Abubakar Salim, best known for his acting roles in popular television series and as the voice of Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins, has been developing a secret project behind the scenes. At The Game Awards 2023, Salim finally announced his upcoming action-adventure platformer game called Tales of Kenzera: ZAU. This game, under the development of Surgent Studios, a media company founded by Salim himself, will be published by EA Originals. Tales of Kenzera follows the story of Zau, a young hero who bargains with the God of Death to bring his father back to life. In this Metroidvania-inspired world, players will navigate through a colorful and vibrant environment, learning shaman abilities, engaging in fast-paced combat with spirits, and ultimately healing Zau’s spirit.

Salim drew inspiration for Tales of Kenzera from his personal experience with grief after losing his father. He saw the game medium as the best way to share his journey and emotions with others. With the support of friends in the games industry, including Josef Fares of Hazelight Studios and a friend at EA, Salim pitched the game to EA Originals. Despite having doubts, the project was signed, and the development process began. Salim’s love for storytelling, instilled in him by his father, drove him to create a game that would emotionally impact players and honor his father’s memory.

Tales of Kenzera is not only a game about grief but also a celebration of love and the power of human emotions. Salim emphasized that playing the game will not miraculously cure grief but rather allow players to experience the range of emotions associated with loss. Echoing a line from WandaVision, Salim explained, “What is grief but love persevering?” The game aims to capture the essence of both the brightest memories and the darkest depths of losing a loved one. It is an emotional journey filled with action, color, vibrancy, and kinetic movement.

Bantu Mythology

The lore of Tales of Kenzera draws inspiration from real-world Bantu mythology. Salim, fascinated by his father’s stories about a traditional healer, found the mythology’s elements both cool and wacky. The exposure to different cultures during his time filming Raised By Wolves in South Africa broadened his appreciation for various mythologies, including Norse, Greek, and Philippine. Bantu mythology became the perspective he wanted to delve into, without intending to educate but rather to explore and play with it.

Salim chose the medium of gaming to tell Zau’s story because it offers a deeper level of immersion and active participation from players. He compared the game’s Metroidvania structure to the journey of grief, where players initially feel lost and gradually discover tools and abilities that aid in progression. The game is also a homage to side-scrollers, as Salim played many of them with his father during his younger years.

Salim aims to present a different perspective on grief through Tales of Kenzera. He believes that grief is not always heavy and sad but can encompass a wide range of emotions. The game reflects this messy and chaotic nature of grief, allowing players to experience elements of relief and confusion. Honesty is a priority for Surgent Studios in portraying this concept, ensuring that the game remains true to the experiences of everyone involved in its development.

While Tales of Kenzera draws inspiration from Salim’s personal experiences, it is not merely a cathartic outlet for him. The game has its own identity and story, separate from Salim’s individual journey. He has been open and vulnerable in sharing his own stories but recognizes that the game itself is its own entity and a reflection of the collective experiences and emotions of the team. Salim values sincerity over theatrics and hopes that the game conveys a greater human truth.

Abubakar Salim’s journey from actor to game developer has led to the creation of Tales of Kenzera: ZAU. This action-adventure platformer, inspired by personal grief and infused with Bantu mythology, offers players a colorful and emotional journey through the eyes of Zau. Salim’s commitment to storytelling and his desire to share his own experiences have shaped the narrative of the game. Tales of Kenzera is not just a game about grief but a celebration of love and the human capacity to persevere in the face of loss.

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