Published on February 13th, 2024 | by Marc Rigg
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden PS5 Review
Summary: A fantastically written and acted, dark love story sadly tarnished by a host of small issues that ruin the experience somewhat.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is the latest game from developer Don’t Nod, most well-known recently for being behind the excellent atmospheric puzzle climber, Jusant. Ghosts of New Eden, however, is a very different game, a love story with a far darker tone.
It’s very narrative-heavy heavy and this feeds directly into the gameplay, this review is aiming to be as spoiler-free as possible, but it may be necessary to have minor ones when discussing how the game works due to how tightly woven the gameplay and story are.
The plot follows Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith, a pair of ‘Banishers’, tasked with exorcizing ghosts, dispelling curses, and defeating all manner of malevolent spirits that haunt the town of New Eden. The predominant mechanics of the gameplay are centred around the pair’s ghost-hunting and investigation abilities.
These investigations revolve around identifying the spectral fiend that plagues a character. This is done through conversations with NPCs, usually followed by searching the area for clues. Mass Effect-style dialogue trees are used to control the discourse, often with a choice locking out another option and directing the conversation in a specific way.
Once a suitable number of clues have been uncovered revealing the identity of the ghost, one of several rituals can be performed. These rituals can show a ghostly flashback of what happened, pointing the duo’s investigation in the right direction, or force a spirit to appear immediately, usually to engage in conversation and add another round of clue hunting.
All rituals are available to perform, regardless of whether it’s the correct choice for that specific moment, and it’s not often made adequately clear which one you’re supposed to do at any given instance. With that being said, I never received any indication that I had made an incorrect choice at any of these junctions, so either the game is designed to seamlessly handle whatever the player picks, or I intuited the correct choice each time.
When an investigation has reached its conclusion, a decision must be made. This usually boils down to exercising the ghost or punishing the living. Often giving more than two choices. It isn’t necessarily a cut-and-dry paragon or renegade option, however. I can’t really go into why this is the case due to it being a central aspect of the plot and discussing it would constitute a major spoiler, but it all ties into an overarching moral choice system though, one that does have a profound effect on the story.
While undertaking investigations and roaming the world, Red and Antea are attacked by ghosts regularly and forced into battle. The combat is a fairly standard third-person affair. Light, heavy, and ranged attacks, block, and a dodge roll. Where the game differs somewhat is the ability to change between the two characters on the fly.
Each has their own attacks, abilities, and skill trees that are upgradeable through the token levelling system. This character switch mechanic extends to the general exploration of the world, with one character having some unique abilities for getting around and uncovering hidden clues as a result of events in the story.
I didn’t find the combat especially engaging. The camera stays close to the player throughout and for a primarily melee-based system, it frustrates more often than not. It isn’t bad by any means, but I found that it started to bug me whenever I had to engage with it, and eventually dropped the difficulty just to get it out of the way quicker.
Visually, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is quite impressive. Environments are detailed, there’s a lot of surface clutter, and small objects littering the ground, and interiors are rich with small details. Red and Antea especially look great, each having a wide array of facial expressions and animations to accurately convey their emotions and actions within the world. Other human characters aren’t quite so lucky in this respect. Up close there’s a bit of an uncanny valley effect going on. Animations play out awkwardly, often doing what I can only describe as ‘snapping’ into place rather than smoothly ending.
This animation ‘snapping’ happens a great deal in general, even the protagonists aren’t immune to it. If the camera is facing a direction other than that of the character’s model, small movements of the left stick force them to jerkily spin into place. It’s very unnatural looking and extremely apparent.
I had frequent visual bugs appear throughout my time with the game. These generally manifested themselves as black artefacts around the edges of the screen that would jump around during cutscenes and occasionally during conversations.
Banishers comes with two graphics modes, the first of these being a fidelity mode sporting 4K visuals at 30 frames per second and secondly a performance mode that targets 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, the performance mode doesn’t consistently hit its targeted frame rate and drops closer to 30 frames per second regularly. It’s very noticeable, especially in combat.
All of the in-engine cutscenes play out at 30 and the switch between the two can be quite abrupt. I also noticed a lot of graphical artefacts and haloing around objects in motion while playing in the performance mode. Fidelity mode is the more stable way to play the game currently, and if you’re able to withstand the choppier motion it’s probably the best way to play the game right now.
On the more favourable side of things, the audio in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is superb, the voice acting, in particular, is a highlight. Antea and Red’s voice actors, Amaka Okafor and Russ Bain, give stellar performances and because of this, their relationship is incredibly heartfelt and believable. Weapons, enemies, and impact noises all have suitable levels of punch and are generally satisfying to hear. The sound design overall is subtle, the kind of score that isn’t necessarily noticed in the moment, but if it were to disappear, its loss would be felt.
The performance issues it currently exhibits, while not a deal breaker, certainly tarnish the experience. A whole host of other minor issues plague the game too, such as disabling motion blur seemingly not working and small physics bugs, such as defeated enemies floating in the air on occasion. There doesn’t seem to be any HDR support either, at least on console.
Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is very close to being an excellent game. The narrative is interesting and engaging and I’ve always got time for games with an investigative angle. Beyond this though, I didn’t find it particularly entertaining on a gameplay level, it was the story that kept me hooked throughout. If the performance issues and bugs can be fixed, then it’s easy to recommend.
A day one patch is now available for Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, this update addresses a lot of the issues mentioned above.
In approximately 2 hours of play with the update installed I didn’t notice any of the visual bugs that plagued the game during cutscenes and conversations. Image quality as a whole seemed better in performance mode. The haloing and artefacts, while still present, were far less noticeable and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the game any longer.
Performance in general seems to be improved. I cannot say definitively by how much, but general gameplay felt more stable. There are still frequent dips well below 60 frames per second in some of the more dense areas of the game, however it appears to be an improvement overall.
There’s still room for improvement in regards to performance, but with the fixing of a lot various visual bugs and annoyances in the released version of the game make this a much easier recommendation.