Banishers

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is something we don’t get often in video games—a genuine love story. Plenty of games feature romance as an element of their plot, but in most, it’s only a small part of the overall picture. In Banishers, it’s the main course. While there’s undoubtedly more to the story here than just romance, the main focus of your journey is always on a pair of lovers and what they’re willing to do to be together. Coming from the team at Don’t Nod, known for narrative titles such as Life is Strange, it should come as no shock that their journey is beautifully told and kept me on the edge of my seat for thirty hours.

 

Meant To Be

 

Banishers

Our pair of lovers are Banishers Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith. In 1695, they’re summoned to the new world colony of New Eden by an old friend to help deal with some haunting issues. You see, as Banishers, their job is to find spirits who refuse to leave the world of the living behind and send them on their way. While they have several ways to go about this, the most common is their namesake. They banish the spirit from our realm, sending them to another where they’ll find eternal torment. Perhaps sticking around after death isn’t such a good idea.

Upon their arrival in New Eden, things aren’t as they seemed. Their friend is gone, and they find a nightmare beyond even the horrors they’re used to cursing the area. Quite simply, they’re out of their league, and Antea pays the price, losing her life to save her beloved. Because this is also a ghost story, though, that isn’t the end of their love. Upon Red’s recovery, he finds himself haunted by his lover, who is now the very thing they hunt. Despite this unfortunate situation, their love is unbroken, and they decide they’ll get their revenge.

 

The Choices We Make

 

Banishers

Finding their revenge will involve a great many choices. Through an approximately 30-hour journey, you’ll travel through the area around New Eden, dealing with survivors who are trying to live with the curse. In order to put this nightmare to bed, they’ll have to uncover its roots and see how it began. Along the way, they’ll have many choices to make. Banishers have the power to judge the living and send away the dead, and there are many situations that need your judgment. Players certainly could mainline the main story, but there are tons of side stories and hauntings where your particular skills are helpful and many of these stories are well worth exploring.

The most important choice you’ll make as players, though, is what path to take Red and Antea on. As Banishers, there are two paths forward for them. They can work to help Antea ascend and leave this world behind peacefully. Or there’s a way she could possibly return, but it requires Red to make some incredibly difficult choices that might cost him a bit of his soul. What he is willing to do for their love is one of the main threads I had to unravel through my journey.

 

A Strong Foundation

 

Banishers

In the early hours of Banishers, it feels like the combat might be too simple for the game’s own good. An action RPG, Red starts with a sword and a torch but in the game’s early hours combat feels somewhat repetitive. Once his beloved rejoins the team, though, things begin to open up. Through the rest of the game, you can switch between Antea and Red with a single button tap. As a spirit, Antea has a different set of attacks and uncovers new abilities throughout your journey. Many enemies are spirits haunting a body. One member of this duo will often be more effective at taking down specific foes, so you’ll have plenty of reasons to swap between them regularly. There are even combos that involve swapping at the right times, which feel great.

You’ll have tons of equipment to upgrade and increasingly complicated skill trees to navigate as your journey progresses. I loved that I could easily swap choices on the skill tree, allowing for experimentation. By the time I was halfway through the game, I found combat quite engaging, even if Banishers could absolutely use a bit more enemy variety. New varieties of spirits are introduced over time, but far too often, enemies feel the same, and you’ll spend an awful lot of time fighting possessed wolves. In the later hours of the game, there are some interesting twists that involve limiting your abilities at times, but I found these more annoying than fun. Thankfully, boss battles in Banishers are engaging, and there are a decent number of them. These encounters tested my skills in a large variety of ways and often forced me to take a step back and rethink how I was approaching them.

The pace stays strong until the final hours of the game. I could have done without a late-game quest that requires you to return to most of the areas you’ve already been throughout the game for a single conversation. Yes, you can use this as a good chance to wrap up side quests and other optional content, but it feels forced. It’s the sort of quest games add when they want to artificially increase their length without having to create a significant amount of new content. Still, the game’s solid fast travel system keeps this segment of the game from being too painful, even if I’d have rather seen it cut.

 

They Don’t Make Them Like This Anymore

 

Banishers

Banishers seems to fit largely into the sort of space that games so rarely are made in today. It’s a genuine B game. This isn’t a budget title; it’s thirty hours long and clearly not made by a tiny team, but in some ways, it feels a bit out of time. It’s fairly linear despite there being some side content. Despite featuring an open world, each area is very straightforward, with very specific paths to follow. Exploring will certainly unveil secrets, but they don’t open things up. Graphically, it looks fine but won’t impress players. This feels in many ways like an early PS4 title more than it feels like one releasing in 2024. That said, it feels like a good early PS4 title and proves there’s still room for this sort of design.

As far as performance goes, Banishers mostly handles itself very well. I noticed some slight slowdown now and then in some of the game’s larger fights, but this was rare. Loading is fast, and I encountered no gameplay-impacting bugs that I can remember during the entire journey. In the first hour or so, I did run into a few visual issues, mostly involving textures not rendering properly. One character’s face looked completely wrong, while one section of New Eden had a black wall that wasn’t supposed to exist and which I had to walk through. Thankfully, after a patch shortly after I started the game, this issue never showed up again. I can’t promise it’s fully solved, but if it isn’t, then the issue seems confined to the game’s first area.

 

Conclusion

 

While it could use more enemy variety and some areas that are more open, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a highly engaging action RPG featuring a love story I wanted to see through to its haunting conclusion. There are a lot of RPGs releasing in the first couple of months of this year, and with many of them being higher profile, it would be easy to overlook Banishers, but I hope players don’t do so. This is the exact sort of title we need studios to invest in more often.


Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox Series S, PS5, PC; Publisher: Focus Entertainment; Developer: DON’T NOD; Players: 1; Released: February 13th, 2024; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden provided by the publisher.

 



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