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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is the year’s most underrated RPG

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is the year’s most underrated RPG

If you're after an enthralling 20-hour RPG, then play Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden

Gather around, my friends. I have an important public service announcement to make. It pains me to see that one of my most beloved releases of the year so far is already massively flying under the radar, so here I am to rectify what I can only deem to be a colossal crime.

If you like action RPGs that don’t take half a lifetime to complete, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re also a fan of enthralling narratives that include tough moral choices then oh my, fate certainly couldn’t have led you to a better article.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is one of the most exciting new IPs that I’ve encountered in a long time and it saddens me to think that a lack of eyes on this game may kill the franchise before its life has even begun.

Developed by Don’t Nod and published by Focus Entertainment, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden landed back in February of this year. In this third-person RPG, players assume the roles of both Antea and Red, a paranormal-hunting duo who are called to the New England town of New Eden in 1695 to deal with a powerful spirit that’s plaguing the town, known only as The Nightmare.

While it may not be a faultless game, it’s one that fills a very important gap in the market - that of the AA or b-tier game, something the games industry is in desperate need of.

Take a look at Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden in action below.

As much as I adore Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, I can safely say that it’s not a Game of the Year contender. Whilst it’s been created very much in the same vein as games like God of War and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and I’d fully recommend it to fans of those titles, Banishers has been made on a much tighter budget.

That means environments are slightly less polished, the scale of the overall world is reduced, and you may notice several repeated and reused animations. That being said, it hardly detracts from what is hands down the most thrilling and intriguing narrative I’ve come across this year.

It’s not a spoiler for me to say that in the opening of the game, upon first encountering The Nightmare, Antea is killed, becoming a spirit herself. While the game is largely about you getting to the bottom of The Nightmare’s origins and how this ties into the everyday lives of those who reside in New Eden, so too is Antea’s fate a key part of this release.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden features an activity known as ‘Hauntings’. These are, as you might be able to guess, small ghost-related cases affecting various NPCs throughout the game’s world. Some tie into the larger narrative, while others are isolated cases.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden /
Focus Entertainment

Either way, you’ll need to solve a number of these in order to progress, liaising with both the living and the dead to get to the bottom of whatever has caused such disorder. Eventually, you’ll be given three options: to blame the living, allow the spirit to ascend, or banish the spirit.

If you blame the living, you’ll essentially murder them and steal their life essence. Do this enough and Red can bring Antea back to life at the end of the narrative. If you allow the spirit to ascend, it’ll help increase the chance that Antea will be able to ascend too by the end of the game, ridding her of her purgatorial state.

This may sound relatively straight forward, but I’ve never faced such tough choices in a game before. It didn’t take very long for Red and Antea to steal my heart as a duo. Both are well-rounded characters, brilliantly brought to life by actors Russ Bain and Amaka Okafor, and share incredible chemistry. Antea was ripped away far too soon - I wasn’t about to let her ascend or perish. Red and Antea had to reunite.

That would mean ‘banishing’ many living townsfolk though. In some Haunting cases, that’s easy with the focus of the case having done something heinous or terrible. In others, it’s clearly the spirit that’s at fault. Do I murder an innocent in order to save Antea? Or do I do what’s good and righteous but risk losing her to the great beyond? It’s up to you whether to act selflessly or selfishly.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden isn’t a game that rewards a split approach either. In fact, walk the middle path and you may end up with the worst ending of all … but I’ll say no more than that. There were times I felt a real pang of guilt in my chest and by the time I rolled credits, Banishers had both delighted me and reminded me that I shouldn’t feel proud about what I’d done.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden /
Focus Entertainment

I shouldn’t be surprised, of course. Don’t Nod is the studio behind Life Is Strange. Of course it knows how to write an engaging narrative that makes use of the players’ own emotional investment. It goes without saying that Life is Strange isn’t a game known for its combat but that's where Don’t Nod’s Vampyr comes into play. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden feels like a crossover between these two projects.

Speaking of combat, Banishers allows you to instantaneously switch between Red and Antea during your various battles with New Eden's undead residents. Red is equipped with a sword and rifle while Antea can wield her spectral powers to damage and freeze enemies. Whilst the weapon and enemy types are rather limited, you can wrap up Banishers in just over 20 hours so the breadth of options feels about right for the size of the game.

If you’re after soulslike boss battles, you won’t find them here. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden does indeed feature several bosses and a couple of more formidable foes, but nothing the average gamer cannot dispatch of. It’s certainly a game that’s accessible to all. I’ll also add that if the idea of ‘ghosts’ makes you nervous, this is not a horror. The Nightmare may boast a creepy aesthetic, but this is your standard action RPG through and through.

I want to return to what I said about AA games. We’re so used to the latest releases setting us back £70. These are AAAs that have, in many cases, been an entire decade in the making. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden isn’t that. It’s a game that’s been made on a tighter budget in a much shorter length of time, and yet it brought me just as much joy as a AAA game might.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden /
Focus Entertainment

The PlayStation 5 / Xbox Series X/S console generation has been the strangest to date. We’ve had some incredible exclusives but we’ve also had years that feel rather uneventful. For Xbox, 2022 drifts to mind. For PlayStation, 2024 isn’t exactly shaping up to be a landmark year. This is largely due to the increasing length of development cycles. If we had more AAs like Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, you’d easily decrease these somewhat game-less gaps.

We just need people to start championing these AA titles that so easily fly under the radar. Unless you’re a live-service hit, award-winning indie, or AAA mega-hitter, it can be hard to grab players’ attention in today’s market but that’s what’s needed if AAs like Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden are to have a future.

I’d love to see this title land on PlayStation Plus or Xbox Game Pass for that very reason. Don’t just take my word for it. With a critic rating of 78% and player score of 7.8 over on Metacritic, it’s clear that there’s plenty of fun to be had here, so go play Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden if you want to be entertained by the year’s most underrated narrative.

Featured Image Credit: Focus Entertainment

Topics: PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Opinion, Unreal Engine, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X