Tales Of Kenzera: Zau – New Game Inspired By House Of The Dragon Actor's Grief After Losing His Father | Arts & Arts News

Growing up, Abubakar Salim never dreamed of being a screen star.

The Jamestown and Raised by Wolves actor joins the cast of HBO and Sky this year House of the DragonHe doesn't care much about the worlds of TV and film where he made his name.

„As a kid, I really didn't like TV,” he recalls. „The cartoons were great, but because they were at a certain time, you couldn't watch them forever!”

Due to his dyslexia, reading also did not come naturally. A young man goes to Salim, by way of Abu Games It proved escapist.

“I had a wish – my father saw to it.

„If it wasn't for sports, I wouldn't be an actor – they fueled my love of storytelling. And my dad saw that they were the only way for me.”

Abu and his father shared a deep love for video games. Image: E.A

'He knew I was attracted'

Abu's father Ali, a Kenya-Born software engineer, nurtured passion for technology Hertfordshire with his mother.

The father-son relationship was largely driven by a passion for games, with shared adventures in Sonic the Hedgehog and The Legend of Zelda.

„He knew I was attracted,” says the actor.

Zelda recalls a moment in the game that „always freaks me out” (with zombies, we've all been there), fondly recalling how her dad would sit next to her as Abu went through it.

„It always felt like, 'OK, he's with me — I feel ready.'”

Abubakar Saleem in Raised by Wolves. Image: Coco Van Oppens/HBO/Kobal/Shutterstock

A sad story

But Ali never saw his son, now 31, in his breakthrough roles.

A 66-year-old man died Cancer In 2013, several years before Abu changed his name to a BAFTA– Nominated Actor.

More than a decade later, the loss inspired his ultimate passion project — a new action-adventure game of the type they enjoyed playing together, shaped by his experience of grief.

Tales Of Kenzera: Zau, which releases on April 23 PlayStation, XboxPC, and Nintendo Switch is the first title from UK-based Surgent Studios, founded by Abu in 2019.

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Players take on the role of Jau, a powerful but sadistic warrior determined to bring his father back from the dead.

It was inspired not only by the tragedy of Abu, but also by the myths and legends of the Bantu – a mix of hundreds of ethnic groups from countries across central and southern Africa, including Kenya.

Tales Of Kenzera: Zau is the first game from Abu Salim's own games studio. Image: E.A

A place of interest

In a medium that is, increasingly, still dominated by familiar franchises and white protagonists, Zau's inspirations create a striking aesthetic.

Although the entire game can be played in Swahili, „it came from a place of interest,” Abu says.

He previously voiced the main character in 2017's Assassin's Creed Origins, his first gaming role and — along with the broader scope of that title — making him the narrator of my spare time of the year.

That's what prompted Abu to figure out what he needed to do to create his own games, creating the world of Kensera and assembling a team to „tell stories in a different light.”

The team is only 30 people, dwarfed by the hundreds or thousands who make the Assassin's Creed games, but brings together a diverse range of British talent – some of whom share Abu's unconventional journey into game development.

Abu Salim tests the stories of Kencera: Zaw. Image: E.A

A united team

Composer Nainita Desai, born to Indian parents, learned violin and piano at school, joined a choir and had her own pop band, but she put her musical ambitions on hold to study mathematics at university.

„I didn't realize that making music was something you could have as a career,” he admits.

„I thought it was something for old white guys!”

Nainita Desai. Image: Her

She's enjoyed a career in films, TV and games – but few have sparked as much interest as Jau, who saw her work with a diverse band in London's Abbey Road, combining the „ancient sounds of African cultures” with modern synths. A score that has already been hailed as a potential award contender.

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Desai listed vocality, performed in the same choir Marvel's Black Panther films.

The focus on Africa's rich Bantu mythology, he says, is one of the things that made Kensera such a compelling project, „beautiful, rich.”

For artist Ackeem Durrant, games like God of War and movies like Thor are opportunities to bring its stories to a wider audience the way Norse and Greek mythology did.

„When you see these things in the media, you go and Google them, right? Look at these things,” he says.

„We really want to promote Bantu culture by covering it in this game – it's a big rabbit hole to go down.”

Akeem Durant. Image: E.A

Sergeant draws from the Pantheon to inspire everything from the environments players explore, the enemies they fight, and the skills they learn during gameplay.

The so-called „Metroidvania” genre, named after the influential 2D Metroid and Castlevania franchises, is known for its addictive combination of combat, puzzles and exploration.

Enemy inspirations include the water spirit Tikoloshe and the fire spirit Kalunga, while the levels – from the Kakaramban highlands to the Kivulian forests – are drawn across the continent's diverse landscapes.

Lead designer G Peters describes it as a world players will initially „feel a bit lost”.

'You are not alone'

But despite the rabbit hole of Bantu mythology that the developers may have gone down, they never lost sight of the game's overarching inspiration – sad.

„This game will be an experience to show people that they're not alone,” says Peters, who lost his father to cancer when he was 20.

„It's one of those things, especially when it comes earlier than you expect, that you can't plan for.

„You have to let yourself feel it, don't force yourself, but don't let it completely overwhelm you.”

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Each stage of Jau's journey and the skills he learns „act as an analogy for the journey of grief”, ensuring that how the story and players interact with the game actually „sits in harmony”.

Day Peters. Image: Her

Evolution and change

For Abu, that's what makes games such a powerful tool for storytelling, pushing people to „think differently.”

“If I had known when I was a kid that you could actually get into sports, I would have gone straight to the games,” he admits.

Where a movie or show just „makes you fly off the wall”, a game „puts you in the shoes of a character, you travel with them through the journey of what they're going through, and you evolve and change with them”.

Abu has already done a lot of the whole „making and changing” thing, with his father's death forcing him to „accept the new version of me and be at peace with it.”

Whether it's the death of a loved one or friend, a breakup or job loss, „it never leaves you,” she says.

„You grow comfortable with it — you just have to accept it and keep going, keep pushing.”

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Abu Bakr Salim. Image: E.A

'I think he'd like it'

Early buzz around Zau has been positive – reported Sports Awards last yearPerhaps this year's show will end up being a full-circle moment.

Whatever the reception, Abu may have already made the most important people proud.

„After we announced the trailer I showed it to my mom and she was very impressed,” he says with a smile.

„She said, 'I've never seen it before!' My mom is 70 so it's nice to have that effect and surprise someone who thinks they've seen it all.

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And what about Dad? What would he have done with it?

„He's like, 'You could have done like a Sonic the Hedgehog! This is so deep, man!'

„No,” laughs Abu. „I think he would have liked it.”

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