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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden preview: ghost bustin'

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is set in a dreary world full of stories

When wandering a wasteland that’s slowly being put to ruin by spirits, you’d be forgiven for latching on to the few people you can find, although you may not want to get too cozy with anyone in Banishers, because they all seem to be haunted.

Banishers is a game about gripping personal stories. There is an overarching narrative between two protagonists, but that didn’t grab me nearly as much as the individual stories you can find around the world. As a Banisher, your job is to decide the fates of ghosts in the world, you can allow them to ascend to some kind of afterlife, or banish them.

As you explore the world you’ll encounter people haunted by various ghosts. They may be someone they knew in life or someone who has reached out to them in death for an unknown reason. It’s your job to investigate why this ghost is haunting this person, uncover how they died and who’s to blame, and then decide what to do about it.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden gameplay

The first story I encountered is the one that hit me the hardest. I met a man who was clearly troubled and despite claiming to be a hunter, he was eating naught but rotten meat. He also seemed to be waiting for his friend to return, and it doesn’t take you long to find his ghost. After investigating the nearby area, you discover that, in a moment of hunger-fuelled madness, the man killed his friend, carved the meat from his bones to survive, and is now living in denial over the incident.

Once helping the man come to terms with what he’s done, you have three options. Banish the ghost, let the ghost ascend, or kill the man. You see, each of these small stories also plays into the main quest, as Red’s partner, Antea, died and is now a ghost herself, following Red around. This leaves Red with a choice, as he knows of a dark ritual that could potentially bring Antea back to life, but he needs to take the lives of others to do it.

It gives you a vested interest in the outcome of every story. Yes, letting the man live and ascending the ghost of his friend is the right thing to do, but there is justification to kill the man for what he did. What’s more is that the game makes you choose towards the start which path you will commit to, before giving you plenty of opportunities to break your oath.

It means that each story is not only interesting in its own right but has a knock-on effect on the larger picture, forcing you to make the difficult decisions that Don’t Nod is known for.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden gameplay

What surprised me most about Banishers was how easily I got into the rhythm of the combat. It reminds me a lot of the modern God of War games. You’ve got an over-the-shoulder camera with enemies that can take a bit of a beating from your heavy melee attacks, and a lot of the focus is about using your limited mobility to stay out of the way and strike when there’s an opening. However, Banishers brings a faster pace alongside a unique twist. Rather than solely fighting as Red, you’re able to switch to your ghostly companion to fight for a while instead.

Some enemies will have ghostly armor bars alongside their health, and Antea can take these down much quicker than Red. However, every move she makes in combat drains her health, and you can only raise it again by landing hits as Red. It creates a great balance where you have to be careful when you switch between the two protagonists, as Antea can be a great way to get out of a tricky situation – but that may leave her unavailable when you really need her.

Banishers Ghosts of New Eden gameplay

It’s not just in combat where she’s available either, as you can use her to uncover hidden aspects of the world, revealing things to Red that normally only ghosts can see. Plus, as you further unlock abilities, she can open blocked-off paths in the world, and navigate hazards that Red can’t, such as thick fog.

The world design reminds me of God of War 2018 as well. While you’re free to explore, there isn’t much in the way of wide-open spaces. Instead, it was carefully crafted branching paths that you can explore at your own leisure, facing various enemy encounters along the way – with splinter paths for collectibles and challenges too.

Things may open up more later on, but I liked the more closed-off path design here, as there was always just enough on the horizon to draw my attention.

I’m excited to see what new stories are there to be found in Banishers. While the world may not be the most special, it’s filled with interesting characters that I enjoyed learning about and eventually arbitrating the fate of their souls. The combat is plenty of fun too, and makes for an overall package that is more than the sum of its parts.