Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden – A Supernatural Adventure Review (2024)


“I am dead, dearest Stante, but I am a banisher, yet I may still teach you in a sea of sequels.” Banisher: Ghosts of New Eden has a wonderfully fresh story to tell. I didn’t know I wanted to play a ghost-hunting detective in a supernatural alternate-reality version of 1600’s America. But developer Dontnod provided a compelling mix of death, drama, and romance. It made me wonder why no one had tried this sooner.

Exploring New Horizons

It mostly sticks the landing with the things it tries beyond that story. Additionally, swapping between your living and ghostly protagonists is an excellent concept. It further contributes to its success. Its stellar investigation mechanics also add to the game’s appeal. However, other parts of Banisher aren’t as original. It borrows the bulk of its structure from many action-adventure games before it. But with stiff and repetitive combat that can’t stand up to those inspirations.

A Fresh Narrative

Still, for those who like strange games full of heartbreak and ectoplasm, this is one you won’t want to miss. That last, there was a pain like someone reached into my chest and crushed my heart.

Mixed Bag of Familiarity (Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden)

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is the latest in a genre. I’ve inadvisably taken to calling, crevice crawlers. That’s right, crevice crawlers. You know, those third-person games have a serious story and slow pacing. In them, two people walk around and talk in hushed tones between combat encounters. And for some reason, you spend a lot of time squeezing through crevices. I’m talking about God of War, The Plague Tale, and The Last of Us. Classic crevice crawlers. Charlie, don’t go in the crevice! Going to the…the crew!

Compelling Storytelling (Banishers)

Anyway, I quite enjoy the occasional sad whispering duo sidling through the rubble. However, at this point, the formula is also pretty much played out. In the case of Banisher, it made the adventure feel too familiar. I didn’t care for that, even with its refreshingly original setting. Though it certainly doesn’t win points for innovation, Banisher executes this blueprint quite well. It has strong writing, likable characters, and a few good twists and turns in the story. These elements make for an enjoyable cross-country odyssey.

Moral Dilemmas and Choices

Playing as Red, the overly emotional Scotsman with hair that’s way too cool for the period, “Do we kill to be together again?” Antea is an ill-tempered ghost hunter. She is a ghost herself. “Our good friends, death shall not go unpunished.” You’ll travel around talking to all kinds of pilgrims to solve their hauntings. As occult experts called Banishers, it’s your job to seek out ghosts. You help them resolve their unfinished business, then send them to the afterlife. And that ends up being exactly as fun as it sounds. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be a dope slayer of specters and run around banishing spirits like an “oops, all ghost” Geralt of Rivia?

Investigative Gameplay of Banishers

As with a lot of games like it, Banisher suffers from some pacing issues. There are lots of repeated story beats where our heroes retread the same ground as they process their grief and discuss their dilemmas. You’ll crawl through dark places, climb mountainsides, and wait at slow elevators. Your characters talk about how much of a bummer death is. “Your death pains us greatly.” “Your return pains me too.” Thankfully, most of the time, the writing is good enough to justify that pace. But I sighed deeply whenever I rested at a campfire and had to watch this animation every single time. “God only visits hardship upon us because He knows we can bear it.”

Dynamic Combat System

The supernatural reimagining of colonial America is a fantastic backdrop for the tale of love and loss at the center of things. Death and the afterlife constantly loom over our paranormal heroes. When Antea is killed in the story’s opening moments, Red finds himself working in tandem with the very thing he’s supposed to combat. This creates a cool dilemma where you’ll need to decide to stay the course and work toward your partner’s ultimate banishment. Or, forsake your duties in an attempt to bring her back to life.

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Technical Hiccups

Wandering around the countryside to help others resolve their losses gives you plenty of opportunities. You can also uncover the sordid history of New Eden. This helps you decide what kind of ghost hunter you want to be. You’ll face lots of morally gray situations and be asked to weigh in on them. “You’ve both made your choices. Now, it’s my turn.” However, it is a little disappointing that with all the interesting supernatural mysteries they set up. You only get three nuance-free options to choose from at the end of each case.

Scarcity in Enemy Variety

You can either give the ghost its ascent. This is a friendly way of sending it back to the afterlife. Or you can banish the ghost, an aggressive way of doing the same thing. Or you can blame the living, killing them and absorbing their essence in your quest for power. The only way to bring your love back from the dead is by sacrificing as many people as possible.

So, blaming the living is mostly presented as an evil choice, even when some of these humans deserve to get got. “Did you poison him with quicksilver? Is he here in search of revenge?” “Yes, I stole a few months of Joffrey Rollins’s life to save decades of my sister’s.”

Enduring Engagement

In many scenarios, choosing just one conclusion can feel like unnecessary pressure to pick a side. Or worse, you’re just choosing the option that will get you to your desired ending. “He has told the truth. You may go in peace.” That doesn’t stop it from being cool to step into the boots of two ghost investigators. You swap between your living and dead characters to use their unique abilities. As you hunt for clues, track your quarry through the woods, and interview suspects.

Satisfying Mysteries

As Red, you’re able to perform dope rituals. You can see visions from the past via psychometry or compel spirits to show themselves. As Antea, you can see invisible objects hidden in the world. You can use your awesome, kind of terrifying spectral powers to do stuff like this. Swapping between the two perspectives to uncover clues, overcome simple logic puzzles, and solve mysteries is undoubtedly the best part of Banisher. It made me eager to tackle every new haunting case that popped up on the map.

Combat Challenges (Banishers)

Instant character swapping carries over into combat too. In combat, you’ll either fight with a sword and rifle as Red or throw phantom haymakers and use ghost powers as Antea. The concept mostly succeeds there as well. What starts as a fairly bare-bones system of dodge rolling, parrying, and light and heavy attacks gradually evolves into something much more compelling as you unlock abilities throughout the adventure.

For example, I love the unlockable perks that let you time your swapping between characters in the middle of a hit combo to do this. By the end, I was able to swap back and forth between the two without a break in my assault, triggering special maneuvers like this one. Along the way, combat has some hiccups though, as controlling your characters often feels pretty clunky. Movement can be sluggish or downright unresponsive as you get caught on the smallest things when you roll around.

Lingering Issues

Sometimes the camera can also move in erratic ways. This happens especially when it’s trying to focus on something with Banisher’s hit-or-miss lock-on system. I was playing on the hardest difficulty and died more than once. The lock-on system wouldn’t work or would point the camera in the opposite direction of the enemy. It’s still enjoyable to take on armies of apparitions. However, combat is missing polish.

This can be frustrating. Less than halfway through the roughly 30 hours it took me to complete the story, the variety of enemies became painfully scarce. There are only a handful of enemy types, and new ones are added too slowly to keep combat fresh. Wolves, which are introduced right at the beginning, became especially tiresome when I was still seeing them 20 hours later. And I cannot even begin to describe to you how many of those poor furry beasts I sent whimpering into the afterlife.

Concluding Thoughts of Banishers

Most of the monsters in the mix are at least interesting to fight. For example, from specters that dive into the corpses of other enemies to reanimate them. Also, skeletal marksmen who keep their distance and try to take you out with a rifle. I just wish I didn’t have to see the same undead faces so often, because by the end, even my favorites had become irritations. “I will crawl and climb and knock, and the captain will taste his own medicine.”

Further Exploration

Banisher: Ghosts of New Eden is a fun action game with a solid concept and a stellar paranormal investigation system. Its story about struggling to let go of loved ones in death is worth hearing, even when its pacing occasionally gets sluggish and indulgent. The combat system also tries some interesting new things that largely work out.

It is only dragged down by poor enemy variety and wonky controls. Swapping between the corporeal and ghostly planes instantly is just as cool when solving mysteries as it is during fights. The writing and characters help carry Banisher across its rougher patches. That made saying goodbye to them fittingly difficult, decaying flesh and all. In the end, came death, and death remains.

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