Life to the living; death to the dead.
DON'T NOD has come up with their latest tear-jerking narrative-driven adventure, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, though this time around, it mixes in a bit of combat, adventure, and monster hunting along the mix all the while feeling a suspicious amount like God of War (2018) (in a good way). As you take control of banisher couple Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, it'll be your job to head to New Eden and cure what curses the land... if you can.
A Haunted Country
After receiving a call from Charles Davenport, Antea Duarte's banisher teacher, about a horrible curse that has overtaken New Eden town, both protagonists head out on an adventure and you take control just as they arrive ashore. Our team's late arrival, however, spells disaster for the horrors that await them, and what was once a prosperous and flourishing land has become a dark, corrupted ground for spectres and hauntings... and a Nightmare — a ghost of myth and legend — at the centre of it all.
What starts as an average hunt turns ghastly, as the now-closed New Eden Town meetinghouse has become the house of this spirit, and the horrors only rise as Antea Duarte loses her life trying to save her apprentice and lover, Red mac Raith. After a devastating loss and being tossed into the ocean, the game lets you loose into the New Eden, full of its hauntings.
Cases to Solve, Choices to Make
Setting foot into New Eden and getting complete control of the now-lonesome Red mac Raith, the game makes sure to help you feel the impact. Though soon thereafter you'll find the spirit of Antea Duarte lingering, mourning her own loss and the defeat against the Nightmare; your job will be simple, yet ever-so difficult: make a decision between ascending your lover and giving her peace... or stealing the life of the living — the life of those you swore to protect — and utilising their energy to bring her back to life.
This is the entire premise of the game, and despite its simplistic nature, it takes turns and difficult twists — DON'T NOD toys with the players in a way that they force you to make decisions at every turn, with very few, if any, of these being even slightly straightforward. The main purpose of the game is to head out back into New Eden town and defeat the Nightmare, but the sustenance comes from the side quests that you experience; you'll face heavy themes, with very dark and realistic scenarios that can, sometimes, be stomach-churning.
Whether you choose to ascend or resurrect Antea Duarte, you'll still need to go through these essential quests, and they make up for most of the experience. Though they technically count as side stories, the depth and importance placed into them made them feel more than just a passing quest on to your next — Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden perfected questing in a way that didn't feel like I was fetching left and right running errands every which way. Instead, the expertly chosen first quest is stomach-churning and thought-provoking, with underlying tones that make you question your very decisions and morals, especially since they'll ever-so-slightly fit with the tale at hand. No two quests feel the same, and no decision feels straightforward to make, and that's the entire point and purpose of DON'T NOD games, and an aspect they aced.
Battle Your Way Through New Eden
As you progress through the quests, you'll be faced with the angry Spectres of New Eden — ghosts that have gone mad and attack the living without remorse. To survive, you'll need to take advantage of the fluid combat, with elements reminiscent of God of War (2018), which feels like the inspiration for the entire experience as a whole. You switch between Red mac Raith with his Banisher equipment — sword, torch, enchanted rings, and even a rifle later on — and Antea Duarte, who slowly learns how to manoeuvre her own powers and becomes a force to be reckoned with in her own right.
Paired with a skill tree, it feels like you grow steadily over the experience with both Red mac Raith as a Banisher and Antea Duarte as a ghost in a nice ludonarrative mixture. You'll unlock abilities gradually throughout the game as your own understanding of the world and game advance, giving you the capability to grow alongside both protagonists. It feels all too smooth as you unlock new skills and the freedom to experiment Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden lets you find your own identity throughout various builds you can get, allowing you to play mainly as either or through different builds, but always encouraging intelligent switching.
It's all enrichened by the intelligent use of combat and communication overall. There are some Nests you can undertake that have special requirements to fight; these are used to teach you more mechanics, either by forcing you to parry attacks to deal damage or switching and giving you a better combat flow and understanding of how it all works in the grand scale of battle. Not only are they a great tutorial to learn the basics of combat in a more hectic environment, but they offer permanent stat increases and a reprieve from normal combat, giving you a reason to try out otherwise neglected skills you might have let go of in favour of over-reliance in a specific one.
Take It At Your Pace
There are five difficulty options that give you the possibility to choose how you want to tackle New Eden. From bordering soulslike to storytelling, the entire purpose of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is for you to enjoy it — and DON'T NOD knows it. Hard combat didn't feel overly punishing, even with the various bosses around the world, and it felt almost like a soulslite experience, but it also offers the capability to disable that difficulty altogether.
Then you'll have the option of focusing on the main quest or giving time to the New Eden folk even more. Though you could rush everything and reach the town to fight the Nightmare as soon as possible, exploration and looking around gives you access to more collectibles of lore and further quests. Whether you face everything or not is up to you, and it adds to the overall feel of the experience.
At the end of the day, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden feels like an experience that was all too enjoyable for its own good. From the heavy themes and heartwrenching storytelling to the quick-paced combat, it's a neat package of gameplay and narrative that makes yet another successful release for 2024.