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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Xbox review — I may never emotionally recover from this haunting love story

 Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

If you’ve played a narrative-adventure game in the last several years, there’s a likelihood it came from Don’t Nod. The undeniable zeitgeist that is Life is Strange was originally the work of Don’t Nod, and the studio followed up with titles like Tell Me Why, and more recently Jusant and Harmony: The Fall of Reverie. Way back in the yesteryear of 2018, Don’t Nod released its most ambitious title at the time, an action-RPG by the name of Vampyr, in partnership with Focus Home Interactive. Vampyr was well-received by players and critics alike, although the game did receive justifiable criticism for its slow and clunky combat.

I take a moment to remind you about Vampyr because Don’t Nod has yet again, in the year 2024, developed an incredibly ambitious ARPG with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Philippe Moreau, creative director at Don’t Nod, describes Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden as a spiritual sequel to Vampyr. I’m inclined to believe him, as you can see Vampyr’s essence dripping into Banishers in a variety of ways. And yet, even with so many elements of Vampyr prominently on display, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden feels as though it has learned from Vampyr’s past and become something entirely new. Something even more haunting.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Don't Nod. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

What is Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden?

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a story-driven action-RPG from Don’t Nod that tasks players with solving harrowing cases of ghost hauntings while exploring a 17th-century New England settlement. Players must uncover clues and intents of the characters involved in each case, and then weigh the facts to seal their fate.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden | $50 $42 on Green Man Gaming (PC)

When Red Mac Raith loses the love of his life, he is forced to decide whether to sacrifice everything to bring her back or learn to live without her. Banish ghosts, make narrative choices with lasting impact, and choose the fate of your love in this harrowing and emotional story-driven a-RPG from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden — Story and gameplay

Life to the living, death to the dead. That is the creed of Antea Duarte and Rauidhrigh “Red” Mac Raith. The pair of Banishers serve to bring closure to the dead and relieve the living of the ghosts that haunt them. Antea helps Red overcome his guilty conscience from a life as a mercenary in Europe, and they find themselves deeply in love with one another. The couple is summoned from Europe to New Eden by an old friend to assist in removing a curse that is haunting the newly formed settlement.

Players are given some agency to explore New Eden at their leisure. They will encounter areas that require abilities for Red and Antea to overcome, but there's still a considerable amount of freedom to be had in the semi-open world. That said, not every path is always as clear as it may seem, and there are no shortages of invisible walls to keep you within the playable area.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

Of course, we couldn’t have a story if banishing ghosts goes according to plan. We’re thrust into Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden having seen Antea fall to the dark forces at play, and we are swiftly weighed down with Red’s pain and anguish at the loss of his loving partner. In this heart-wrenching moment, we are forced to make a decision: do we sacrifice everything for love regardless of the consequences, or do we learn to let go?

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

From the very first choice we make in New Eden to the very last, there are genuine consequences that ripple across the world Don’t Nod has so carefully crafted around Red and Antea — sometimes in completely unexpected ways. The haunting cases that players can discover and solve require exploration and investigation, looking for details and hints to flesh out the story.

There are always conflicting sides to learn about; it’s in the details where Don’t Nod truly shines. You may hear stories of an NPC in one settlement camp only to come across them at a later point and discover they’re haunted. The details you learn about that merchant from other NPC characters and readable lore littered around can affect your decision when it comes time to bring closure.

Closure isn’t only for the living. The dead can seek it, as well, but whether you blame townsfolk for their wrongdoings, help ghosts ascend, or banish them to the void has lasting effects across your play through. Merchants can get an ill taste in their mouths about Red if they disagree with the player’s decision in a previous Closure moment, while spirits who feel wronged by Red’s judgment can return to seek revenge.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

Ghosts with ill intent who have lingered too long are described as having “gone pale” and it is in these encounters we experience Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden’s combat mechanics. Again, the foundations of Vampyr are notable in the gameplay, but there has been a considerable glow-up in the flow and functionality of combat.

Players can cycle between Red and Antea dynamically by simply pressing Y on the controller. At no point does any one character feel like it is carrying the other. They both offer strengths and weaknesses that drive home how valuable Red and Antea are when they are working together as a pair.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

Antea’s demise has gifted her the ability to walk the spirit realm and experience things that Red cannot as a living Banisher. Obstacles that would otherwise prevent Red from navigating the world can easily be dispatched by Antea once players acquire the corresponding abilities.

I've already spent 50 hours in New Eden, being haunted by ghosts and charmed by Banishers. Heaven, help me, I can't wait to spend 50 more.

Progressing the campaign and completing haunting cases provides Antea and Red both opportunities to evolve their combat through skill points that are attributed in corresponding skill trees. Like the rest of the story, your choice matters with these skill trees, and choosing one available perk may lock you out of another. However, you can change your mind with the skill trees and respec at any fire where you can rest.

Because it relies on narrative consequences and the rippling effects of the player-made decisions, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden does leave me feeling FOMO. Decisions can be made so abruptly and with such well-meaning intent, but have dire consequences for the characters later down the road. I am nosy when it comes to the lives of characters in games and feel like I’m missing out on what could have been with such permanence.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

To see and do everything there is to see and do will certainly take more than one play-through. Don’t Nod has stated that the campaign for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden can be completed in about 25–30 hours. However, I spent close to 50 hours exploring New Eden for this review. I would not be surprised to see my play time doubled with a second play-through, so that I can see the alternative stories I may have missed the first time around.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden — Performance

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

For the sake of this review, I played Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden on an Xbox Series X. The game offers two modes, Performance and Quality. However, there is no listed distinction of what differences players can expect to experience between the modes, so I opted to go for Performance to be on the safe side. My time in New Eden was relatively bug-free, and I did not encounter any progress-blocking glitches during my play-through. There was one particular instance where the audio for the game became crackly and cut out completely, while the rest of the audio for the Xbox remained intact. However, this seemed to resolve after I shut the game down and restarted it.

In addition to playing natively on my Xbox, I also streamed Banishers to my PC via Xbox Cloud Gaming and the Xbox for PC app. In both instances, the game felt fluid and responsive, and I did not experience any frame rate dips. New Eden is as functional as it is pretty.

Don’t Nod has stated that a day one patch to improve performance for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is planned, all the same.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden — Should you buy it?

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

I cannot reiterate how much Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden deserves every second of your time that it asks you for. Don't Nod has a history of crafting moving narrative games that challenge its player base to think about human connections and the world around them. With Red and Antea, that emotional element is pushed to a new height. While I had committed exclusively to one particular outcome in my play through, I constantly found myself second guessing my judgement and decisions. If I cried out "Please don't make me blame this person!" once, I cried it out at least a dozen times.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden from Don't Nod.

And yet, despite the emotional distress I was clearly feeling, I wanted to go back for more. I wanted to have the payoff of those sweet moments of Red and Antea by the fire talking about their families, when Red tells Antea he is glad to see her smile, or the little quip about a settler being "haunted by calculus."

I've already spent 50 hours in New Eden, being haunted by ghosts and charmed by Banishers. Heaven, help me, I can't wait to spend 50 more.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden title card
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden title card

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

When Red Mac Raith loses the love of his life, he is forced to decide whether to sacrifice everything to bring her back or learn to live without her. Banish ghosts, make narrative choices with lasting impact, and choose the fate of your love in this harrowing and emotional story-driven a-RPG from Don't Nod.

Also available: $60 (Amazon) | $60 (Best Buy)