Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is the newest RPG from DON’T NOD. The studio is most well known for delivering narrative-driven video games that really immerse their players in their game’s universes. With titles like Life is Strange, Twin Mirror and Jusant under their belt, DON’T NOD is back with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, and the team’s narritive focus is more evident than ever in this action RPG.
I’ve poured the last few weeks of my life into this game. I’ve walked away from my standard farming simulators that I’ve been focussed on lately and taking the jump back into RPGs, and I’m very grateful that I took that leap with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Not only did I find excellent action and beautiful landscapes, but I was met with a story that brought me to tears…more than once.
I was offered the opportunity to pick the mind of the Head of Narration at DON’T NOD and the Narrative Director of the game, Stéphane Beauverger, and they had some great insight into the story behind Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Between Easter eggs, a brilliant love story, and various endings, there is a lot to uncover in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.
Can you give us a short rundown of the main story in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden?
Stéphane Beauverger: The fictional small town of New Eden, Massachusetts, 1695. Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte are a couple of Banishers, meaning they are highly trained ghost hunters. They both have been hired by an old friend of theirs to help his secluded community to get rid of an alarming curse. A powerful ghost may be lurking in New Eden, poisoning the minds and the bodies.
Red and Antea will quickly discover that the said ghost is really powerful, and really angry. After Antea gets killed by the vicious spirit, she comes back to help Red defeat the — for now — unidentified entity. The couple will have to dig deeper and deeper into New Eden’s past to understand how to lift this terrifying curse and how to help Antea escape her current situation (she really hates being a ghost) by letting her go for good or by trying to find a way to bring her back to life.
Do we have any backstory on Red and Antea that you can share?
Stéphane Beauverger: Antea comes from Cuba. Her mother was a spiritual healer who quickly understood that her daughter had the gift: Antea was only four years old when she saw her first ghost. Red comes from a Scottish Highlander family. In his past, he earned money as a soldier and mercenary across Europe, and he only got interested in ghosts and how to get rid of them when he found himself haunted by the spirits of people he had killed during battles.
When they first met, Antea quite disliked that scruffy and smelly Scotsman desperately seeking advice about banishers and ghosts. In the end, they both realized they had found someone who completed them, and they have been in love since then.
You can feel the love between them with barely any backstory. Is that intentional?
Stéphane Beauverger: Of course it is. We worked very hard for the players to smoothly enter and discover the couple’s intimacy, little by little, without delivering some “heavy background dish” to digest from the beginning of the game. Red and Antea are in love. It is a fact.
We just made sure it was perceived through their dialogues, their gestures, sometimes even the look they give to each other. Also, we were lucky to have two brilliant actors, Russ Bain and Amaka Okafor, to give flesh and consistency to our loving Banishers in all the spectrum of emotions they go through during their journey.
DON’T NOD is known for their stories. How much pressure is there when making a new game that the story lives up to the last?
Stéphane Beauverger: I believe it is a question of heritage. Each time we work on a new script, we can look back at the narrative quality of the previous games and try to do better, or at least as good as the older projects. It also comes from the quality of the people we recruit, we try to make sure they are in touch with the type of stories and characters’ background DON’T NOD likes to offer to the audience.
Where does the process start in designing a story this complex?
Stéphane Beauverger: It starts with a simple question: what is the game’s main theme? What do we want to say? And once we have our answers, it is only a matter of time and budget: how to tell the best story, within the budget and planning limits we have? We are crafters, really. We work with an established plan, and we try to build the story we first wrote down with a pencil on paper (or a keyboard and a screen) with the best possible amount of revelation, emotion and coherence.
With Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden taking place in the 1690s, are there any historical accuracies, or are we taking history with a grain of salt, given ghosts and all?
Stéphane Beauverger: When working on a game with an authentic historical background, we try to make sure we depict as accurately as possible the era we are going to show to the players… before giving it the needed supernatural twist. For instance, we did a lot of research to correctly represent the buildings, the clothes, and the social rules of the 1690s North American Puritans (they did not always wear black, they had coloured clothes.
They drank more beer than water, but you could be publicly shamed — or worse — if caught smoking on a Sunday. As a rule, we want the players to feel the ambience of the game’s era without being too strict about details whenever it becomes too much of an obstacle for our teams or the players.
How much time and effort goes into the written pieces you find on your journey in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden? Are there any hidden Easter eggs or tidbits people will regret missing if they don’t read them?
Stéphane Beauverger: Of course, there are some Easter eggs. The greatest pleasure, as a game maker, is to hide references in our work, to be later spotted by the players. Some are easy, others are much more obscure, some are very personal and meaningful only for those who put them in the game.
But we also make sure the story remains understandable for the players who do not want to read all the lore content hidden in the game. They might miss some details or not totally understand why some characters react the way they do, but the core keys of the story and characters’ backgrounds are always displayed on the mandatory game path.
How does the team at DON’T NOD decide where to add twists and turns in a game like this, does it have solid story branches from the beginning, or does it evolve as time goes on?
Stéphane Beauverger: As said above, the story structure is established before actually building the scene, writing the dialogues and shooting the cinematics. Of course, there is always some narrative patches to add during the game’s production, and details might evolve as time goes by, but the core structure is mastered long before actually making the game. As a Narrative Director, it is my duty to make sure the narrative ship does not go adrift until the game is finally released.
How many different outcomes do you think players will find in Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden? It feels like there is a lot of replay value.
Stéphane Beauverger: There are five different endings to the game’s main quest. They are based on each crucial decision made by each player during the story. But of course, there also are many variations, depending on some less important decisions made in each community. Who to spare? Who to blame? Which ghost to violently banish or gently let go? Each time you make such a choice, some consequences will be applied in the game, for the remaining characters.
Without spoilers, what do you hope players take away from their time with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden?
Stéphane Beauverger: That is not for us to say. As I often say, we tell stories to ask questions, not to deliver answers. Each time a player reaches the end of the game, and puts down the pad with a burst of emotion, our job is done. Each time a player feels caught by a character’s destiny, a line of dialogue, a happy ending or a sad backstory, our job is done. Each time players try to put themselves in the shoes of the characters we created, our job is done.