We've mostly associated the French Don't Nod with the choice & consequence/narrative experiences of Life is Strange, but it's a company that has a background in more action-oriented games as well. On the one hand with its debut, Remember Me, and on the other hand with the action/RPG Vampyr, which actually received quite good reviews despite all its issues. Her newest creation, called Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden and the spiritual successor to Vampyr, attempts to combine the familiar narrative element of her games with an action game with light RPG touches that seems clearly influenced by Sony's God of War reboot.

An admittedly very ambitious project, as it's obvious that Don't Nod doesn't have the financial resources that, for example, Santa Monica Studio has, moving into the AA category, but Banishers is another very good example of the fact that having plenty of money doesn't make for a good game. Especially when I started playing the game with a rather half-hearted attitude and ended up looking forward to finishing my daily chores in order to return to the world of Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith again.

Idyllic location, I'm not saying...

A loving pair of hunters, but not in the traditional sense that we would have encountered in 1695. They are two members of a "special" order, the Banishers, who take it upon themselves to exorcise all manner of malevolent (?) spirits that torment the living, through their insistence that they will not pass quietly into the other world. Usually, members of the order are also formidable warriors, such as the Scottish Red, being still an apprentice to his more experienced and beloved Antea. Both of them receive a disturbing message from a friend who resides in the still developing America and the small community of New Eden, where he begs them to come as soon as possible to help him in a very difficult haunting case.

At that time there were not many means of getting from Europe to America, so the boat trip was very long and slow, which led the couple's friend to act alone. Consequently, when the two Banishers arrive in miserable and depressing New Eden, they learn from the town's frightened mayor that their friend is dead. Things don't get any better as they investigate the cause of his death and are confronted by a truly powerful entity, dubbed The Nightmare, which kills Antea and leaves Red half-dead.

The first meeting with Nightmare didn't go so well.

Devastated by the death of his beloved, Red tries to pick up the pieces, until, with the help of a witch, he discovers that Antea is still at his side as a spirit. Consequently, the couple find themselves in the same predicament as the cases they undertook for others, except that here there is another aspect: that of choice.

Antea's time in the world of the living is limited and she will remain there until the Nightmare is eliminated and ascends to the heavens herself or... if we break the oath we have made as Banishers ("life to the living and death to the dead") and start sacrificing the living victims of the hauntings, in the hope that Antea will return by performing a ritual.

Antea accompanies Red every step of the way, but not all humans are able to see her.

Certainly, a difficult decision that we are faced with very early in the game, without of course meaning that our actions have to follow our oath. It's clearly up to us whether to walk the line between duty and self-interest, with the game offering five different endings depending on the choices we made during the 30 or so hour adventure.

After all, Don't Nod is renowned for its quality writing and Banishers is no exception. The game possesses a high level of storytelling, both in the realm of character sketching (protagonist and otherwise) and dialogue and in the building of the lore, which is filled with interesting written information and audiovisual stimuli. The fact that the game manages to convince you that you're actually there, contributes significantly to the game's immersion, which goes through the roof thanks to the various cases we take on. Whether they are part of the main story or optional.

With every decision we make, we put our signature on the fate of Antea.

So in most cases, we will play the role of detective, searching for clues and talking to the living and the dead in order to find out why the victim is haunted. Based on the clues gathered, we reach the final verdict, where there are three options: either blame the victim, which means killing them and going up one step towards Antea's resurrection and ascending or banish the spirit. In the latter two cases, we gradually lead Antea on her passage to the other world, however with the first option we sweetly send the spirit to (whatever) heaven, while with the second we perform a violent move that sends it to the fire beyond.

Obviously, depending on how good or bad the spirit is (e.g. is he a rapist or is he a father protecting his son), we decide accordingly, however, what matters is what we choose in our verdict in order to see the ending we desire. So any moral qualms can go by the wayside, but that's something Don't Nod does in every one of their games, so it couldn't be missed here either.


In each case, however, we have the corresponding reward in experience and essences, with which we can strengthen Red and Antea respectively on the battlefield. Banishers is quite combat-oriented, with battles appearing on a regular basis and integrated fairly evenly across a satisfyingly large and well-designed map. However, it's worth pointing out that the game is semi-open-world, along the lines of God of War, meaning that the plot is fairly linear and directional, but with any extra activities and extra loot we spot that can be of great help in our quest being products of exploration that, sooner or later, we'll be tempted to do.

However, the battles are quite interesting, with the combination of Antea and Red's powers being essential for survival. Antea doesn't die (apparently, a human only dies once) and offers a number of very powerful powers that are gradually unlocked over the course of the main story, but she can't stay on the battlefield for very long. In this case Red takes on all manner of threats with the help of his sword and (a little later) his rifle, but he needs to be very careful because if he gets killed, it's game over.

The combat system also has ranged characteristics, but the rifles of that era needed to be reloaded very often.

The battle system includes several elements that we've seen before in most action games, such as light and heavy attack, sprint, dodge, parry, however it leaves the feeling that it's more "clumsy" than the games it's inspired by (i.e... God of War). Perhaps due to the fact that the combat flow isn't as smooth as it could be, the fact that there isn't a wide variety of enemies, and the camera's very close field of view doesn't help much either. Also, the battles can get a bit repetitive, as in most cases, you start punching Antea until she disappears, then continue with Red until Antea's relative life bar fills up, and then go again. The exception of course are the bosses, which as always, need special treatment.

However, the fact that there are several different skills in our arsenal to try out, with the ability to change them at any time at a checkpoint at no cost, and the notable differences in the way we play the equipment we collect, create a decent amalgam of action and RPG elements. Sure, there was room for improvement, but the upshot is undoubtedly positive and contributes to the construction called Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.

Antea is very useful in spotting clues that the normal eye could not.

A construction that has a solid base in the technical aspect, thanks to the satisfactory use of Unreal Engine 5. Without being demanding in terms of hardware, the game is quite impressive and beautiful, especially in the design of the environment, but also in the majority of its characters, which are convincing both in appearance and in their kinematics. And the voice-over is amazing, especially the duo of actors portraying Antea and Red, and of course they are helped by the very good text that the game has, without cringy lines of dialogue.

To sum up, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is one of Don't Nod's best games and generally a very worthwhile proposition for fans of single-player action/"RPG" games, with an emphasis on plot. It's not foolproof, it doesn't contain any particular innovations, but it's thoughtful in almost every aspect, it's extremely well-written and interesting, and as icing on the cake, it offers the possibility of multiple playthroughs thanks to its five different endings. Nowadays, it's hard to find such complete games.

We would like to thank AVE Group for providing the review code.

Go to discussion...

RATING - 84%


Death for the dead

A very worthy proposal from Don't Nod for fans of narrative action games.

Γιώργος Δεμπεγιώτης

Lover of action, shooter, adventure, RPG's and sometimes racing games, he prefers mainly single-player gaming. Every now and then he breaks out into a multi, but he doesn't overdo it.

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