Vampyr was DON’T NOD’s attempt at taking their storytelling skills to greater heights in an RPG setting, and they largely achieved what they set out to do. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a spiritual successor to Vampyr, and practically improves upon every aspect without losing sight of what makes their games so appealing despite the flaws.
Antea and Red
In Banishers, you follow the story of Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith who are summoned to New Eden by their oldest friend to rid the settlement of a curse affecting its residents. Antea and Red are Banishers by trade and have a deeper connection to the dead with the ability to guide or banish spirits that refuse to or can’t move on.
It doesn’t take long for the couple to be by struck tragedy, as the force currently haunting all of New Eden kills Antea and throws Red off a cliff. Upon regaining consciousness, Red learns that Antea is now a ghost herself, something she hates. It’s up to you to decide if you wish to bring her back to life or help her Ascend.
This dilemma serves as the crux of the narrative because bringing her back means you have to resort to “blaming” the living, taking lives to bring back your lover. This is a love story at its heart, and a very good one. Red and Antea are the perfect couple who understand and respect each other, which makes the decisions you have to make all the more difficult.
Despite her death, Antea is an active part of the narrative, and you see her hunger firsthand. She’s the same person Red loves, but it’s clear she’s suffering in her current state. This means that regardless of the decision you make, it’s bound to hurt them in one way or another.
I’m a boring guy, I don’t have it in me to make ruthless decisions. I generally chose options that would aid Antea’s ascent. I don’t believe in ghosts, but if I did, I wouldn’t want them to feel lost, and afraid, but rather show them kindness by making their afterlife easier. If this was someone I loved, I’d take the chance of being lonely over their potential suffering.
Both of the lead characters are almost instantly likable, and you get to see their vulnerable sides. I think gaming still doesn’t have enough good love stories that handle intimacy right, and Banishers does it effortlessly with its writing, animation work, and voice acting.
People of New Eden
After the curse becomes unbearable for the people of New Eden, they eventually move out to encampments near the town. As Red, you interact with these people on your journey back to New Eden, and that makes up the bulk of the narrative. It reminds me of a lot of the ghost stories in the Witcher series where you investigate, interrogate and eventually find out who is haunting whom, and why.
Mechanically, it’s pretty standard stuff here. You ask people questions, look for clues in their homes, and figure out what happened. Red can perform different rituals to summon angry ghosts or visit an echo from the past, and Antea’s ghost vision highlights relevant clues. I say this is standard because it doesn’t involve a lot of actual investigation to connect the dots. How you choose to deal with the haunting ghosts, or the haunted residents is up to you. That’s where the decision-making lies, but you aren’t actively trying to solve a complex narrative riddle.
Their individual stories are really fun to explore though. Almost all of these haunting cases have plenty of twists, overarching consequences, and difficult choices at the end. It’s not always black and white, which I appreciate, and love is usually the central theme in all of them. Do you pass judgment on people who have committed evil acts to selfishly bring back your beloved, or do you show mercy and try to empathize with them?
Overall, like Vampyr, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to haunted people and playing my part as a Banisher, and all that it entails.
When you aren’t talking to people in Banishers, you’re fighting specters, ghosts, and a host of undead entities. My biggest gripe with Vampyr was definitely the combat, and I honestly would’ve liked it if the game didn’t have any at all. Banishers make great strides in this regard, and there’s a clear effort to make the combat mechanics more enjoyable.
You have your standard light, heavy, and parry attacks, but as you progress you unlock passive and active abilities for both Red and Antea. You switch between both characters with a single button and their effectiveness varies for the state an enemy is in. Red also gains access to a rifle, which makes ranged combat vital too.
While I think the combat is vastly better than Vampyr, it’s still not as engaging as I’d hoped. It feels similar to the recent God of War titles, but it doesn’t have that same punch. The enemies offer a decent variety, but combat feels more like a chore rather than something you’re looking forward to.
I think it largely boils down to how basic most of your and the enemies’ moves feel. It’s more tedious than rewarding. Chipping away at an enemy’s health isn’t all that engaging when they don’t surprise you with any special mechanics, or reward mastery over a certain playstyle. It’s repetitive but inoffensive, and that’s not all that appealing. Thankfully, I think the other parts of Banishers make up for it, and some of the later abilities do make combat a bit more engaging.
Overall, I think the combat is serviceable here, and doesn’t detract from the experience the same way Vampyr did. I didn’t change my difficulty because of its repetition but I’m not in love with it either.
Beast in the Woods
Banishers is a fairly lengthy title, and you’ll move from one major region to the next. It’s not an open-world game, and there’s always forward progression. Each new area that you visit has its secrets, loot, enemies, and quests that keep things fresh, and you always have something to do. While largely linear, you’re free to return to older areas to access parts that you previously couldn’t.
For instance, the rifle is obtained a few hours into the game, and it can shoot down different items, and even open new areas to explore. The loot you find is often used as upgrade materials, or for performing rituals. I didn’t mind picking things up because there isn’t a drawn-out animation or any tedious inventory management. It’s in the way, I just need to press a button, and you aren’t constantly being interrupted.
I also like how the characters are just going about their day. You can start a conversation with them at any point. It’s a small detail, but it adds to the immersion and feels natural. I think the world, for the most part, is a lot of fun to run around in. The exploration isn’t as deep, but there are plenty of detours on the way that have some reward.
Presentation and Performance
Banishers is a gorgeous game, and I love the look they went for. The thick forests, streams, and terrain are all rendered beautifully, and there’s a good balance of realistic and stylized visuals. There’s a nice contrast between the dreary look of New Eden compared to the hostile but beautiful forests surrounding it.
The voice acting is great all around and the character models are fairly detailed. I like how dialogue interactions aren’t as static as in many RPGs. You’ll see characters move around with camera angles changing to give a cinematic flair.
I’m not the biggest fan of the enemy designs though, and they look pretty generic from the get-go. Some of the bosses have neat designs, but regular undead enemies feel like something you’ve seen a million times already.
I played Banishers on PC, and I had a really good time overall. Thanks to DLSS, I comfortably hit 60 FPS+ on my RTX 3060 at 1440p with barely any stutters. There are some instances where the framerate would drop randomly, but those are few and far between. Most users with a mid-budge system shouldn’t have much trouble running this and getting a decent experience.
Overall, I had a great time with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden and feels like a natural evolution of the ideas introduced in Vampyr. Red and Antea are amazing characters to follow, and their love story is worth seeing through no matter what choices you end up making. The side stories offer a lot of variety, and while the investigation aspect isn’t as deep, the choices you make have lingering consequences throughout the game.
The combat is serviceable and gets repetitive over time, but some of the later abilities add some much-needed flavor to how encounters play out. It’s well-written, looks gorgeous, and offers a fairly lengthy experience without any filler. If you have been craving something similar to Vampyr, this is an easy recommendation.
What did you think of our review of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. The key was provided by Focus Entertainment.