If there’s one thing the French developer Don’t Nod excels at, it’s crafting emotional and gripping narratives where human relationships take center stage. The studio proved its mettle through Remember Me, Life is Strange, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, Vampyr, Harmony, Jusant, and more. While budgetary constraints always held their games back a notch, their games nevertheless provide reflective, thought-provoking experiences. Banishers: Ghosts of Eden is no exception. Banishers weave an emotional tale of loss, grief, love, and acceptance packed with some powerful performances. Even after my 45-hour adventure through its accursed American frontier had come to a close, the love story of Red and Antea as well as that of the plethora of haunted characters stayed with me. Here’s me, Yemeth presenting Gameffine’s Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden review.
Life to the Living
Seemingly set in the same universe as Vampyr, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden tells the story of Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, lovers and professional Banishers — ghost detectives and all-around paranormal problem solvers. Set in 1695, the duo travels to the North American frontier, to a fictional New England town called New Eden, tasked with investigating a curse that has befallen the once-booming community. Things do not go as planned and the duo is defeated by an evil force way beyond their banishing capabilities. Antea is brutally murdered and Red is thrown into the ocean, only to be saved by a mysterious stranger. Antea also returns, but as a ghost, something Banishers are trained to get rid of. Torn between their duty as Banishers and vows as lovers, the tragic couple is left with a moral dilemma — do they sacrifice the hapless denizens to bring Antea back to life, or will Red muster up the willpower to elevate Antea from eternal sorrow?
The narrative of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is made more memorable by the excellent performances of the main actors. Red and Antea are compelling and highly likable characters possessing unique traits, emotions, and attitudes. While Amaka Okafor does a great job as the stern and emotionally stoic Antea, Rus Bain’s portrayal of Red steals the show. Bain delivers an award-worthy performance as the guilt-driven Scottsman. Torn between his vows and his beloved, Bain delivers each line with such conviction and emotion that I was in awe. Moreover, the main characters share such good chemistry that makes even the most mundane and trope-y moments feel entertaining. There’s a lot of character development, back and forth, and moments of revelations with the main actors nailing the script they’re given. Voice acting for the rest of the cast is pretty good as well, and a big step up from Don’t Nod’s previous ventures. What’s not great is the lip-syncing or the lack-there-of. The lip animations do not sync at all with what’s being spoken, and they do not do justice to the excellent voice acting. Seriously, a big letdown.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a game full of choices and consequences. The frontier is filled with characters afflicted by the spirits of those who have departed. On their quest, the grief-stricken Red and ghastly Antea have to solve cases of hauntings and decide the fate of the former townsfolk of New Eden. The game features more than twenty well-written and varied cases for Red and Antea to take on, each presenting the duo with conflicting and difficult choices that affect their lives as those of those involved. While all the cases are similar structurally (find a haunting, investigate, find clues, confront the ghost, make a decision), each one is distinct in terms of its story, motivations, and themes. While one case may have the duo assisting a spirit solve its murder, another might be about helping a ghost say goodbye to a loved one. There’s even a case where you help a time-traveling ghost trying to prevent its past self from taking her life. These are not stand-alone side missions, either. Almost all the cases connect the inhabitants of New Eden in one way or another and tie into the main story beautifully while exploring the socio-political undertones of the 17th-century American frontier.
American Horror Story
The gameplay department is where Don’t Nod’s games typically stumble a bit. While Banishers has its share of problems, the game offers a far more cohesive gameplay loop than the developers’ previous ventures. While Banishers takes a cue from Vampyr for its narrative design, its God of War (2018) inspirations are clear as day. Traversal, exploration, and combat closely resemble that of Santa Monica’s blockbuster game. But rather than coming across as a cheap imitation, Banishers take the GoW formula and reshape it into its own style.
As mentioned above, the exploration and traversal of Banishers closely resemble that of GoW due to having the same level design philosophy. The whole game takes place in a huge, continuous landmass (with one minor exception) and hardly takes away the focus from the main characters. The levels are designed akin to a 3D Metroidvania with plenty of ability-gated sections and secret areas. There are 4 large biomes with their own visual style and activities. They are all interconnected (except dimensional rifts) and loop back to one another thanks to a slew of shortcuts. This type of design gives the whole game a great sense of scale and gives the feeling that you’re going on a single, large adventure. The downside to this is that there is a lot of tedious backtracking if you decide to engage in side activities. Thankfully, the map screen and HUD compass are pretty accurate. There are lots of traversal animations like jumping down, scaling walls, jumping across platforms, rappelling down, etc. and these get old fast. Thus, I wish there were some end-game abilities that made backtracking easier.
Exploration in Banishers is an extremely rewarding experience. The game is filled with enemy clusters to destroy, loot to find, collectibles to collect, treasures to hunt, puzzles to solve, and side missions to uncover. It feels as if there is something new waiting to be discovered in each corner of the map. That being said, there are a bit too many checklist activities in the game for completionists. I played Banishers for a whopping 45+ hours and still couldn’t finish all the side content. Hunting for the ungodly amount of collectibles made me give up on getting the platinum. The lack of a NG+ means that you’ll have to get all items in a single playthrough, which is just too much tedium.
Death to the Dead
The combat system in Banishers is not up to par with the rest of the game. Sure, it’s way better than the combat systems in Remember Me and Vampyr, but at the same time, it makes the production value of the game stick out. The melee combat, in particular, is kind of bland. The animations are decent and chaining combos feel fluid, but it just doesn’t have the “oomph”. Moreover, the camera and lock-on system seem to have a mind of their own and are wildly inconsistent. Ranged combat fares better in comparison, thanks to excellent haptic trigger support and the beefy sound of a musket firing. You can also switch to Antea at any given time (provided you have enough spirit points) and she has her own combo system, and you’re drip-fed with powerful abilities as the story progresses.
The combat does get better after you’ve unlocked lots of skills and found better gear. However, much like GoW, Banishers suffer from the problem of lackluster enemy variety and encounter design. What little enemy types there are, all look and act more or less the same and the arena type of encounter design gets stale fast. You can see combat encounters coming from a mile away as soon as you enter closed-off areas. The shortcomings are more apparent to me because I have spent a lot of time trying to do all the side activities, and you may enjoy the combat more if you just focus on the story and the side missions.
Similar to GoW, there are also multiple skill trees, a rudimentary upgrade system, and attributes that go along with it. Getting items for upgrades is relatively easy, and you can just outright ignore the numbers associated with the various stats. There are at least three ways you can build your character, and all the gear you obtain encourages synergies in combat. There are multiple slots of gear to equip. The gears look cool and are visually distinct from each other. On normal difficulty, I found the game to be really easy halfway through. My musket was doing nearly 1k damage per shot, and I even took down the final boss in under a minute. So, you might want to play on a higher difficulty to enjoy a good challenge. There are also endless combat encounters if you want to further boost the duo’s attributes and farm for items.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is not a visual spectacle, nor does it have ray tracing or lumen. But what it does have is a cohesive art design and plenty of well-designed environments. Dense woods, farmlands, clearings, beeches, ramshackle settlements, marshlands, hillside stations, and forts add to the immersion of exploring the untamed American frontier. The lighting is pretty decent and the character models of the main characters look great. The NPCs don’t look all that great, but they don’t look terrible either. As mentioned above, the lip animations are terrible and should be fixed (if they can be). Banishers run great, at least for me. The game ran upwards of 60 fps maxed at 1080p on both my RTX 3070 and RTX 4060 without any upscaling. I did encounter one crash during my playthrough but did not run into any bugs or glitches.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden tells a compelling, emotionally charged story that’s supported by a layered cast of characters and great performances. It does stumble a bit when it comes to combat and encounter design and the awful lip-syncing does undermine the otherwise stellar voice acting. But if you’re someone used to AA experiences, the pros far outweigh the cons. For $49.99, you’re getting a well-written, lengthy single-player campaign with a slew of engaging side content that may take you anywhere from 25-50 hours to knock off.
FINAL RATING: 77/100
Banishers: Ghosts of New EdenBanishers: Ghosts of New Eden
- Well-written story with memorable characters
- Excellent performances
- Plenty of high-quality side missions that ties into the narrative
- Atrocious lip syncing
- Bland melee combat
- Repetitive encounter design