Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden hands on preview — Ghoulish intentions

I’ve always been a sucker for a good narrative game. Thankfully, DON’T NOD excels in that area, with the likes of the Life is Strange series and Vampyr under their belts. When I first saw Banishers: Ghost of New Eden (from this point referred to as Banishers), I was enthralled by the game presented to us. The colonial fantasy setting seemed perfect for someone who loved Greedfall like I did, and the action (what little we saw), looked thrilling. An hour and a half in, I’m doubling down on those sentiments, along with excitement to play the full game when November rolls around.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden - Gameplay Reveal Trailer | Summer Game Fest 2023

Our preview begins in a village, with our protagonist, Red, in a small hovel with his ghostly companion and wife Antea. DON’T NOD has us starting five chapters in, so the event that leads to Antea’s current condition is unknown beyond she’s no longer part of the living. Still, in this world ghosts are a threat, and Banishers seem to be the “Witchers” needed to drive them away. I’m also very fond of Red, from his design and look to the Scottish voice; I don’t hear enough of that accent in gaming and it fits wonderfully here.

Where we’re starting leads into a specific mission — to drive away a “beast” that doesn’t exist in order to renew the villagers’ hopes of survival. What unravels is something much more sinister and filled with betrayal. I don’t want to spoil anything here, after all, the narrative is going to be much of why you choose Banishers, but this slice lives up to the DON’T NOD name. It doesn’t start that way, with most of your conversations feeling somewhat one way, but the ensuing discoveries and the finality of the chapter I played stilled any of those concerns, with a somewhat shocking closure to it. After previous shows of strength in the department, watching DON’T NOD continue to succeed in world building is great to see.

The interactions between Red and Antea steal the show, both in the banter between them and how the game uses their respective talents. Antea was a Banisher before, and now that she’s a ghost, still manages to be as productive. As you walk around, she will draw Red’s attention to things, engage in dialogue, and even use her abilities to help you cross large gaps. This is done by swapping characters as you play, which seems to involve her possessing Red.

When you face the territorial ghouls that wish to cause you harm, it’ll take both of your abilities to get rid of them. Red will engage in pretty normal affair for a third-person hack and slash, with a light and heavy sword attack, a musket for a slower long range attack, and your normal block/parry combo. There’s also a “banish” ability, a special from a quick-building gauge that will inflict a devastating strike to your enemy… assuming they’re a low enough level for you to rid them from the battlefield completely.

Things deviate in a big way when you bring in Antea, as she punches, expels an ethereal blast, and lands a teleporting rush attack with aplomb. What’s interesting about Antea is she’s not a permanent figure; every attack drains her “health” meter, requiring Red to return and land more blows to build it back up in order to swap again. It’s a cool and seamless system, something that differentiates it from others in the genre. I didn’t get a great look at the menus, but there looks to be several options in a skill tree that will allow you to gain new abilities as well, something to look forward to in the future.

The specters you’ll encounter are no joke either, although that depends on the difficulty you play on. I found even normal to require a lot of thought, and with DON’T NOD employing an almost Dark Souls kind of health potion system, it kind of throws you off, especially if you’re in a tough spot with no potions. There are five difficulties in all however, and thankfully that is as far as the Dark Souls comparisons go.

What’s neat about the enemies you fight is how they decide to engage you. Sometimes it’s as simple as beating up Casper as soon as he appears, but with dead bodies of people and enemies littering your path, you’ll sometimes have to ward off tougher opponents. For instance, if one possesses a body that has a musket, you’re going to have to deal with the long range potential it has. Even once you beat that variant, it only expels the spirit back into the world, requiring you to finish it off once and for all. Paying attention to your surroundings will pay off, because you can see when an apparition is planning on a possession.

Lastly, let’s talk environment. Banishers sold me on the setting first and foremost in the trailers, and it doesn’t disappoint. Furthermore, you can tell this is a current gen exclusive (bound to PS5 and Xbox Series consoles), looking like the most gorgeous game DON’T NOD has made to date. Red and Antea are incredibly detailed, and NPC’s don’t look half bad either. That’s not even giving credit to the world itself, with plenty of flora and fauna populating the forest areas, and deep, dank caves you’ll traverse through this chapter. I do hope we see a little more than just rainy woodlands and rock formations, but for now I’m liking what I’m seeing.

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden has a tough road against it with some of the incredible games that will have been released by the time it comes out. Honestly, we haven’t had a year this packed in some time. But, if it keeps up this level of quality, delivers the intriguing narrative it has in the preview, and continues to mix up the combat in engaging ways, we might just look at Banishers as a hidden gem amongst the diamonds we’ve gotten so far. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden releases November 7th on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S and X, and PC.

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David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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