Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review
Released on the 13th of February, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a 3D Action-RPG game developed by Life is Strange creators DON’T NOD and published by Focus Entertainment. Featuring ghosts and theology, the latter of which is something I’m very interested in; I have been very excited about this game since it was first announced.
This story-driven experience takes place in the fictional New Eden Town — a British colony in America, and the events of the game happen during the 1600s. Our two main characters, Antea Duarte and Red Mac Raith, are both banishers who were called to the town all the way from Europe by their friend and fellow banisher Charles to help with a curse put on New Eden. Upon arriving, they learn that while trying to deal with the curse himself, Charles has died. He now haunts his wife, thinking he’s protecting her, and Red and Antea have to stop the haunting. By dealing with the haunting, they learn everything Charles knew about the curse and what caused it. After successfully giving their friend his ascent, they go to deal with the curse, caused by a special type of ghost called a Nightmare. The confrontation with the Nightmare is the final part of this segment that acts as a tutorial, and afterwards, the real game starts. The game features a more European view of ghosts, but it still is unique in its handling of them and of the way the world works. For example, there’s a place called the Void — where some people go after dying, particularly ghosts that were banished. It’s clear that there’s a lot of Dishonored influence in its design: it “shifts and changes”, which is exactly something The Outsider said about the Void in Dishonored 2. That is not to say that DON’T NOD stole it — there are a lot of differences between the two games' Void; it’s just that the idea and design are similar.
Being a choice-based game, there are multiple possible endings and ways for it to unfold. The pacing can feel a little slow at times, but since it’s open-world, it’s not that much of a problem if you don’t care about side missions. There’s a lot of lore, and even by the end of the game, not everything is clear and understood, leaving a lot of potential for expanding on the franchise, and Ghosts of New Eden’s story is really good. So good, in fact, that what I assume is the bad ending of the game is the first time I’ve felt dread from a videogame.
The combat uses a simple base mechanic consisting of light attack, heavy attack, special, dodge, and block, but is actually really sophisticated. What makes it unique is that you can switch between characters, giving you a different special move and dealing different damage depending on the enemy type. There are five difficulty options, making the game accessible to more people. Working like a conventional RPG game, you can upgrade or change your weapons and items by trading, buying, or finding materials, adding some variety and allowing you to create your own build that suits your playstyle. You can even refund and change your talents at no cost, allowing you to freely experiment with different builds. While you’re not forced to do all of them, side missions play a major role in the story: for each haunting case you solve, you have the option of either banishing the ghost to the Void, giving the ghost their Ascent, or even blaming the haunted — stealing their life force to give Antea’s ghost so she’ll come back to life. The gameplay is great, and my only gripe about it is the same problem I have with other open-world games — getting places consists of walking a long time and fighting enemies from time to time. Quick travel is an option, but you can only do it from rest locations to rest locations, and they all have to be unlocked by reaching them manually.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is absolutely beautiful, and almost every scene of the game is at least wallpaper-worthy. The art style also fits very well with the theme and the story, so there’s really nothing to complain about here. Animations are not as good, though, with some facial animations having a kind of uncanniness to them, but it’s only a slight issue. The optimisation isn’t perfect, though, and while the minimum requirements aren’t hard to reach, you might run into some stuttering when loading new areas, and you definitely need to install the game on an SSD.
The way sound is designed in the game is genius, and although it’s not a horror game, the ambience had me more scared than any horror game I’ve played in the last few years. The music, while also good, isn’t memorable, and even just a day after playing it, I can’t hum a single tune out of the game to save my life. The voice acting in Ghosts of New Eden is really well done: each line delivered by every character conveys emotions, the voice actors fit how I’d imagine the characters would sound like, and the effects on the voices are really good. All the characters even have either English, Scottish, or Irish accents, which makes sense based on when the game takes place. My only problem with it is a small nitpick that when Antea, who’s from Cuba, talks with a childhood friend of hers, she still speaks English. It would make more sense for her to speak a native Cuban language, or, since getting someone who speaks a language like that is hard, at least Spanish.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden deals a lot with heavy topics such as misogyny and racism, and a lot of choices are really hard to make; for example, if a slave owner fell in love with her slave, and instead of asking for freedom, the slave used her love to make her give all her belongings to him, can he really be judged for it? These morally grey instances are frequent throughout the game, so making choices can be really hard sometimes, and I think that’s really good as it makes the world and characters feel more real.
Overall, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a really great game and one I definitely recommend. It’s an interesting, amazing experience that deals with heavy topics and tells an engaging story of love and death. Even for its expensive price, it’s absolutely worth it, and the quality of how well-written everything is, combined with the fun gameplay, makes this one of the best games I’ve played lately.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is astounding, and the way it tells a compelling story and connects you to the characters is really impressive. It’s impossible not to recommend this masterpiece of a game.