they’ve destroyed the person they’re haunting utterly.
What’s worse, is that if a ghost resists feeding on life essence they lose who they once were and just become a mindless predatory specter, until they fade out of existence or are banished. If a ghost consumes lots of essence and has access to a suitable host, they can return to life, but this takes the sacrifice of many lives to achieve and is considered forbidden. This is the exact situation Antea and Red find themselves in.
The couple arrive in New Eden to put an end to a mysterious ghostly threat that has cursed the colony. Antea is the senior ghost hunter with her partner Red also being her pupil. Without giving away too much, Antea finds herself turned into a ghost but unable to move on due to the curse holding her back. She and Red need to defeat the supernatural threat, but they also need to decide if they work towards Antea’s “Ascension” or her resurrection.
Throughout the game, players will meet various NPCs many of which are being haunted. Each of these hauntings will need to be resolved with the spirit either being gently ascended, forcibly banished, or instead, choosing to sacrifice the living person. You see, some hauntings are by malevolent spirits, while others are from victims of murder, looking to bring their killer to justice, or in other cases forgive them.
While some decisions are easier than others, some are utterly agonizing. We’d compare the decisions to choosing to sacrifice or harvest the Little Sisters in BioShock. For every living person sacrificed, Anteas’s path to resurrection becomes closer. However, the couple can also commit to ascending Antea when the time comes. Just know, that whatever choice you pick, your resolve will be tested as the game goes on, and there is no right answer. You may choose to sacrifice everyone or nobody, but there will be implications for both.
Combat is part of Banishers, but it’s only one aspect of the game. Don’t expect it to be a driving factor either. Bosses have a Soulsborne feel which will please fans of the genre, but this game isn’t as combat-heavy as others in that genre, the same can be said for the third-person shooting elements.
Red is generally your standard swordsman, but he’s also equipped with a rifle to battle enemies from a distance. However, combat gets really interesting when switching between him and Antea. As a ghost, Antea has various powers at her disposal, both in battle, and when out exploring the world. You’ll be able to switch between both characters at will which allows for some pretty slick combos containing both regular and ghostly attacks.
Specters make up the most common enemies, hostile ghosts drawn to the Banishers because of their power and essence. As the game progresses, these enemies will get harder and begin to possess to corrupt bodies of the dead – and the living. While combat was certainly engaging and creative, we had the most fun with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden when we were exploring the colony and talking to the residents.
Solving hauntings was especially tense and rewarding, but sometimes just listening to the dialogue of each NPC was enthralling, as each character has their own ghost story to tell. Lots of games encourage you to chat to NPCs, but so many games make it feel like a chore. Banishers does the exact opposite of this and each piece of worldbuilding contributes to the overarching story.
The Verdict 4/5
Banishers isn’t going to appeal to those who demand continuous action and top-tier combat. The fact is, there are just so many games that do hacking, slashing, and shooting so much better. Banishers is for those who want to be told a scary story and face some difficult moral choices along the way.
It’s for those who relish the opportunity to play as a pair of seventeenth-century supernatural detectives and solve some spooky mysteries while coming up with a solution to an inevitable, and much more personal problem.
Banishers felt like we were living in a Washington Irving story such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, so if you think this sounds like a vibe, then we’d highly recommend it.
Reviewed on PS5