Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden review - a matter of life and death

Brilliant voice performances and superb writing put Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden a cut above the rest.

Feb 13, 2024 - 06:30
 0  10
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden review - a matter of life and death
Review info

Platform reviewed: PlayStation 5
Available on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: February 13, 2024 

A narrative-focused action role-playing game (RPG) set at the close of the 17th century, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is at its absolute best when the story takes center stage. The game follows the ghost-hunting lovers Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith as they embark on a perilous journey to lift a sinister curse afflicting the fictionalized region of New Eden, solving intriguing cases and slaying a wide variety of supernatural foes along the way.

The main duo is fantastically written throughout, with a believable and endearing relationship that remains fully engaging right up when the credits roll. Their complex romance is a fascinating focal point through which you tackle challenging moral decisions, which are even further elevated by two truly phenomenal voice performances. 

There are some rough edges, however, including the combat which, despite some solid foundations, becomes tiresome through repetition. The uneven technical performance also leaves something to be desired from a current generation release. These shortcomings importantly never impact the quality of the storytelling, but undeniably hold the overall package back. 

 In two worlds

A Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden screenshot showing a conversation.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

Traveling to New Eden after receiving a pleading letter from their long-time friend Charles, Antea and Red find themselves arriving at a settlement on its last legs. This corner of the world is wild, desolate, and brutal. Covered in an eerie fog, the landscape’s harsh mountains and wild forests form the perfect backdrop as it becomes clear that something very sinister is at play. Charles has been murdered by an evil spirit and, to make matters worse, his frail widow is being haunted by his ghost.

As Banishers, mercenaries who seek out and purge the lingering dead, Antea and Red’s first job is to investigate. Every ghost in the world of Banishers is motivated by an unfulfilled desire, or intent, and anchored to the physical world through a tie - an object connected to their death. Both an intent and a tie must be uncovered in order to perform an arcane ritual to make the ghost manifest and send their spirit off for good.

Interviewing those connected to the haunting visiting areas associated with the deceased in order to find evidence makes for an engaging detective formula but, just as you think you’re getting into the swing of it, everything is suddenly turned on its head. 

A Banisher's Ghost of New Eden screenshot showing Red and Antea.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

Antea is killed and the town is destroyed, with Red plunged into the freezing ocean and only narrowly avoiding the same fate. He awakes some time later on a distant beach having been rescued by a mysterious witch, who warns him of his pivotal role in the fate of the whole of New Eden. He is soon reunited with Antea’s ghost, who resents her new condition and battles an insatiable hunger for life essence but agrees to join him on his way back to the town.

It’s a gripping introduction that’s supported by brilliant two truly phenomenal voice performances. Amaka Okafor perfectly portrays the conflicted Antea, while Russ Bain lends a stunning emotional range to Red. They talk often as you explore and their dialogue is always a treat. While the frequently sarcastic Antea may initially seem prickly, she is the perfect foil to her more nervous and gentle partner. Their interactions are filled with a genuine warmth that makes them an instantly compelling couple and it’s hard to imagine anyone not immediately becoming invested in their struggle.

 Haunting choices 

A Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden screenshot showing a story decision.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

The first major decision in Banishers sees you choosing whether Red should vow to eventually resurrect Antea using forbidden dark magic or let her peacefully pass on from the world. You then journey out into a large semi-open world to investigate a series of haunting cases before eventually confronting Antea’s killer. 

No matter your initial vow, each case ends by having you choose to whether to violently ‘banish’ a ghost, peacefully allow them to ‘ascend’ to the afterlife, or ‘blame’ and execute the person being haunted. While the first two choices allow you to reward or punish a ghost for their earthly deeds, it is only the third that will contribute to Antea’s resurrection. 

These cases are also rarely straightforward, as characters are refreshingly multifaceted with grounded, complex motivations that keep you second-guessing as you investigate. Who is to blame is often not clear cut and, while it might initially be quite tempting to solely focus on bringing Antea back to life, you’re soon going to be faced with some extremely tough decisions. 

Best bit

Red and Antea from Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden resting at a camp.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden manages to convey a lot of character in its more intimate moments. The fast-forward animation of the ghostly Antea restlessly patrolling around Red each time he sleeps perfectly encapsulates the dimensional divide at the heart of their relationship. 

Many cases tackle some interesting ethical ideas too, with one memorable example forcing you to weigh up the survival of a larger settlement against the lives of a few. Another sees you discover the aftermath of a conspiracy to murder an abusive husband, with his furious ghost desperate to enact revenge. Characters react believably to your choices and deciding to sacrifice the husband’s killers rather than punishing his ghost is reflected in some less than enthusiastic remarks from Antea.

A small number of cases also affect the world itself. There are three main regions in Banishers, each embroiled in a tense leadership struggle. You can directly affect the outcome of these, determining who is in charge of each region in the future. While it doesn't result in much more than the presence (or absence) of certain characters and some unique dialogue options down the line, it makes each location much more interesting to revisit later.

They are certainly worth revisiting too. While there are a handful of mandatory cases, some of the best writing is reserved for the optional side ones. Every available case is tracked via a screen that shows your current progress in a region, alongside a convenient summary of the story so far and your key decisions - a fantastic quality of life addition. If you find yourself unexpectedly swayed from your initial vow to Ante (which can dramatically affect your ending), the opportunity to change your path at the halfway point goes a long way to eliminate the risk of being railroaded into an outcome that you’re unhappy with.

 Rinse and repeat

Combat in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

Unfortunately, other elements in Banishers are noticeably less refined. Traversal and the odd environmental puzzle, which mostly sees you dragging obstacles out of the way or harnessing supernatural voids to travel great distances quickly, work well, but the on-screen compass can often make finding objectives trickier than it should be. It sometimes even points in completely inaccurate directions entirely, which can be problematic when the world seems to have been designed to be navigated in quite a linear fashion.

Accessibility features

The game's accessibility settings menu.

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

There are some accessibility features in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. This includes the ability to enable subtitles, alongside combat options like aim assist and a range of difficulty modes.

The few boss fights are varied and engaging, but the rest of the combat encounters eventually become quite repetitive. Generic ghosts litter the world and often emerge to ambush you without warning, forcing you into a fight. Being able to swap between Red and Antea instantaneously while you brawl, with Antea dealing more damage to certain enemies, is novel but there are just far too many encounters with basic hordes to stop it from simply devolving into mindless button-mashing.

Unlocking new skills and gear does introduce some variety in this regard, but it’s difficult not to conclude that these RPG mechanics often just get in the way of the far more interesting story. In particularly busy encounters, the performance can sometimes suffer on PlayStation 5 with a visible reduction in frame rates. While I can’t speak to the situation on other platforms, it’s disappointing for a title that has been developed exclusively with modern systems in mind.

Still, these are all minor complaints compared to the strength of everything else. If you’re searching for a more thoughtful take on the action RPG, then Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is easy to recommend.

If you’re after some superb games with great stories, see our guide to the best single-player games. For other worthwhile current-generation releases, see our guides to the best PS5 games or the best Xbox Series X games.