This 2024 also brings us surprises in the form of great titles we didn’t expect. The consolidation of the new generation already shows that each new title, regardless of the studio behind it, has the potential to successfully captivate an audience that increasingly values the quality of games, sometimes above big names. Although today, we’re not talking about just any game. Banishers: Ghost of New Eden is the new venture from DON’T NOD, the studio known and loved for sagas like Life Is Strange, Vampyr, or Remember Me.
Given its preceding reputation, this time they manage to enhance their good judgment even more because, from the first lines, I can already tell you that Banishers is not just a great game; it’s a title that, for what it proposes, is absolutely well-rounded. A brutal early-year surprise that I didn’t anticipate, an adventure that has hooked me on all levels. An incredible storyline that involves the player at all times, gameplay heavily influenced by ARPGs defined by the souls, and a colossal way of mixing almost what I could call a graphic adventure as, in terms of conversations, puzzles, and mysteries, it reaches that point, with the most enjoyable and deadly action.
Banishers: Ghost of New Eden tells the story of two “Banishers,” a kind of warrior witches, if you will, dedicated to killing ghosts. In broad strokes, the protagonists, Red mac Reith and Antea Duarte, are like 17th-century Ghostbusters, traveling to the new world to continue offering their services to those in need. What makes them special is that, besides being Master and Student, they are lovers, and this union will completely define our adventure, marking every step we take and even the smallest decisions, something we always have to keep in mind.
After a brief tutorial upon arriving in New Eden, a cursed town we’re going to help an old friend with, Antea dies at the hands of The Nightmare, a very powerful entity that has spread darkness throughout the region. Red, barely surviving the deadly encounter, discovers that Antea has returned as a ghost, giving him the strength to move forward and try to solve the mystery, giving us our main and real objective very soon: Will we save the souls, and Antea will disappear as written in their creed, or, on the contrary, will you be able to sacrifice colonists to try to revive her? Saviors or Killers?
Banishers: Ghost of New Eden is what we once knew as “Project 12” from DON’T NOD, which was labeled as a large-scale open-world action RPG. And indeed, it is, it’s a huge game for what everyone expects from this title. What no one could guess is the tremendous quality it holds.
Banishers is undoubtedly a game of this new generation, although not entirely. Because while it’s a great game in terms of facial animations, conversation tones, and shots, the beautiful scenarios and bucolic views at every new step we take, where even the protagonists are amazed by them, have a huge but that prevents it from getting a much more rounded score. It’s not unforgivable, of course, because everything compensates, but we’re 100% sure that many will strongly criticize the game for this.
Although the structure of the title is undoubtedly open-world without transitions, its third-person gameplay segments all its paths and scenarios into fragments divided by “passage zones,” which are overcome with a simple animation. From jumping a tree or climbing a high edge, there is an extensive and almost excessive use of this type of transition. Sometimes entering through a hole, other times crouching through a hole, other times climbing (with the exact same animation) some rocks… I imagine you can figure out where this is going.
If we can make a very known comparison, we can talk about God of War because the scenario is structured similarly, without real free movement of jumps, edges, etc… as if everything were delimited. However, if this excessive repetition did not exist, it is a valid resource to limit the number of bugs that can roam freely in a 100% explorable world. Personally, having finished the adventure, I think it’s not something that has affected the experience at all. But I do think it could have been resolved much better, or at least, used more different animations.
I had to stop at that very specific concept to criticize it because, otherwise, Banishers is a 10-game. Everything is so well thought out, so well connected, structured for exploration, and at the same time easy to follow for the player that it’s hard to think of an ARPG with similar characteristics. Even the combat, which certainly takes a long time to unleash its potential, ends up being thrilling, exciting, and a lot of fun.
In the interpretative field, it’s another 10, as the conversations, their length, the provided information, and how well everything is written come together with the technical aspects to show us characters that will manage to get into our heads to the point of making us feel… things. You will truly be amazed when you discover some “truths.” Unfortunately, we can’t rely on a Spanish dub, which would have been a luxury element, but the quality of the subtitles and the original dubbing have left us more than satisfied.
And well, I certainly couldn’t leave out the technical aspects. On Xbox Series X, it has a quality mode at 30 fps and a performance mode at 60 fps, which is what we’ve used all the time, because of how well and smoothly it moves in combat. The good thing is that in every cinematic or conversation, all made in real-time by the game engine, it switches to 30 fps almost imperceptibly, letting the faces shine with all the detail possible when needed most.
In our journey back to New Eden, we will find multiple ‘Apparition Cases’ to solve, where a ghost or specter torments a person. This will lead us to a deep investigation of the case, which will really take up a good amount of time as we look for clues and deduce the truth. It’s not at all complicated, or we’ll get lost, as this process is somewhat linear and guided by objectives, but where we will decide is at the end, where we will be allowed to Save or Banish the spirit… or the human.
And it won’t be easy by any means, as the game will throw all possible information at us to complicate our decision, which in most cases will also have consequences for the community where the Case is located or for the adventure itself, whose characters can suffer a very different fate depending on what we decide. The incredible ability of DONT’ NOD to develop its narrative and its excellent way of giving life and personality to even the most irrelevant character work hand in hand with the gameplay to fully involve us in the adventure.
It’s the first thing we’ve mentioned because the adventure revolves around that journey, that return to New Eden, in which we solve the curses that afflict the region. Sometimes forming part of the main mission, being complex cases that involve many phases and are decisive for the story. And in others, being a kind of side missions, which, in addition to being very entertaining to complete, always make sense within the story of the characters that inhabit the region.
But of course, all this would be little more than an ordinary graphic adventure without what Banishers really presents: a real action RPG. In third person, we will explore all corners of fabulous scenarios, controlling Red and Antea, who will be our perpetual companion. The rules of the game that DONT’ NOD moves on are unequivocally similar to a souls-like, with a bonfire system, fast travel, upgradeable inventory, combat with targeting, and statistics.
However, the result is much more relaxed and light for ordinary people who want to enjoy interesting stories and narratives without having to suffer the fatal “difficulty stick” because Banishers never reaches that point of being a complicated game. Although its combat, which will force us to combine the abilities of Antea and Red as if we were 2 fighters in 1, increases its interest and scale during the course of the adventure, going from being entertaining to being amazed by some battles, such as with ‘Elite’ encounters or ‘Infinite Crypts.’
Even for those who want to delve into this aspect, exploration will lead us to find new equipment, with which to change the way we fight, almost like combat builds. This, combined with an experience level that will give us improvement points for a skills scheme that will expand with each new one from Antea, is capable of closing a satisfactory, fun gameplay that fits perfectly into a playable set with few drawbacks. Although, well, maybe they went a little overboard with the almost infinite types of materials to collect, which, although very convenient and intuitive to do, there may be more than one who ends up hating it.
I’m not a fan of long games, so I felt somewhat cheated when the studio told me that the duration is between 25 and 30 hours. And here I am telling you, after almost 45 hours of gameplay, that Banishers is much longer than I expected. Perhaps this increase in hours is due to all the exploration that the New Eden map allows, opening up more and more thanks to the abilities that Antea is acquiring. Although it’s not necessary, and we can continue forward towards the main mission, the game itself will motivate us to look back and complete side missions or new Apparition Cases.
Exploration will allow us to continue improving our equipment, to be better warriors, get more life, more spawn points, with which Antea will be able to last longer in combat, or even find new outfits for Red. We can’t reveal everything that awaits us because we almost prefer you to discover it for yourselves, but there will be magic, unexpected twists, and even surprise Apparition Cases if we explore enough. Being all on foot, New Eden has seemed huge to us.
I thought this game was going to be good, that it was going to be fun, with a good narrative, but that it would be an interesting game that wouldn’t resonate with the community. And I really hope it does because I was happily mistaken in my judgment. Banishers: Ghost of New Eden is a real game at all levels. It is a living demonstration of how to use your resources in the best possible way, of how to make an ARPG without sacrificing quality narrative or fun combat, intelligently.
At times, it reminded me of A Plague Tale, for its graphic and narrative quality, but Banishers is a very extensive playable leap, offering exploration, possibilities, and, above all, immersion that few achieve. The reason is precisely that it takes the player on a long journey full of dangers and difficulties that make you feel more and more attached and identified with the protagonist couple. And that’s where it constantly takes advantage to pull on your feelings and make you doubt every decision, whether to save or condemn the poor colonists who populate New Eden.
In addition, many of the stories it tells -with a content warning at the beginning, even-, are extremely adult, cruel, violent, and can hurt the sensitivity of some players. We’re not talking about graphic and bloody demonstrations, but about the stories you discover as a Banisher and the truth of an era when lives weren’t worth as much as they are now. Slaves, lords, leaders, peasants, diseases… earthly matters that interfere with the spiritual.
Still shaken by the ending I got among the 5 different ones available, I close this review to strongly recommend that you give this interesting mix of open-world ARPG a chance, because it will surely fascinate you. Life to the Living and Death to the Dead.
*Thanks to Focus Interactive for providing us with the material for the review.
- The mix of ARPG and narrative is almost perfect.
- Narrative and decisions.
- A combat that takes a while to get going but becomes a lot of fun.
- Exploration is enjoyable and motivating.
- The transitions in the map are very repetitive.
- Too many different items to collect.