header is screenshot from Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden
Haunted Objects
Yussef Cole

This essay discusses the entirety of the plot of Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden.

This essay contains discussion about suicide.

Red mac Raith and Antea Duarte, of Scottish and Cuban origin respectively, are a pair of committed lovers and globe-trotting ghost hunters who are the eponymous leads of Don’t Nod’s Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. Their mutual history extends long before the events of the game, with mentions of estranged family, lost kin, erstwhile friends, and lovers, too. In Banishers’ New Eden, an America of sorts, their lifelong journey reaches an end, of sorts. Their bond is sundered by a settler-colonial nightmare.

New Eden exists in a purgatorial dream space, unmoored and disconnected from its historical context. Though it is a fictional location in 17th century New England, there are virtually no indigenous people or nations to be found. Neatly enough, most were wiped out decades prior by genocidal war campaigns and pandemics. The rest stay away from the area apparently out of superstitious fear. They exist only as memories, as abstract markers of the White Man’s Guilt, which New Eden contains in abundance.

New Eden is a site shrouded in fog and memories and haunted by shame. It is here, at the end of the game’s introductory chapter, that Antea Duarte is annihilated by the vengeful spirit of a woman accused of witchcraft and summarily murdered by a mob.

Soon after Antea’s death, continuing the game as the surviving and mournful Red, players are given a choice. Antea’s ghost returns to Red, drawn to him from out of the timeless void, and presents him with two options. First, to accept that she is dead and agree to let her pass on, to “ascend” at the game’s conclusion. It’s undeniably the natural choice. Games tend to offer a kind of suspended immortality for most of their runtime. Nothing really dies in a game until you reach its authored end; when you arrive, finally, at the death of the experience itself. It makes sense then, that once the story is finally over, Antea can disappear from Red’s life just as the game’s executable may be safely removed from my console’s hard drive.

The other choice presented is to resist, to resist both reality and nature. To hold on to Antea and work to bring her back through a dark necromantic ritual which requires the sacrifice of dozens of innocent souls, all in order to corporealize what wasn’t meant to be. To “ … [snatch] at the chance to undo what had been done,” as Red puts it.

I decided to follow this latter direction. Not because it was the more ethical decision–it’s clearly an unhinged abandonment of all that is right and good in favor of pure solipsistic denial–but because it promised to be the more interesting one. What would it mean to push up against, and ultimately past, a moral limit in this way? To act as a parasite on the narrative layer of a game in the same way that player characters often act as parasites on the mechanical layer: hoovering up loose coins and experience points and shiny collectible trinkets until we balloon up and must force our obscene bulk through the game’s finale like a camel through that proverbial eye of the needle.

Playing in this manner, mowing my way through gormless, god-fearing settlers, there’s a kind of sadistic pleasure to be found in the process. The contrast between Red and Antea’s dignified politesse and light, measured tread through the twisted affairs of the mud-caked villagers, next to the grim, inevitable conclusion of each haunting case, when, flimsy pretext found, Red wrenches the living soul out of his victim and delivers its glowing aura to Antea in an elegantly animated morbid embrace. Red and Antea’s hands intertwine and their mouths come close, the living and the dead commingle and almost seem to get off together on the stolen human essence, while in the background we watch the victim’s lifeless husk drop like a ragdoll to the floor.

After a while, though, the brutality of your behavior begins to outweigh any of the rebellious fun to be had. The world map, brimming with waypoints of various haunting side quests to solve, far from filling me with excitement at all the future narrative vignettes to uncover, begins to fill me with dread and suffocating malaise. As engaging and well-written as many of the stories are, I know that my role will always–as long as I am committed to seeing the ending of Antea’s resurrection–involve concluding them in the worst possible way, to curtail the haunting only by prematurely ending the life of the haunted. By the game’s last few chapters, a deathly exhaustion begins to set in. The price to be paid exacts a formidable toll. Antea admits to Red: “The closer we get to my return, the further from life I feel.”

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, cosmonaut psychologist Kris Kelvin travels to a research station floating above the murky ocean of an alien planet. There, he finds waiting a perfect living replica of his wife, Hari, who had taken her own life several years before. This newly manifested version is indistinguishable from Kelvin’s memory of Hari, down to the torn dress he found her in, with a needle prick on her shoulder where the fatal poison was injected.

She is Kelvin’s instantiated memory; not Hari, his wife, but Hari as a manifestation of his guilt and loneliness. Yet even as a memory she has motivation and agency and is painfully aware of her own compromised status. Replica Hari ultimately decides to end her own life, rather than to continue haunting Kelvin, to continue devouring his mournful soul.

This reflects a certain twisted logic in the way Banishers plays out. To be haunted in Banishers is to be like Kelvin. Your grief is projected externally and returns, rematerialized as a ghost. It becomes an object, something you can see and touch; something that is both part of you and separate from you at the same time. It drains you, but you also feed off of it, a perverse loop spiraling toward death. 

Sigmund Freud sheds some light on this phenomenon in his paper, "Mourning and Melancholia." In it he theorizes that when you are unable to let go of your grief for a lost loved one (a lost object), and are unable to free yourself in order to be able to love another, a “... shadow of the object [falls] upon the ego, and the latter could henceforth be judged by a special agency, as though it were an object, the forsaken object.” Your divided ego, or self-image, is split, and part of it takes the form of the previously lost object, which you can argue with, struggle against, hold tightly, and be crushed by. The widowed Helen in Banishers, mourning her husband Sebastian, lost in the mines of Fort Jericho, describes it best: “His absence gave me substance. I clung to it.”

To explain the suicidal impulse, Freud describes how since, in melancholic states, we are able to split ourselves apart from our ego, we can cast our rage at that split off self, and can even destroy that split off self, (which remains, in the end, ourselves). In Banishers, to be haunted is to be hounded by this split self. These feelings of loss, of guilt, of rage, are then turned around and pointed inward, since the person you might otherwise have pointed them at is gone. It makes sense then, that in the game, those who are haunted are also being drained, and will inevitably die. As Hari’s deleterious effect on Kelvin shows in Solaris, to be forced to face, head-on, your guilt, your innermost shame, means inevitably to be destroyed.

In one haunting case, an old woman feels so guilty about her involvement in the nightmare inciting witch trial, that she has somehow repressed the memories of her role in the trial into the consciousness of a doppelganger ghost, who keeps them safe and hidden. Once her memory returns, she begs for Red’s touch of death; she cannot bear to recognize that the repressed and distanced object has been hidden within her all along.

Throughout New Eden, the overwhelming sense of guilt about past misdeeds sits heavy. “Wherefore the paradise of New Eden, eh?” a haunted Fort Jericho soldier begs to know. “What a hole we’ve made of it. Mind you, if we stop digging we die.” They’ve been digging, unthinking, for years, compelled as they are by god and king. They fear everything around them, they lash out in paranoid mob violence at witches and devils and carry the subsequent guilt at the consequences of this violence with them to their graves. The problem is that in making the decision to ignore Antea’s death, to actively fight against its natural encroachment, Red and Antea have fallen into the hole with them.

Tarkovsky, in an interview about Solaris, said he wanted to show “ … that love of the other is indispensable to all life.” In Banishers, a ghost chides Antea: “To be alone is to be dead.” Love being indispensable to life explains why we act so forcefully, so impetuously, to retain it even after it has been lost; going so far as to create a false object in our minds of what we lost, allowing ourselves to be haunted, to succumb. While Hari saves Kelvin from himself in Solaris and disappears gracefully, Antea does not, remaining at Red’s side, even as she sees what her presence is doing to him, to them both; sees the mounting human sacrifices they must pile up high in order to keep their shattered love alive.

I half expected that the pair would get punished by the plot in the end, that the game’s ending would turn out as badly as the moment to moment decisions of the game made me feel. But it isn’t a “bad” ending, not exactly. Antea and Red dispatch the nightmare and end the curse. Antea returns to her body, held in inert and impossibly pristine stasis at the site of her original demise. She rises stiffly, looking to Red. Overcome with emotion–with happiness mixed with guilt and terror–Red falls to his knees and wraps his arms around Antea’s waist like a child would hold on to his mother. He eventually stands and they embrace, both staring past each other into an unfathomable distance.

Antea is returned, yes, but she is forever changed. “Nothing shall ever be the same again,” says Red. Touched by the curse of New Eden, by its suffocating guilt, their reunion is full of emotion but it is empty of meaning. It has been hollowed out by death forced unnaturally into the guise of the living. The game is over, but I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment. 

In the ending where you let Antea ascend there is a true sense of forward momentum, of a sad finality that nonetheless feels earned. “When the work of mourning is complete,” Freud states, “ … the ego becomes free and uninhibited again.” There is a sadness in freedom, but there is hope, too. Here, hope extinguishes, even as what is most ardently wished for is granted. Time stays stuck in place, the couple floats unsteady, haunted by their past, and there is no one left to deliver them from their grief.


Yussef Cole, one of Bullet Points’ editors, is a writer and motion graphic designer. His writing on games stems from an appreciation of the medium tied with a desire to tear it all down so that something better might be built. Find him on Bluesky @youmeyou.bsky.social.