It can’t be a coincidence that Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is launching just a day before Valentine’s Day. As its title suggests, the latest game from Life is Strange developer Don’t Nod is brimming with ghost hunting and spooky happenings. Yet, at its core, it’s also a surprisingly tender love story about life, death, and sacrifice. This isn’t the most well-trodden path for an action-RPG, and that’s just one of a few key areas where Banishers is atypical for its genre. Between outbursts of stiff, run-of-the-mill action, it’s the quieter moments where the game comes into its own. Like Vampyr, one of the studio’s previous games, delving into various characters’ lives and making tough choices with far-reaching consequences are what make the game memorable.
Banishers begins with dual protagonists Antea Duarte and Red Mac Raith arriving on the sandy shores of the fictional island of New Eden, Massachusetts. It’s 1695, and the pair of eponymous banishers are hired spirit hunters entrusted with dispelling the ghosts and specters that still linger in our plane of existence, trapped between the living and the afterlife. New Eden, you see, has been afflicted with a malevolent curse. Hauntings are frequent, the weather is perpetually cold and dreary, crops are dying, livestock has perished, and the island’s settlers are in desperate need of help. With so many lingering effects, this is no simple curse, and while attempting to banish a particularly powerful spirit, Antea is tragically killed as Red is plunged into the freezing depths of the ocean and left for dead.
Upon waking up on the opposite side of the island, the grief-stricken Red is soon reunited with his fallen lover. Antea is now one of the ghostly apparitions she would previously hunt, forcing her to wrestle with the fact that she’s become the one thing she hates. From this point on, you can swap between both characters on the fly. You’re then thrust into making the first of many choices you’ll have to consider as you’re asked to swear an important oath. Will you accept Antea’s fate and ascend her soul, letting her move on to the afterlife, or sacrifice the living in order to resurrect her? Initially, I picked the former, for as much as I wanted to revive Antea, killing the settlers who asked for help never sat right with me. Morally speaking, it also seemed like a pretty clear-cut choice. Then I started meeting New Eden’s denizens, gradually delving into their lives and uncovering their darkest secrets, and my stance started to change.