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Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden review - why I stole every handbag in New Eden

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden tries to do too much with too little

Seven years ago, a darkness fell upon the lands of New Eden. Nestled away near Boston in the New World, the town was struck with famine, disease, pestilence, its people plagued with nightmares the moment they closed their eyes. With bodies piling up and no livestock left to tend to, the people of New Eden called upon a banisher to shine a light on the darkness. Little did they know that in doing so, they’d invited a second, more sinister darkness into their town.

In my journeys through New Eden, I met many people of different sorts. Some were leaders, trying their best to shepherd their flock through tragedy. Others were mere townspeople, too tired, sick, or downtrodden to pack up their lives and move on. All of these people were interesting, if a little on the wordy side, but even intriguing characters can’t rescue a story insistent on wasting them.

Characters talking in Banishers

These characters are interesting, but they get to do nothing.

I followed two banishers through the lands of New Eden, Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, though the latter unfortunately departed from the earthly realm quite early on in our journey. As a banisher, a hunter of ghosts, Red was able to commune with his dearly departed, and through an oath sworn, the two were forced into making a grim decision.

Making that decision was at the core of the Banishers experience, alongside its action-y combat and large, open-world exploration, both of which are plucked right out of the likes of Final Fantasy, God of War, or Assassin’s Creed. Don’t Nod is known for its choice-based gameplay, having struck gold with games like Life is Strange, and that DNA is still very much alive in Banishers — just wrapped up in the trappings of an action RPG.

It’s supposed to be a big, heavy decision, backed up by a series of small choices scattered throughout the game: save the people of New Eden and send Antea to the afterlife, or kill its citizens to bring her back to the world of the living. Every choice Red and Antea make has consequences, some big and some small, and those consequences might not be clear when you’re making those decisions. But it all starts with that big, heavy decision.

A player making a choice to kill or spare a character in Banishers

This choice would be a lot more difficult if Thickskin didn't suck.

The choice made, through the prompting of my invisible hand, was to kill as much as possible and bring Antea back to life. It’s not that I wanted the people of New Eden to suffer further, in fact I wanted nothing more than to see them thrive. But Antea was the more interesting of the two, and if anybody deserved to live, it was her. To be honest, choosing to kill people rather than banish the ghosts that haunt them was easy, too — everybody in this story is awful, and I simply did not care if they died.

It was made clear that this choice was one of grave consequence, one that would shape the story of these banishers and these townspeople for years to come. The two were even given a chance to go back on their promise, to change paths toward the end of their journey. It would be cowardly to turn away after so much death and destruction, though, so they forged on killing. And I, as the puppetmaster pulling the strings, was more than happy to let them do so. As I said, none of these people were kind, decent folk, and it didn’t concern me whether they lived or died. Whatever consequences came from that, I did not care, I was simply curious to see how things turned out.

What I did care about, though, was the hundreds of handbags, purses, and satchels stashed away by the people of this ill-fated town. In my journey through New Eden, I relieved the region’s inhabitants of these goods, scrapping them for leather and linen. Some 800 pieces of leather lie in my coffers, alongside some 300 scraps of linen. As far as I could tell, there was little use for all this cloth, and certainly no need for it in such abundance. I don’t know why it exists in such quantities throughout New Eden, but no matter how dire the situation or circumstance, there was always a bag to remove from its owner. I had become the second darkness of New Eden, the most prolific handbag thief the New World had ever known.

While much of my journey had been spent relieving unencumbered purses from poor townspeople, some amount of time was spent relieving the world of the dead, too. It was a cumbersome, frustrating process, with our heroes, the living Red and the spectral Antea, switching places on a whim in battle to make the most of their unique skill sets. It sounds good on paper, but in practice, the execution simply wasn’t satisfying. If I was the puppetmaster, then the strings to my puppets were permanently tangled, and no amount of fiddling with the settings menu made them any less so.

It’s a shame, too, because the foundation of the banishers’ combat was sound. In fact, that describes most of my time in New Eden. The people were well-rounded, the mythos of this world was fascinating, and the world itself was beautiful. But despite how polished each of these components were, together they simply didn’t fit. It was too much of one thing and not another — too much dialogue with too little substance, too much combat with too little depth, too much exploration with too little payoff. Every time I wanted more of something, it would be snatched away, and every time I’d had enough of something, it never stopped coming.

A player banishing a ghost in Banishers

A woman with no soul can't object to the theft of her handbag.

And so I turned my focus to collecting every handbag, satchel, and purse in New Eden. If the journey of our two banishers wasn’t going to satisfy me, then I was going to find my own fun, a single joy in the chaos, frustration, and boredom of this world. There was no shortage of leather to be stripped from its owners, and I had no shortage of time. There was no urgency in my journey, so I was free to do as I liked. And I liked to steal leather. I don’t know with certainty if I managed to steal every bit of leather from New Eden – it’s very possible there’s still some out there, beyond the reaches of where I dared to explore – but I’m confident that I’ve stolen more leather from New Eden than any other person on the planet, and that’s enough for me.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden presented me with a choice: engage with what little there was that would excite me in the game, or make my own fun. I chose the latter, and like the choices offered in the game, I suspect it wouldn’t have mattered much either way.

Score: 6/10

Version tested: PS5.

Tech breakdown

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden offers up two graphics modes: performance and quality. Neither will get you a capped 60fps, with performance mode trying its best and still very much struggling quite frequently. I also experienced some minor glitches here and there, when trying to climb ledges, where my character would simply be ejected off the edge of the ledge. Some cutscenes also have strange artifacts at the edges of the screen, but they're more distracting than anything else.