The last decade+ I’ve been doing these reviews for has allowed me to watch many developers hone their craft over the years. Most of them get better with age, refining their processes and focusing in on what they’re good at. Others fail to learn the lessons that they should have from previous games, repeating mistakes that held them back from achieving the goals that they set for themselves. Whilst I won’t chide Don’t nod for not growing at all, their wide catalogue of experimental titles is a testament to their willingness to do exactly that, their latest release in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden makes many of the same mistakes that they did with Vampyr all those years ago. Such is the folly of small time action-RPG developers it seems.

Red and Antea are Banishers, trained in the art of helping spirits who haunt the realms of the living pass on to what comes next. They’ve been called to colonial New England by their longtime friend Charles Davenport to investigate a curse that’s cursed their settlement with an eternal winter. They set out to investigate, only to find out that one of the most rare and deadly ghostly forms haunts this town: a Nightmare. Their attempt to banish the spirit fails with Antea slain and Red thrown off a cliff: leaving many to presume he also fell victim to it. Awakening weeks later Red finds himself in a cave, tended to by a witch, and feels a familiar call from beyond the veil.

Visually Banishers is slightly behind par for current generation titles. Most of this is coming from the rough edges on a few things like the environments not looking great up close, the use of run of the mill lighting effects and some rather stiff looking animations in a few places. It also feels somewhat unoptimised given how much it flogged my PC even at modest settings, something that other comparable titles didn’t do. This isn’t to say it’s terrible, indeed the screenshots I’m showing aren’t cherry picked or photo mode examples, but I’ve certainly seen better in recent memory from similar games.

This is Don’t Nod’s third ARPG and that certainly shows in the game’s mechanics. All the standard tropes are there: souls-light combat, multiple progression mechanics, crafting/upgrades, campaign missions with oodles of side quests and expansive environments for you to explore. Unlike others who’ve attempted to replicate BioWare level RPGs with only a whiff of their budget Don’t Nod all of these mechanics are well implemented, all of them functioning like you’d expect them to without Bethesda levels of gank hiding around every corner. The twist that Banishers brings to the table is the dual mode combat and exploration mechanics where you can switch between the two main characters at will, each with their own set of skills that you’ll be making good use of throughout your time with it. Construction wise I’d rate everything as competent as it’s the coming together of all those pieces that seems to be where I find the most flaws.

Banisher’s combat is pretty par for the course for an ARPG these days: taking inspiration from the Souls games whilst removing much of its unforgiving nature. Enemy variety is unfortunately quite low with most encounters recycling the same handful of enemy types over and over. More are added as you progress through the campaign but not enough to make any particular combat encounter substantially different from another. You do get more abilities, talents and items as you progress that will enable you to mix things up a bit on your side but when the game doesn’t really present any challenge that necessitates experimenting much once you’ve found what works for you.

Which is a shame as whilst the game doesn’t do a great job of showcasing the depth of the various systems it has implemented it’s certainly there. It took me ages to realise that there were various different stats associated with each item and, if you looked closely, there were archetypes of items which would fit different playstyles. The game does let you know that respeccing is free and can be done at any rest point, which is great for encouraging experimentation, but at the same time the resource costs for various upgrades is pretty high so it’s hard to invest too heavily in trying things out. I personally had settled on a build that allowed me to stay as Antea for the bulk of any encounter, meaning it was basically impossible for me to die.

Progression comes often enough that you’ll never be far away from getting the next power increase. Red’s levels come from defeating enemies in combat and doing quests and even if you’re like me, playing mostly campaign missions, you won’t find yourself want for a talent point for long. Antea’s upgrades come from resolving haunting cases, most of which will take the better part of an hour to complete (which will, coincidently, level up Red in the process). The talent tree is built out in a way that you’ll need to do both in order to unlock the deeper parts of it, sometimes pushing you to bounce out of the campaign if you’re wanting to round out your build with a particular talent.

I certainly appreciated the depth to the crafting system. Resources are plentiful but their usefulness will vary depending on which biome you find yourself in and what gear you’re trying to upgrade. You’ll usually go through a bit of a resource desert every time you enter a new area but it won’t be long before you find enough of what you need so you’re not locked out of getting upgrades. As you progress you’ll get access to various merchants who’ll sell you almost everything you need and, strangely enough, at very reasonable prices. The only thing that you can’t readily source is some of the higher tier gems that require you to do certain encounters but I didn’t find myself needing to seek those out directly. Just doing the ones I stumbled across was enough for me.

What didn’t seem to sit right with me was that, whilst all of these various mechanics were implemented well enough, they just didn’t seem to come together into a cohesive whole. The game feels like it’s on rails for a good 2/3rds of its playtime, only for it to suddenly open up substantially to reveal it’s so much bigger than you were first led to believe. This is also the point where the cracks between things start to show as you’re forced to fast travel (which requires you to actually go to a fast travel point, annoying) between all the major locations several times to move the campaign forward. This is when things started to get weird.

I had numerous NPCs that I had no idea existed start speaking to me as if I’d done…something with them previously but I honestly couldn’t remember them ever being there before. To be sure, part of this is me sticking close to the campaign, but when a whole town starts talking to you as if you’d helped them out or done something terrible, even though you hadn’t, it’s incredibly immersion breaking. This also isn’t to mention how few consequences there seems to be for doing…well most things in the game with only those directly related to the campaign being affected. Even then it can get wild if you don’t do things in the order the game expects you to, like when I demanded payment from someone who’s sister I just killed. They flipped rapidly between being angry with me before praising me for the work I’d done around the town.

Which is probably why I failed to really connect with the story in any meaningful way. I could see the emotional rollercoaster I was supposed to be riding but none of it resonated with me. I decided at the start I was going to pursue the resurrection arc, meaning I had to kill a bunch of people who probably didn’t deserve it. Except the game gave me an emotional out for like, 90% of them and, given I wasn’t seeing any actual consequences for being a rampaging murderer, I was wondering if my choices really did matter.


Those who’ve played Banishers will know that yes, some choices do matter, but honestly for a game that seemed rooted in choices and their consequences I was expecting more. There were only a handful of scenes where Red seemed to struggle with the idea of simply murdering fools wherever they went and most of those were very late in the game. I also managed to get the bad ending as I didn’t sacrifice enough people, even though I did it to everyone I came across. This all culminated in me feeling deeply unsatisfied with the whole narrative experience, something which I feel is only partially on me.


Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden represents progress for Don’t Nod’s ARPG aspirations but they still have a ways to go to make something truly great in this genre. Mechanics, visuals and overall construction of the game are solid, but the sum of the pieces somehow feels less than the whole. The narrative failing to grab me also isn’t doing it any favours, the various issues with NPC interactions and a seeming lack of consequences for doing even the worst deeds failing to get me emotionally invested in it at all. All this being said, there is much more progress from Vampyr to Banishers than I’ve seen from all the games I’ve played from Spiders, so I’m truly hopeful that a future ARPG from Don’t Nod will be something truly great.

Rating: 7.75/10

Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is available on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S right now for $79.95. Game was played on the PC with a total of 21.2 hours played and 46% of the achievements unlocked.

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

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