Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden Hands-on Preview – Ghost busting in colonial America

Posted on August 25, 2023

Ahead of its full release in November of this year, we have had the opportunity to try out DONTNOD’s Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Giving a taste of the action-packed combat, light puzzle solving and moral choices, the Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden demo definitely left a strong positive impression, and left me eager for more.

Playing as Banishing duo Red mac Raith and his spectral lover Antea Duarte, the Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden demo places you in a small rural village in 17th century America, where the ghost-hunting pair is tasked with hunting a mysterious Beast which is plaguing the town. Although the demo skips to a somewhat early mission and bypasses the full game’s actual intro, I found the playful dynamic between Red and Antea easy to follow and get on board with. The demo mission is mostly self-contained, revolving around a missing group of pilgrims, and the potential involvement of two of the town’s prominent citizens, Thickskin Newsmith and her sister Kate.

Once you’re on your way, Red and Antea’s adventure proceeds with a mixture of God of War: Ragnarok-style hack-and-slash combat and some minor puzzle-solving revolving around moving around minecarts and removing obstructions with your rifle. Red can defend himself with a pair of swords and a gun, with Antea calling out when an offscreen opponent is readying a ranged attack so you can respond accordingly. Antea is more than just an AI assistant, however; at the press of a button, Red can allow Antea to possess him and wield powerful ghost attacks for a limited time.

Red’s attacks felt weighty and powerful, particularly his Banish finishing move he can land after building up a meter. Swapping between the two characters felt rather intuitive and fluid, and the integration of Antea as an Atreus-style assist character helped sell Red and Antea’s partnership in gameplay terms. With that said, I would have preferred a less claustrophobic camera which gives the player a better view of the battleground. While the foes faced in the demo are mostly common-or-garden zombies and skeletons, the more visually interesting boss fight further into the demo gives some insight into the more creative depictions of the undead that I hope the game continues to explore later on.

Enemy designs aside, the world of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is also quite nice to behold. There is a pleasant contrast between the damp greenish-brown tones of the forest and caves that Red is exploring and the vibrant ghost world, streaked with beautiful colours that Antea can see when you switch to her. Other small touches, like the short montage of Antea’s activities while Red is resting at camp (particularly in the focus on the fact that she doesn’t sleep), flesh out their relationship and characterisations and highlights one of the many reasons that Antea is desperate to be resurrected, and why Red would be desperate to help her.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a game by the developers of Life is Strange if the plot didn’t involve the occasional heart-breaking moral choice or two. Going off the beaten path and inspecting random odds and ends in your journey can uncover evidence regarding who might have been behind the disappearance of the pilgrims, and why they did what they did.

Unfortunately, the final choice the demo leads up to feels a little binary, and the user interface gives the game away a bit by indicating which one leads towards Antea eventually being resurrected. Despite that, there was enough moral greyness in the scenario that neither option felt especially “good” or “evil”, which made me more invested in the decision.

Overall, the Banishers: Ghost of New Eden demo left me very keen to play more. Although the gameplay integrates many time-worn elements from other games, from its God of War-style hack-and-slash action-adventure gameplay to the Dark Souls-style limited healing items which recharge when you rest mechanic, it is all put together with enough polish and care that it’s hard to consider it a downside. The strong writing and performances sold the tender relationship between Red and Antea, and left me invested to see where their journey is headed next. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden will be coming out on November 7th 2023 on PC, Xbox Series X/S and PS5.