All views are that of the author and are not influenced by any copies of games provided by publishers for review purposes.Article Written by: Chris Chedrawi

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a story-driven, action adventure role-playing game that follows a couple of ghost hunters, known as Banishers, in 1695 New Eden. When the community is hit with a deadly curse, Banishers step in to investigate these sources of evil to protect the living and help the dead move on. The game takes place over multiple diverse landscapes and asks players to make difficult decisions that will impact the narrative as well as the gameplay.

Banishers is developed by Don’t Nod, known for their acclaimed titles such as Life is Strange and Vampyr, and published by Focus Entertainment. It is available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

If you’re still riding off the Baldur’s Gate 3 high, then there’s something for you in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. At first glance, these are two very different games. Banishers is a third-person action adventure that plays extremely linearly, but much like BG3, every decision you make has consequences. 

Decision-making is fun, complex and challenging, even though this crucial gameplay mechanic doesn’t come in as early as I expected. Every piece of dialogue, every bit of lore and story that New Eden trinkles to players through NPCs, environmental cues and tearjerking cinematics puts you in charge of what’s happening next. And decisions really do matter and dramatically impact your story. Your ghost-hunting escapades put you in charge of Red mac Raith who can combine powers of his lover Antea for maximum impact during combat. The diversity of the two characters allow for great combos, and I appreciate just how seamlessly it is to switch to Antea, particularly to get a good head start on a swarm of enemies.

Where Banishers excels is in how it forces players to make difficult decisions. I was torn plenty of times between honoring my oath as a ghost hunter and my oath to Antea, but the game has a handful of optional side quests called Haunting Cases. Each case allows you to pursue an interesting (and often tragic) ghost story that must end with a challenging decision: Blame the ghost by forcibly banishing them to oblivion (yikes) or Ascend the ghost, allowing them to move on peacefully with a release ritual. Players have to accept the consequences of each decision for the rest of the game, which left me staring at the “decision screen” far longer than I intended, contemplating my choices.

The combat is decent though not exceptional. Don’t Nod focuses on melee and ranged with some light RPG elements such as a skill tree with two different types of points and equipment upgrades. You can upgrade at camp, where you also get to spec your skill points and rest. Characters have unique abilities and I had plenty of fun swapping between them mid-combat, but overall they don’t offer a ton of depth compared to other games. And that’s okay too.

The game’s tight grip on narration, storytelling and character development is absolutely phenomenal. I was hooked on the story from Red and Antea’s very first escapades into New Eden all the way until the credits started rolling, letting every case transport me into a detailed, atmospheric and well-established world. If the combat doesn’t keep you engaged, the emotional gravitas of the story certainly will as it focuses on grief and letting go of loved ones who have passed.

Everything about this game is visually stunning. I found myself constantly impressed by how Don’t Nod and Focus Entertainment brought New Eden to life through various different locales. The Dark Woods, The Mire Marshes, Mount Pleasant, The Harrows and New Eden all feel distinct and atmospheric, making the gritty map all the more exciting to explore the more you progress in the game.

The incredible performances in Banishers bring so many characters to, ahem, life. Russ Bain’s Red and Amaka Okafor as Antea in particular are immediate standouts; they feel like characters you know and love and will absolutely not want to part away from after 20 to 30 hours. The supporting cast is just as impressive with excellent voice acting from the random NPCs you’ll meet in town to the ghosts you’ll end up working with to uncover their haunting cases.

The immersive soundscape, from the environments to the suspenseful atmosphere, add to the game’s gritty vibe. Some of the melee sounds during combat do feel a little off and half-baked, but it was something I got used to after a few hours and did not impact my enjoyment of the game.

The game is pretty stable with little to no issues experienced after 20+ hours in-game. As with most games and specific setups, your experiences will vary, but I’m happy to report my smooth-sailing journey throughout New Eden from start to finish. There’s always some room for optimization, especially on older PC hardware, as I experienced a few frame drops about halfway through the story, none of which were game-breaking.

I was ready to talk about how linear Banishers is, with a narrative-focused gameplay that doesn’t give you much room to go out and explore on your own. However, the different choices you make in each haunting case do make for different branches of the story the more you progress. By the halfway point, after you’ve made enough harrowing decisions and disappointed one or two ghosts in the process, I was craving a second and third playthrough of the game.

There is more replay value than meets the eye, but all of that is dependent on how much you enjoy the decision-making aspects of the gameplay. Choosing a different path for Red and Antea for every playthrough brings about a satisfying new set of dialogue lines, consequences for the characters, and different endings. While it’s not as in-depth in replayability as Baldur’s Gate 3 (nor does it need to be), it’s enough to keep you coming back to experience all the different places the characters end up as the credits roll.

Banishers has an impressively long list of accessibility features, most notably a diverse selection of game difficulty that range from Story to Very Hard. There’s also a Night Mode, something I’ve never seen implemented in a video game before, that lowers the overall volume of certain sounds in-game while raising dialog clarity. I found this particular feature extra handy any time the main characters were doing something sinister (almost all the time).

Subtitles come with a variety of font sizes as well as options to add background contrast. Optional aim assist is included and so is a full remapping for mouse/keyboard and gamepad. 

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden will hook you with its emotionally charged story where tough choices and their lasting consequences take center stage. While the combat might not be its strongest aspect, the game still delivers a memorable experience with top-notch voice acting, stunning visuals, and deep character development.

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