Amazon and HBO battle it out for best fantasy prequel with ‘House of the Dragon,’ ‘Rings of Power’

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

"House of the Dragon," The Last of Us and Dragalia Lost.

Spend the weekend in.

Image: HBO, Sony Interactive Entertainment; The Verge

Fantasy fans can feast this weekend on the two biggest prequels in prestige TV: The third episode of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” airs Sunday, while Amazon’s two-episode premiere of LOTR prequel “Rings of Power” landed for U.S. Prime subscribers Thursday evening. After that, consider diving back into Naughty Dog’s PS5 remake of The Last of Us.

One prequel to rule them all with Amazon’s ‘Rings of Power’

While HBO is riding high on the success of “House of the Dragon,” Amazon is trying its hand at the arguably even trickier task of reviving the high fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” in a new mass media format. The Warner Bros. film trilogy is one of the most beloved adaptations of all time, and the expectations for the “Rings of Power” TV series, which is set thousands of years before the films, are mixed, with many fans wondering if it might flop without strong enough threads tying it back to Frodo Baggins and crew. But early reviews are positive, and Amazon spent a staggering $715 million on the series’ licensing rights and first-season budget. Let’s hope it was money well spent.

‘House of the Dragon’ soars into its third episode with a season two renewal

Despite what the internet may tell you about the lasting legacy of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the worldbuilding of author George R.R. Martin remains unrivaled, and the engrossing political drama on “House of the Dragon” is yet more proof. The prequel series, adapted from Martin’s “Fire & Blood” and focused on the Targaryen war of succession, premiered to a record 10 million viewers in its first episode last month, while last week’s follow-up actually increased the show’s viewership to 10.2 million. A second season has already been ordered, and it’s clear why: The world of Westeros is rich in lore, and “House of the Dragon” is so far doing a great job of teasing it out in new and unique ways.

Not all free-to-play games last forever

The success of the free-to-play business model has become a central narrative in the trajectory of the game industry and in particular the explosive growth of mobile gaming. But it’s not all meteoric rises and massive revenue gains. A new report at The Verge examines the unfortunate aftermath of free-to-play hits shutting down in the wake of Nintendo’s planned shuttering of Dragalia Lost. With single-player titles, you can always revisit them, but when free-to-play games get shut down, they’re gone for good — taking players’ hard-earned progress and paid-for cosmetics with them.

The Last of Us Part 1 is back, again

The video game industry’s tried-and-true practice of repackaging old products and marketing them with nostalgia is out in full force with Friday’s release of The Last of Us Part I. It’s a remake of a 9-year-old game, which already has its own remastered version, with a retail price of $70. The title, released as a kind of swan song to the PS3 back in 2013, is heralded as one of the best single-player narrative games of all time. But it’s also an open question of whether it justifies its own cost.

The new remake, which builds on the 2014 remaster of the game with a major visual overhaul for the PS5 and other small tweaks and changes, is certainly aimed at diehard fans. That makes it hard to recommend, especially without the multiplayer component of the original. That is unless you never played the original. If this would be your first time taking the reins of Joel and Ellie in their post-apocalyptic zombie adventure, it’s definitely worth the steep price tag. For everyone else, perhaps it’s best waiting until the game hits PlayStation Plus at some point in the future.

A version of this story also appeared in today’s Entertainment newsletter; subscribe here.

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