Unknown 9: Awakening preview – Possessing potential

Unknown 9: Awakening could be the sleeper hit of 2024.
unknown 9 awakening gameplay combat

Possession is an incredibly powerful and absolutely terrifying ability that rarely pops up in video games, despite its awesome potential. It does feature as a minor power in the Star Wars Jedi series, and is often used as a plot point in fantasy narrative – but rarely is its full scope and potential explored. That may change with Unknown 9: Awakening, a new action-adventure from Bandai Namco Europe-owned studio Reflector Entertainment that appears brimming with fresh twists on psychic warfare and strategy combat.

The game is part of the wider Unknown 9 cross-media franchise, which already contains a novel, comics, and a podcast. It’s the first video game in the series, and the most ambitious story told so far. In a recent preview, GamesHub got the full rundown of the upcoming tale, and came away very keen to see more.

Unknown 9: Awakening puts you in the shoes of Haroona (played by Anya Chalotra of Netflix’s The Witcher), a young Quaestor looking to harness psychic or “Umbric” powers that have a connection to The Fold, a magical dimension that exists in parallel to the real world. She’s driven to explore her potential by thoughts of revenge for her mysterious past, and eventually learns to accept the ‘hero’ mantle, as she battles dark forces in her way.

unknown 9 awakening gameplay
Image: Reflector / Bandai Namco Entertainment

Read: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree launches in June 2024

In the world of Unknown 9, Quaestors are warriors searching for the “elusive” Unknown 9, a group of immortals who secretly guide the world of humans using their magical abilities. Some want to collect the knowledge of the Unknown 9 to better humanity, while others want to exploit it for their own gain.

Haroona’s story was not explicitly told in the Unknown 9: Awakening preview shared with GamesHub, however, it’s clear that her past has influence on her future, and that her mysterious abilities tie her directly to the fate of the Unknown 9.

They also seem very handy in combat, as one of the biggest highlights of the game’s preview was its multi-faceted, strategy-based combat systems that play out in real time. Using her connection to The Fold, Haroona can deploy a range of incredibly cool-looking abilities, to either get hands-on with destructive combat, or use stealth and clever thinking to attack from the shadows.

Haroona’s combat skills include shield summoning, pulling and pushing enemies using telekinesis, kicking and hand-to-hand attacks, as well as her most powerful tool: “stepping,” otherwise known as possession.

Activate Haroona’s stepping ability, and you’ll be able to literally step into an enemy’s shoes for a period of time. While in this mode, you can attack other enemies, attack destructive items on the battlefield (ie. make your possessed enemy stick a hand in a generator) or just move them out of the way, clearing a path for your attack. Time slows down in this mode, allowing you to carefully plan out your steps, reposition enemies as you desire, and pull off explosive attacks that have a domino effect on the battlefield.

As Haroona’s skills grow, she’ll also be able to add extra steps, making combat even more complex. With two steps, you can reposition an enemy, then initiate a secondary attack with another enemy, potentially taking down two or more enemies in a single move – all while staying safe in grass cover, and never losing health. In action, the moves look fantastic.

While game previews are designed to narrowly highlight the strengths of upcoming games, the stepping mechanic here near-singlehandedly convinced me of Unknown 9: Awakening‘s potential. While the preview also revealed a glimpse at a diverse array of locales (deserts, jungles, cities, and beyond) what was most exciting was its more tactical aspects, and the potential for stealth gameplay supported by these possession mechanics.

unknown 9 awakening combat
Image: Reflector / Bandai Namco Entertainment

What initially appeared to be akin to Assassin’s Creed in its approach to stealth exploration and enemy combat quickly revealed itself to be something much more – and something with the potential to be one of 2024’s major sleeper hits. If you don’t have this game on your radar, it’s time to put your antenna up. Unknown 9: Awakening could be something very special.

As announced, there’s not long to wait before we see more of it. Per Reflector Entertainment, the game is currently targeting a release in Summer 2024 [Northern Hemisphere].

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.