The latest game from Life is Strange and Vampyr developer Don’t Nod asks: what would you do if you could bring your loved one back from the dead? The added caveat is, you’re a Banisher, sworn to protect the living world by sending rogue spirits back to where they belong. Needless to say, things are pretty complicated in Banishers: Ghost of New Eden.
A semi-open world action RPG, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden stands out in numerous ways, but one of them is its dual-protagonist set-up. Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte are both lovers and partners in this adventure, though shortly after arriving in New Eden to meet an old friend, Antea finds her life cut short.
An entity of such power the pair have never encountered before is the cause, and with Red narrowly escaping with his life, he’s soon faced with a choice: face the entity once again to either let his lover ascend, or perform a ritual that will bring her back from the dead. But of course, there’s a cost.
Your journey in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden finds you heading back to the quaint town in which Antea met her end, gathering your strength along the way so that you may finally overcome the ghastly entity that awaits you there. You’ll primarily be playing as Red, traversing woodland and other rigged outdoor terrain where you’ll often encounter foul spirits, scourges, possessed corpses and wolves. It’s not all about exploring and fighting, though; you’ll also occasionally encounter settlements on your travels, and it’s here you’ll pick up haunting cases.
Adding a neat investigative twist to Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, these haunting cases demand that you question those around you, search for clues, uncover motives, and ultimately decide the fate of wither the spirits involved or the people they’re attached to.
They’re quite straightforward – there’s nothing complicated involved, with your hand generally held along the way – but your choices at the end of each case will ultimately affect the outcome of your tale. Will you diligently do your job as a Banisher, or will you somewhat warp your mindset in order to blame the living so you can reap their souls and bring back your beloved Antea?
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While Antea may no longer have a physical body, it’s safe to say that you wouldn’t get far in your adventure without her. With the press of a button you can switch over to her at most points in the game to make use of her unique spiritual skills. In combat, for example, her punching attacks are particularly potent against possessed corpses, and she’s also capable of performing a devastating charged area attack.
Outside of combat, she can see things that Red can’t, and can dispel spiritual energy that keeps some things hidden from sight. Needless to say, you’ll be switching between Red and Antea often.
To keep you invested on your adventure, new abilities are doled out at regular intervals, many of which allow you to access area of the map that were previously locked off. And those wanting to develop their characters to their fullest will want to explore.
Aside from finding new gear and materials that can be used to upgrade your favourite equipment, you’ll also find optional quests to complete and challenging encounters that, should you succeed, provide a boost to your stats. While the Souls-like combat here can be tricky without engaging in such activities, however, there are numerous difficulty levels to make most encounters trivial should you wish.
As you’d expect from a Don’t Nod game, the writing in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is its real strength. Red and Antea are very likable, making you feel for their plight. But the truth is every encounter and conversation you have with the citizens New Eden is engaging.
You want to find out more about them, and you want to help them when you find out they’re being haunted. This desire even pulls you through some of the game’s less fortunate aspects: the combat can get messy when you’re fighting against multiple opponents, for example, there’s a ritual system that feels underused, and there are some technical issues that can annoy.
Banishers: Ghost of New Eden isn’t the most polished game out there. With a love story at its heart that asks you to ponder the morality of your choices throughout, however, you can’t help but be drawn into its world. It also helps that it’s a game filled with variety; exploration is finely balanced with combat and investigation to create an experience that keeps you on your toes and stops tedium from seeping in, even though none of those three aspects are particularly impressive by themselves. Basically, it’s greater than the sum of its parts, especially if you get on board with the tale it wishes to tell.