Due out on 13 February 2024 for the PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is an upcoming story driven action-RPG where player decisions have dramatic consequences. In the game, players assume the role of Antea Duarte and Red mac Raith who act as ‘Banishers’ – ghost-hunters who have to solve haunting cases whilst also protecting the living. At the same time, players are also able to unlock new gear and abilities, whilst uncovering ancient secrets and mysteries in a campaign that’s promised to be “between 20 and 30 hours, maybe more“.
I spoke to Philippe Moreau (Creative Director, Don’t Nod) and Karim Benfares (Executive Producer, Don’t Nod) about Banishers, and also got to ask them as to what it is about Don’t Nod that allows the studio to make games that are considered to be fairly unique in an increasingly formulaic market. Enjoy!
If you were in an elevator with a gamer who’s never heard of Banishers, how would you describe the game?
Phillipe Moreau: Well, we could say that it’s a story-driven action RPG that’s set in the haunting wilds of the 17th century in New England. We are in an alternate version of history where witches have real powers and ghosts exist. So you play as a couple of Banishers who are basically ghost hunters – named Red and Antea, a male and a female – and you are here to solve haunting cases. But the twist of the game is that one of the characters dies at the very beginning of the game, Antea, and so she comes back as a ghost herself. And so you will play this duo throughout the game, this couple, and you can switch from one character to another very seamlessly. And it’s a game centered around choices, because during the game you will have to make choices, and this will have an impact on how the couple will evolve throughout the game, and how the fate of the human beings will also be altered.
Your studio, Don’t Nod, has also done Life is Strange, and is therefore renowned for its story-driven games that are quite eclectic. Why do you think your studio makes the kind of games that it does, and what is it about your studio that you think makes it unique in an industry where so many other titles happen to be so formulaic. What is it about the creative process of Don’t Nod that separates it from other studios out there and their products?
Karim Benfares: I think that our unique way to do games is because we think about stories first. I’m sure that some other studios will think about gameplay first or art first. Of course we do think about those too, but first we think about stories first. We think about the fact that everything must be logical and make sense about its story first. That’s why I think our games are unique. The second thing is probably because we always try to use a realistic setting that we can then mix with a supernatural aspect. In Life Is Strange, it was about rewinding the time. In Banishers, it’s because ghosts exist. And thanks to that, we can create atmospheres where the players can immerse themselves easily, because we have the realistic aspect, but at the same time, we also have this supernatural aspect as a twist.
If I remember correctly, Remember Me was the first title that Don’t Nod did, so that must mean that you guys have been going for about 15 years. How long have both of you been with Don’t Nod?
Phillipe Moreau: So I started working at Don’t Nod 13 years ago on Remember Me as a Game Designer, more specifically as a Combat Designer. And then I worked on Vampyr as a Game Director. And now I’m working on Banishers.
And yourself, Mr Benfares?
Karim Benfares: My story is a bit different. I joined Don’t Nod 5 years ago after my previous project at Quantic Dream where I worked on Detroit: Become Human as the Senior Producer. And to be fair, I was also very interested in Vampyr, and thought that it was a great game, even if it did have some flaws. But in a sense, I really liked it. And I had the opportunity to join Don’t Nod, but only if I could join the Vampyr team. And this is exactly what happened, where I joined Philippe’s team just after Vampyr to create Banishers.
What’s the likelihood of Banishers coming to GamePass when it’s released, or anytime soon?
Karim Benfares: It’s not expected. We don’t know. I don’t think so.
What’s your opinion on GamePass and subscription services in general?
Karim Benfares: Well, my personal point of view is that I think it’s going to work. It’s working. I think it changes the way in how we consume games, if I can say…
In a healthy way, or in a bad way?
Karim Benfares: It depends… If we talk about customers, if we talk about players, I think it’s great for them. They have the opportunity to access a huge library of games, so I think it’s great for them. They can, with only a few bucks, play a ton of games easily, and probably have huge knowledge of video games. This is insane, and I think it’s great.
What about from an industry standpoint?
Karim Benfares: From an industry standpoint, it can be great because for some developers who may struggle to create games that make money, it can be great because they can have the opportunity to just have one game on GamePass. However, I think it can be dangerous at the same time. Because it can create a kind of “game-for-hire”, or “work-for-hire” system. Like the cinema industry and Netflix, where you can just have one game and you are paid for that, but you have no access to royalties or anything like that. You are just paid for one game, and then have to create another one. And I think that studios may become too dependent on Microsoft if it becomes too big. I think we have to keep both so as to make sure that studios and publishers can live together.
What’s the post-release strategy for Banishers? Any DLC or new characters?
Karim Benfares: We are thinking about it.
How long has the game been in development for?
Karim Benfares: Almost 5 years.
Last question… Going forward, you were able to make Life is Strange into some sort of a franchise. However, Remember Me and Vampyr were pretty much standalone games. What are your hopes for Banishers? Do you think we can expect more Banishers games in future, or is it going to be pretty much a standalone title? And after Banishers, what are your future plans as a studio?
Phillipe Moreau: I don’t think we can say too much about it because we’re still in the process of growing the project and wanting it to evolve. But one thing’s for sure is that we want to capitalize on Banishers. If the IP is good enough, and if the reception is good from the audience and players… For sure, we’d want to continue to make action RPGs because we want to iterate upon our strengths, and want to learn from our mistakes, and do even better games next time. So I think we are in a good place. For Vampyr, we learned a lot, and we fixed a lot of the issues that we had. But I think Banishers will be even better. And hopefully in the future, our next games, our next action RPGs will be in the same spirit… Always narrative driven games, but always trying to be better.
Thank you so much…