Game Reviews Xbox

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Review – A Haunting Tale of Love and Loss

There’s nothing like a good ghost story. One that rattles your soul, and leaves you wondering about the afterlife. Many games have explored ghosts and supernatural beings, but very few have done it quite as uniquely as Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.

Imagine living in the 1600s and being part of a selective society of people known as Banishers, skilled experts in the craft of solving hauntings. Traveling the woodland forests of early North America searching for ghosts and saving lives along the way. It all sounds like a new Netflix show just waiting to happen and yet it is a fresh story that combines deep narratives, action, twists, and love. If you are in the mood for something refreshing but familiar in a good way, then I highly encourage this haunting journey.

From developer Don’t Nod, previously known for developing Life is Strange, Banishers is a tasteful take on the role-playing genre. The story follows two lovers, Red Mac Raith, and Antea Duarte, as they have traveled to the New England town of New Eden. The two are Banishers, essentially ghost hunters who are tasked with ridding a curse out of the community of New Eden.

Upon getting to the town, something is incredibly wrong and many people have fled for their lives. As Red and Antea explore, they come to find that one of their good friends was killed by a “Nightmare”, a demonic deity that is stronger than most spirits. Antea, having been the Banisher with more experience goes to vanquish this deity but loses her life in the process. As much of a spoiler as this sounds, it’s essential to the plot and the formation of the story, as Red tries to return to the town and avenge his lover. 

Although Antea dies at the beginning of the game, it is only the beginning of her story as she returns as a spirit. Her powers form a bond with Red’s as they can travel and fight in combat together. The gameplay consists of you exploring, climbing, and fighting through the woods of New England as you encounter settlers dealing with their hauntings. Very much like most decision-based RPGs, you can choose dialogue options that either fuel your investigation or change the outcomes of the stories. As much as Red and Antea are ghost hunters, they are also supernatural detectives and have to investigate a haunting to get to the root cause. The game will have you explore locations and gather evidence, as well as gain a profile on particular characters to conclude. Very like the most recent Sherlock Holmes games, you can access the character profiles in your menu and see what exactly is causing the hauntings.

Red and Antea can upgrade multiple things including combat skills, weapons, outfits, and more. The upgrades will improve combat and can be changed when you are at rest. Rests are where Red and Antea sit by a fire and you can access the upgrade list as well as set fast travel markers. A lot of the gameplay consists of dialogue between Red and Antea as they learn to manage their situation and how to combat the steps ahead. Early in the game, you learn that there is a ritual that can bring Antea back from the dead, but it comes at a cost. Red must kill living people for the ritual to be achieved, and it is a moral dilemma that you the player must decide. You can also work towards helping Antea ascend by banishing or ascending other ghosts.

Combat is the most iffy part of the game, and while it has its moments, I found it to be very redundant and kind of annoying at times. I felt as if I was walking around exploring, I would be attacked every few minutes by a bunch of specters. I know most games have constant battles, it comes with the genre, but something about these fights always felt slightly pointless. Especially since the main idea of the game is to investigate hauntings, now all of a sudden you have ghosts everywhere you turn. They make sense of it by saying the town is cursed so just remind yourself of that.

Fighting consists of the right trigger and right bumper attacks. The right bumper has light combo strikes, and if you hold the right trigger you can do heavy/charged attacks. If you gain enough energy you can even do a banishing attack which will either vanquish an enemy or hurt them tremendously. Combat has the usual lock-on and dodge mechanics and your health is sustained by the items you pick up along the way. Make sure to be mindful of how many health potions you are taking because every drop counts, especially in long fights.

There are also a variety of enemies to fight against. Regular specters are easy to fight but they can also possess dead animals or things that are lying around. Some bigger enemies can shield and little flying orbs that are one-strike kills. Spectral hounds and bone walkers are more of a challenge and require you to dodge a lot. Once some enemies are defeated, their spectral form will appear and so you’ll have to banish them too. You can seamlessly switch into Antea at any point but she also has a combat meter so you can’t use her for too long. She deals heavier damage on certain enemies and she can help you see things in the spirit world that Red cannot. 

While walking around you can gather little items on the ground that can be used in rituals. The rituals consist of three options which are harkening, making manifest, and summoning scourge. Each ritual is a very cool process in which once enough items are gathered you can perform the ritual to do things that are required for progression. For example, you can summon a spirit to ask it questions about its death and haunting, and you can also replay a situation that resulted in death so that you can find the answer to what happened. This aspect of the game I found to be very unique and I loved the idea they were going for. If you perform the wrong ritual, Red will say something and the option will pop up again. Rituals can only be performed at certain areas and you will most likely have to do the one pertaining to the situation.

During hauntings, you will learn that the ghosts are bound to the earth by items or their body. Spirits can’t be banished or accented without finding out what that tie is. In the case of Antea, her spiritual tie is connected to her body which the Nightmare is in control of. The idea is for Red and Antea to get her body back so that they can decide whether she will stay or go.

The choices you make along your path will impact the ending of the game and ultimately Antea’s fate. I believe this makes for great replay value as you can have different interactions and consequences for your choices. Red will make an oath to Antea and it is up to you to decide whether you want to stand by that oath or not, which will lead to some surprising twists and turns.

Aside from the combat and tedious long conversations while climbing around, I found the game to be very fun and engaging. It’s a new concept that plays on familiar tropes, and although it’s a little slow at times, there’s a lot of dramatic weight that will keep you strung along for more. I loved the hauntings and some of the stories I found to be extremely compelling.

Even the choice of having to banish or kill people left me with more power than I thought the game was going to give me. I think this was an excellent installment to what hopefully will be a continuing series. Do yourself a favor and banish some ghosts with the love of your life, there’s nothing like it out there right now. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is out now on Xbox X/S, PS5, and PC.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden for Xbox Series X provided by Don’t Nod and Focus Entertainment.

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