Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden – A Hauntingly Beautiful Journey

I’m always excited when a studio decides to step a little out of their lane. Not so far that they’re off the map completely, just… a little detour. Don’t Nod, a studio most known for their diverse, narrative-driven titles like Life is Strange and Tell Me Why, have taken a big swing with their latest game, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. It’s a big swing that pays off in a big way, resulting in a game that might not be perfect, but that is unlike anything I’ve played before. 


At the heart of Banishers lie its two protagonists, Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith – a master and apprentice whose connection extends beyond their work. They are ‘banishers’ – ghost-hunters trained to remove spirits from the world of the living where they no longer belong, whether by assisting them in peacefully ‘ascending’, or by banishing them by force. Much of their work involves helping individuals who are being haunted, but the case that begins their journey through New Eden is a much bigger undertaking. Called by an old friend to investigate a malevolent presence that plagues their village, the two find themselves face to face with a threat beyond their expectations – one that soon wounds Antea, turning her into one of the spirits she has long hunted.

Banishers screenshot

Banishers live by the creed of ‘life to the living, death to the dead’, and Antea’s new ghostly form poses a pressing question to the couple – will Red assist her in moving on for good, or will he attempt to cheat death and bring her back to life? From the beginning, the game is a commentary on life and death, constantly asking you to consider the weight of taking someone’s life – even one who has committed despicable acts – along with what it means to ask someone to live with a guilty conscience when they might wish for the opposite. It’s a big topic, and rarely have I seen it handled so boldly in a game like this. Though there are of course undertones of violence, Banishers treats the topic of death with reverence and curiosity, rather than as something used simply to induce emotional shock. 


That’s not to say that the game isn’t emotional. With every new haunting case comes a new cast of characters, each with their own dramas and traumas, and each requiring careful examination of their motives in order to enact judgement upon them. Some of the game’s strongest moments can be found during these often optional cases, with twists and turns often taking what might at first seem like a mundane argument between husband and wife and showing it as the complex web of past transgressions and unexpected external forces that it truly is. During each case you’re given the option to either blame the living person for the ghost’s death, essentially harvesting their soul to be used in a quest to resurrect Antea, or allow the ghost to pass on peacefully or rot in hell forever. If you’re like me, you’ll spend a lot of time feeling conflicted about the fact that it’s technically probably bad to commit murder, but that many of these living people are also dickheads who should probably face some consequences. It’s not always so clear-cut.

Banishers spare or sacrifice Thickskin

Some of the decisions are bigger, and relate to more prominent figures in the community. As is often true for Don’t Nod titles, these choices can affect the world of New Eden in a big way, from deciding on a leader for a particular settlement to affecting the relationships between sisters or spouses. They feel like meaningful choices, and there’s never a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ option – the game trusts you to go with your gut, and lets you see out the consequences. As is also customary for Don’t Nod, there is a good amount of diversity in these characters, particularly when it comes to queer representation. They are not afraid to shy away from depicting same-sex relationships, even in a game set in 1695, and I am thrilled about it. 


Though the focus is on Red and Antea’s love story, they also make a mean fighting duo. Red’s combat style relies on the use of blades and guns, both of which can be customised and upgraded using materials you find in the world, or by buying new gear from merchants. This is paired with Antea’s (much fancier) spirit abilities, which allow you to attack large groups of opponents at once, or essentially teleport across a battlefield to attack far-away foes. You can switch between the two at any time, and as you progress you’ll unlock some abilities that reward you for swapping regularly, so the combat system can end up being quite dense. As the game went on, I felt myself getting into a real rhythm around when to use which banisher, and swapping between them became smooth and intuitive.

Banishers equipment screen

There’s a lot going on in this game. Elements of exploration and examination of scenes, frequent combat, constant moral dilemmas – and it isn’t all executed perfectly. There are extra markers and challenges all over the map that can easily distract you, but they aren’t always easy to follow, which can result in some frustration. Sometimes the game will straight up lead you in the wrong direction, or have you running round in circles. The climbing mechanic is also annoyingly finicky. But ultimately, I didn’t really care about any technical hitches. Because this game has so much to say, and it says it in such an interesting way that I know is going to keep me thinking for a long time. 


It talks about women, and the role they play in society, and how often they receive unfair treatment. It talks about the complicated bonds between families, and how they can harbour resentment or result in unflinching loyalty. It touches on colonialism, and I wish it had dug in much deeper – but it doesn’t avoid the topic entirely, which is rare and commendable for a game. Most of all, it focuses on the complexity of human nature, and how there is always more to a story than just ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. 

Banishers Antea attacks

I don’t think this game is going to be for everyone. It has some inconsistencies that I wish weren’t there, and I’m sure some will call parts of its open world bloated, and sometimes quest markers are hard to see. But it also made me think. It tried to do something different, and it did it in a distinctly Don’t Nod way, and the end result was a beautiful story about characters I will remember for a long time to come. Red and Antea’s tale is one of love and loss, and it finds the beauty in both.

“Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a hauntingly beautiful tale of love and loss that will remain in your mind long after you play it. Once again, Don’t Nod have proven that they are masters of storytelling.”

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden was reviewed on Playstation 5 using a code kindly provided by the publisher. 

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