Banishers: Ghosts Of New Eden Review (PS5) – Don’t Nod, perhaps best known for the Life is Strange series (which debuted nine whole years ago if you’re wanting to feel old), are shaping up to release their latest title, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, which sees them taking a second crack at the Action-RPG genre since Vampyr in 2018, which was met with mixed reviews.
Is Focus Entertainment and Don’t Nod’s Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden a clear evolution since their last efforts, or does it suffer with similar issues?
Banishers: Ghosts Of New Eden Review (PS5) – Magnetic Chemistry Leaves A Lasting Impression
Fluid And Kinetic Gameplay
Having not indulged in much of the promotional material for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the gameplay but I was pleasantly surprised. The combat in Don’t Nod’s latest offering. feels great.
Taking control of protagonists Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, seamlessly alternating between the two mid combat is fluid and kinetic. Using Red’s light and heavy attacks, his long range rifle, perfectly dodging to call upon Antea, and then actively switching to her to use her powerful supernatural, ghostly abilities is thrilling.
One of the highlights throughout the game for me was leveling up, unlocking new abilities, and finding creative ways to engage in combat. Mirroring the loving couple’s vibrant chemistry that is really felt in the dialogue and cutscenes, with its gameplay is a masterstroke from Don’t Nod, and the standout aspect of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.
Experimenting with combat is certainly something I enjoyed, but it never felt like there was enough enemy variety to really force me into using the various combinations that are available. Not to mention the subset of builds that can be crafted, depending on what type of player you are.
It also felt as though upgrading your gear and the damage numbers were not really necessary in game that feels more involved, more focused on narrative than that. Both felt out of place, and I would have preferred the weapons were firmly rooted in what it means to be a Banisher.
The other gameplay, that largely entails of environmental puzzles that are located all around the God of War-esque designed environments, with its pockets of open world, are initially interesting, but can feel like a chore as the game goes on. However, it’s great that they keep with the themes of needing both characters for said puzzles.
Perhaps the most immersive mechanic in the game is performing the proper rituals when required. These rituals will allow to to manifest specters, cross over to the void, and unlock chests around New Eden. Just the very act of doing this goes a long way in making you feel like a Banisher. The idea of a Banisher in itself is really cool, and they should have lent into it wherever and everywhere they could.
As Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden got going, I was enjoying the location of New Eden and its communities. For the most part, it is perfectly serviceable, just missing a certain je ne sais quoi to give it that bit of an extra impact. Certain locations such as the mineshaft actually benefit from its more empty nature. It certainly adds to the atmosphere in that respect.
There are certain areas that do capture that frontier aesthetic that instantly comes to your mind when you imagine the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, that Ghosts of New Eden is basing its lore and world upon. The dense fogs and the barren woodlands have a sense of authenticity, only let down by some bland locations here and there, and obstacle course-like traversal that’s required to get around.
Simply traversing the world is fine. Nothing will take too long to get to, but after a while it does start to feel like an obstacle course more than an authentic location. Shimmying through tight gaps, across ledges, vaulting over fallen trees, climbing up and down ropes constantly, unfortunately, gets tedious.
Naturally, as you progress, unlocking more abilities, opens new parts of the map that were previously inaccessible, which is something I feel like I’ve done a lot of lately, and I’m hoping that we can find new ways to warrant backtracking and reward exploration.
Don’t Nod do an excellent job of making New Eden feel lived in. It feels like a place that is harsh but somewhere the settlers are determined to make work, even through the most dire of circumstances. It also feels like it’s somewhere we’re just passing through, trying to cure, before we move on. It really assisted in establishing the experience of a Banisher.
Life To The Living
Throughout Banisher’s Ghosts of New Eden, I was a little up and down when it came to the main plot line. There’s a lot I liked, and a few things I didn’t. I feel the story really hits its stride when you enter the mineshafts, and loses some steam due to some pacing issues not long after. This is especially true for the penultimate chapter, when you have to partake in a healthy dose of backtracking.
There is a benefit to backtracking, however. During the story, you will be making decisions. These impact the settlements and leadership roles, all of which do tie in to the games antagonist, and the core narrative. Confronting the villains of this world is really satisfying. It is a testament to Don’t Nod how tightly woven it all is.
As time progresses, the results of the decisions you have made will have come to fruition, slightly changing New Eden as we know it, and that’s worth backtracking for. It just felt forced to slow the player down as you approach the end of the game.
As Banishers you’re tasked with ridding New Eden of the entities and specters that haunt the land and its people. They feel like something akin to a Witcher, but strictly dealing with ghosts. The stories this allows for can be both unsettling, and sorrowful. Not all side quests are of equal quality, but they hit more than they miss.
Where the game shines most, and it’s no real surprise given Don’t Nods heritage, is its characters – specifically the two lead protagonists, Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte. Their chemistry, their relationship, and the journey they undertake is the backbone of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.
Every interaction between the two lead characters feels so natural and that’s a real testament to their voice actors as they truly bring these characters to life. Selecting conversational options as both characters is also a nice touch. Their chemistry is off the charts, and it just bleeds into every other facet of the game, raising the whole experience.
Death To The Dead
I happened across two frustrating technical issues when playing Banisher’s Ghost of New Eden. One of which was only some frame rate dips on the games quality mode, something I didn’t experience on performance mode. The other technical hitch was a bit more unfortunate.
On seemingly random occasions; during conversations or cutscenes where the soundtrack would begin, it would abruptly cut out, leaving a vacuum that is instantly felt, and it really takes you out of the moment. I’m sure it will get patched, but I can’t say it didn’t hurt my playthrough of Banishers, especially when it happened at the end, during the climatic, and otherwise highly emotional ending.
There’s a lot to do in New Eden. Side Quests, field bosses, wave based activities, fetch quests, and more. I spent around 42 hours with the game, and I still have more to see. On top of that, if you’re going for the Platinum Trophy it will take two play throughs, or some shrewd and tactical manual saving.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a noticeable step up on Don’t Nods previous efforts in the same genre. Their character work is the best it has been, with great performances at the heart of the game. My criticisms don’t feel so significant in the grand scheme of the emotional journey that Red and Antea undertake, and it is one that should definitely be experienced.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is available on PS5 on February 13th, 2024
Review code kindly provided by publisher.