"Can you not see a world of troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?"
A World Half Full is the other half of the more depressing Crapsack World (which was formerly known as World Half Empty). It is usually featured in a similar condition to the above, a place where the world is in an extremely broken state. In fact it is almost the same hellhole as it was when it was more depressing. However, it can be saved, sort of...
In this world, the Protagonist is only one man, he can't bring life instantly to an abandoned village, but he can find the materials needed to bring upon the seeds of growth that will bring life back to the once desolate town. However, such changes are not overnight miracles and in fact many of them will not be noticed in his or her lifetime. He is also quite tempted to exploit the wasteland and will have to resist such urges. More Anti Heroic characters may not even bother holding back.
Just as before, the forces of darkness run through relatively unmolested and it is ill advised for players to confront them head on. Most of the time, the player or protagonist will skirt around the major sources of power and just go for the source of ills itself and it will rarely result in the total destruction of the enemy, especially if the problem is Inherent in the System and the Big Bad is, for all his current importance, ultimately replaceable.
However, victory is often a minor one as it is only a small portion of a constantly decaying world that has been fixed. While you may change life for the better for your people and solve today's ills, everyone else could potentially suffer whether or not you are deliberately or accidentally causing it through false progress or is still suffering as usual, unaffected by the hero's successes. Nevertheless, it's still better than waiting for the end to come, as any Knight in Sour Armor will tell you.
Anime and Manga
- Fist of the North Star exemplifies this: just because the world is torn by nuclear fire doesn't mean it can't be rebuilt, and just because violence can be used to oppress the weak doesn't mean you can't use it to protect the weak and and make the world a better place either.
- Code Geass: A third of the world is ruled by an insane Nietzsche Wannabe. Another third is ruled by the corrupt advisers of a pre-teen child empress. They are locked into a state of perpetual war, while we never see the other third. The hero is a cynical JerkAss who commits morally questionable acts with frightening regularity, and the nicest and most idealistic character in the series is an self-deluded Knight Templar who is complicit in genocide. However, the ending does provide some measure of hope that things will get better, with most of the surviving characters shown to be relatively happy, although it's a Bittersweet Ending for all of the major protagonists..
- Ghost in the Shell is a world half full for most of the main characters. They frequently expose corruption and conspiracies, and stop terrorists from killing more innocents, but at the end of the day, their actions don't do anything to change the corrupt and uncaring system of Japanese society. Still, they feel pretty good about what little good they can do.
- Gundam X was all about this, taking place After the End. We would expect a Mad Max or Hokuto no Ken world where the entire earth was an unsafe place where slavers took anyone they like, Raider left behind huge examples of their brutality and the government purging and reclaiming what is theirs. Instead humanity continue to move on. The world isn't some sort of badly irradiated earth despite its share of Colony Drop and humanity has begun its path towards civilization. Sure we got a few hiccups like the Frost Brothers and remnant of Earth and Space's army wanting to continue the war. But the setting notably light for a supposedly Crapsack World.
- Gundam 00 and Gundam SEED are also like this.
- And this is the reason Marina Ismail and the Celestial Being - as well as Lacus Clyne and the Three-Ship Alliance are here, To make sure their worlds don't become true crapsack ones.
- The world in Gundam 00 was even prior to CB's world intervention far from being crapsack.
- Gundam AGE starts off as this. In spite of the Earth Federation being rotten and incompetent in handling the problem of the Ax Crazy UE murdering colonies mercilessly, Flit Asuno and Grodek were dedicated in saving the humanity from the UE's vile clutches and promoting peace and harmony. That is, until the Diva's crew realize that the UE are human soldiers for Veigan and Grodek shows that his true goal was revenge against the man who killed his family, not to saving humanity. Worst of all, Flit Asuno refuses to accept that the Veigan soldiers are human and prefers to continue viewing himself as a savior... for the corrupt Earth Federation. And he's more than willing to take Veigan lives to become this. The war's only going to get worse from there...
- G Gundam, once Domon finds out just how the Gundam Fights have destroyed Earth and The Devil Gundam's true programming and Master Asia's intentions. He finds out that everyone he thought was a villain was really trying to restore Earth and protect it from the real bad guys.
- Darker than Black is a Darker and Edgier Deconstruction of superhumans, whose protagonist is a mass-murdering assassin who's basically just working for The Syndicate for lack of other options. The world is full of superpowered sociopaths, and the governmental agencies and criminal groups that employ them are locked in a pretty much constant underground struggle to control both the Contractors and the Imported Alien Phlebotinum from the Gate. Nevertheless, over the course of the show it becomes clear that Contractors can have feelings and morals, and that it's possible for things to improve; several mini-arcs end relatively happily, and in the end Hei manages to Take a Third Option when forced to choose between allowing a genocide of all Contractors and wiping Japan off the map, and the end of the first season shows that the broken Masquerade will help prevent rogue Contractors from running wild. Still a Bittersweet Ending, and things haven't improved too much by the second season, but there's hope.
- Pleasant as it may seem, So Ra No Wo To's Earth is dying a slow death while the survivors fight for the last fertile lands rather than cooperate. Yet the girls of the Helvetian 1121st Tank Platoon and their bastard princess friend will have none of that.
- Monster is a bleak world where lots of violence and death happens. The villain, Johan, is a heavy contender for the most evil bastard ever written into existence (he was the trope image). But its shown that he and his supporters are the exception. Most of the people in the series are decent to really good people who just want to help others succeed or atone for past misdeeds. And those who go through horrific trauma can put the pieces back together and enjoy life. It's never to late to start anew. Accentuated by Nina who after the terrible things she goes through and coming so close to suicide goes on to living a normal and happy life afterwards.
- In Bleach, Soul Society is becoming this, thanks to Ichigo. In chapter 461, we've learned that the influence of Ichigo Kurosaki has changed General Yamamoto so thoroughly that the previously Lawful Neutral commander of the Gotei 13 gave a direct order to all Gotei Captains to restore Ichigo's powers. Captain Hitsugaya comments that before Ichigo came along, the General never would have given any such order.
- Madoka's Abstract Apotheosis helps Puella Magi Madoka Magica move into this territory.
- The DC Universe and Marvel Universe (the mainstream ones anyway) arguably fit this description. Both of them are full of Complete Monsters, terrible beasts from beyond the veil, ruthless alien conquerors, cunning and vicious demons out for souls and blood, charismatic and savvy villains who look cool even when they make life worse for everybody else, masters of dark magic, scientists with absolutely no regard for ethics or safety, insane and insanely powerful machine gods, multiple crime syndicates with access to any combination of the above, and plenty of good ol' fashioned human evil. But even at their lowest points, the heroes of both universes never stop fighting evil, the occasional Heroic BSOD aside. And despite the prevailing All of the Other Reindeer attitude the people of both universes (especially Marvel) display most of the time, plenty of people (not just humans) are decent enough to justify the heroes' efforts to defend them. A brief dialogue from Superman the Animated Series sums it up (paraphrased):
Superman: You came after all. What changed your mind?
- Both universes (especially the DC universe) are subversions though: the people are totally happy and just as well-off (if not even more so, considering their excellent role models/guardians and superior technology and possibilities) as people are in Real Life, because they've been dealing with that sort of thing on an everyday basis for decades, and don't consider the danger and destruction to be anything out of the ordinary, nor does this Seen It All mentality make them cynical or depressed.
- Arguably, from the point of view of mutants if nothing else, the future the X-Man Bishop came from would be a World Half Full contrasted against the Crapsack World future of Days of Future Past. Both look like post-apocalyptic urban hellscapes whenever we see them, but Bishop's future features a mutant police force trying to put the world back together while Days of Future Past has mutants hunted almost to extinction.
- The titular hero of Moonshadow sees his mother die violently, is committed to a madhouse, fights a war and ends up in a concentration camp (among other things) in a world full of meaningless deaths, tragic ironies and no clear answers. Or to quote the title of a work of philosophy everyone in this world has read, We Are All Ants In A Meaningless Cosmos. Regardless, Moonshadow adopts a more hopeful philosophy, though, as exemplified by the other work of philosophy everyone has read, and finds peace anyway. It Makes Sense in Context.
- The ending of Watchmen, possibly. It's a Crapsack World prior to the "villain's" Utopia Justifies the Means gambit, which may or may not be successful.
- Dr. Zhivago: A bourgeois doctor (Omar Sharif) chases the love of his life through Russia after the Revolution and nearly freezes to death in the process, in this David Lean film based on the book by Boris Pasternak.
- Nine might be this Up to Eleven. Everyone in the planet is dead, except for some little robots and a giant war machine that killed all the people. And in the end, life is back - in the form of bacteria, meaning that evolution might take a million years to evolve intelligence again.
- The titular character's job is to clean up the Earth so people can live there again. It gets delayed a bit.
- The Humans aboard the Axiom are a better example, even if it's done for comedy. Wall-E is just following his Directive, The Captain making the decision to return to Earth is this trope.
- The Postman: The world as we know it was destroyed in an apocalypse. The United States no longer exists. Yet Kevin Costner, in an accidental act of heroism, reignites the U.S. Postal Service, bringing hope to the hopeless and hap to the hapless.
- Some of the background material to Avatar implies that the horrific environmental destruction inflicted on Earth might just be capable of repair by imported Pandoran lifeforms, and by learning environmental respect from the Na'vi.
- Life Is Beautiful. A cheerful and whimsical film set in the backdrop of the Holocaust.
- Battleship Potemkin, which ended far more optimistically than the Real Life incident.
- Slumdog Millionaire: Sometimes, in spite of all the impossible obstacles, you get a Happily Ever After.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife: There are life-sucking demons that surface with some frequency and can only be killed with human sacrifice; the Lakewalkers, who fight the demons, don't respect the farmers and the farmers don't trust the Lakewalkers. The heroes of the story don't believe they can eliminate the demons or even make the fight against them substantially easier, but they work to foster greater understanding between the farmer and Lakewalker populations so their society isn't undone by avoidable ignorance and mistrust.
- Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion: The United States and Mexico are both Crapsack World societies, but Matt, now in charge of the nation of Opium, may be able to right many of the problems that have befallen them.
- Robin Jarvis' The Deptford Mice resembles a Crapsack Mouse World at first, with evil gods easily overpowering good, Axe Crazy worshipers roaming the countryside to murder and devour anyone they see, death on a massive scale, and a villain who resurrects himself into a god right after his first defeat. Even the few "good" societies are either extremely insular and intolerant or on the brink of extinction. However, despite all of this, good always endures, and The Final Reckoning ends on a bittersweet note.
- Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Over the course of the series, the entire supporting cast dies meaningless deaths, scheming bureaucrats sacrifice lives like pawns in chess while incompetent commanders vie to out do one another in how many casualties they can rack up, and the only person who has the balls to do anything about it is a self-confessed madman. But at the end, the protagonist has the following revelation: his superiors are literally too incompetent to stop him from deserting, meaning that he could have left anytime he wanted to; the only thing stopping him was his own inaction. He does so, an the story is given at least some semblance of a Happy Ending.
- A Scanner Darkly. The hero's brain is fried from Substance D but that allows him to infiltrate the drug manifacturing facility the rehab clinic he was taken to and gather the evidence needed to destroy the syndicate making the drug.
- "Arda Marred", ie the fallen world in which most of JRR Tolkien's works take place. This is especially notable in The Silmarillion, a long series of defeats and bloody infighting with some rare uplifiting moments and a Bittersweet Ending.
- Stephen King's The Stand. A book in which almost everyone on the planet dies, including the main characters, yet it has a happy ending and the planet got better in the absence of all those humans.
- The galaxy shown in the Star Wars Expanded Universe varies wildly Depending on the Writer, but in all of Matt Stover's books - Shatterpoint, the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Traitor - it's this. The galaxy is corrupt and messy and hostile, people are ungrateful, not everyone can be saved and those who were will die soon enough anyway, nothing will ever last - but it's still worth fighting for a better day, and a difference can be made.
- Andrew Vachss's Burke books. Beneath the veneer of civility citizens see is a veritable cesspit of crime, the system is at best apathetic and at worst actively malicious and Burke can't stamp out all crime or save everyone - in fact, each book's villain invariably has quite a few notches on his belt by the time Burke gets to him - but every scumbag he manages to put down means a few more innocents who won't have to be victims.
- Terry Brooks' The Word and The Void. The war between The Word and The Void will never end, the feeders and the demons will always be trying to corrupt people, and there's no real way for the Knights of the Word to do anything more than stave of Armageddon. Yet in the end, they can save a few people, and that's what really matters.
- Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds. Things are actually worse at the end of the book than at the beginning, but the characters now know not only how to fix things, but also how to make the whole world better than before. It's a very long road, but they've taken the first steps.
- The Harry Potter universe. While Harry might have been the one destined to defeat Voldemort, it's pointed out time and time again that he couldn't have done it without friends. And even if they've defeated the Big Bad, the world will need lots of support to reduce the power of pure-bloods, limit Wizards-First prejudice, reform the extremely screwed-up Ministry of Magic, and make a more peaceful place altogether.
- For those who place the ultra-dark, ultra-depressing The Road on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the characters of the novel move the world to this category. The victories they win are small and moral in nature, and tend to be along the lines of "not eating people." But the strength of spirit in the two protagonists is enough to keep a spark of genuine humanity alive.
Live Action TV
- Firefly/Serenity: The series starts with the protagonist powerless to prevent the destruction of his home world by a Lawful Stupid interplanetary bureaucracy and the final defeat of the Independents at Serenity Valley. His faith in humanity and God shattered, he abandons his cause and flees to the edge of colonized space, where begins life anew as an outlaw space pirate/mercenary. Over the course of the series, The heroes face many hardships, and even their few victories cost them dearly, but ultimately, they are able to find it in themselves to carry on. And when the dust clears, they're still flying. They may not be able to save the galaxy, but they can at least save themselves. And that's a start. By the end of the movie, they've actually unveiled and broken a government human-experiment conspiracy, unlocked River Tam's hidden Badass, inadvertently brought about the decimation of the Reavers, and given the tyrannical government two black eyes and a bloody nose. Dozens of their friends and two of their crew have died, and they're now on the run for their lives from the government's vengeance, but that wasn't much different from what they had before so it's all good. It is indicated that any government vengeance may very well be passive at worst. From the Alliance point of view, the crew of Serenity has done all the damage they possibly could. Indeed, their (implied) victory over the Reavers' fleet could even let them spin this into a huge victory and come out in an even better position than before. It looks like they even helped repair Mal's ship, though that might have just been the Operative using his unquestionable authority to pull strings. That's not to say they probably aren't still wanted criminals, with a number of enemies even among the outlaws, but they're still flying. Which is enough.
- While Joss Whedon likes to use True Art Is Angsty, one can say one can view the world as either half empty or half full in his works. For example, Titan A.E., Earth is gone and we have only begun to rebuild our lives after spending so many years in an inhospitable system mocked and slowly dwindling. Earth was eventually recreated and a new life begins. It will be a while before humanity becomes a superpower, but it is a start.
- Babylon 5
- Garo: Horrors will still arise and plague humanity on a weekly basis, but at least the heroes managed to defeat one major menace.
- The Whoniverse, composed of the series Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures could probably be best described as this. On one hand you have the Torchwood crew, who at best are able to fight aliens and threats, but find themselves weak when having to fight injustices committed by their own governments. On the other hand, you've got characters like the Doctor who swoop in and save the day- but can't (or don't) remain to help deal with the fall-out. In the end, the show is about people, as a whole, deciding to do what's right- whether that's fighting for Ood rights, overcoming corrupt governments, making peace between two races, or something else entirely. While the Doctor can save the day, it's up to the 'normal' people to keep it safe.
- Year of the Rat by Badly Drawn Boy seems to think this trope holds water.
- A lot of Leonard Cohen, especially "Anthem." "Democracy" and "Dance Me to the End of Love" are also up there.
- Deadlands. The setting is an alternate history wild west. After the Europeans settled the whole country, a large number of native americans decided to get revenge, by releasing some Sealed Evil in a Can. Needless to say, the evil is rather indiscriminate. Horrifying monsters lurk in the shadows spreading fear, and a new source of energy, Ghost Rock, has literally fueled a new technological dawn. Of course, it also has the side effect of driving those that work with it absolutely insane as demons haunt their mind. Still, the heroes can, if they so choose (Specifically, if they are heroes, and not merely protagonists), fight back, and make the world just a little bit of a better place, and less welcome for the antagonists.
- Both versions of the World of Darkness tend to be just a Crapsack World. Hunter: The Vigil, however, casts a ray of light, by allowing players to play perfectly normal humans fighting back against the monsters of the night. Likewise, any game where the DM allows the heroes to make positive changes to the world also qualifies.
- Promethean: The Created: You are a monster. Your existence is pain. And if you're playing the game as it's meant to be played, you will grow past all of that, past the slings and arrows of misfortune, To Become Human and know the fruits of the soul.
- Old World of Darkness Mage: The Ascension was a World Half Full which could have a Bittersweet Ending in its canonical metaplot. Mages could and would often make notable progress. Changeling: The Dreaming offered an Earn Your Happy Ending for every Hope Spot and sign that the end was nigh. They were both dark settings, but unlike the relentless progression of evil in the other lines, there was something worth fighting for. Hunter: The Reckoning was unusually brutal, with only a few signs things might get better, by contrast to its successor game.
- Promethean took after Wraith: The Oblivion: as a wraith, you're faced with enemies within and without, the perpetual danger - and temptation - of falling to the dark side, or simply ceasing to exist altogether... but there is a way out. If you can hold on, if you can resolve everything anchoring you to the world, if you can come to terms with your inner darkness, then maybe you can Transcend.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: When the eponymous Apocalypse rolls around, the grey guys will probably lose to the black. But "probably" is not the same as "definitely".
- Quite a few Dungeons & Dragons settings:
- Ravenloft, often thought of as the Crapsack World of the game line, turned out to be a World Half Full. Yes, it's a hellish place, but because it's explicitly stated to be Gothic Horror, it is never "Evil triumphs." The game line ever since its 2nd Edition forms explicitly states evil is being punished and justice may be delayed, but it is not denied. Player characters are often the Spanner in the Works which can bring about that justice and make some small part of the world better. The 3rd Edition White Wolf version even digressed for a few pages about how in early Gothic Horror literature, evil may seem overwhelming, but there was always God or some cosmic force which saw it foiled and punished. Innocents would suffer, but the guilty were damned and would know it.
- Dark Sun is a Death World where the halflings will eat you, magic drains the world of its life, and having enough water to drink is a sign of power. Neutral characters are kind of the norm, but good characters frequently have the chance to affect some small change for the better. Players familiar with the Fallout series would understand.
- Forgotten Realms in its earliest incarnations fit this trope. The world had been ruled and toyed with by one species of Eldritch Abomination after another, and there were whole empires of twisted races as well as cruel empires. However, there were places like Cormyr and the Dales which were the proverbial candles in the dark, the good gods schemed as hard as the evil ones, and most adventures featured chances to save something of value. 4th Edition made it a lot darker, possibly pushing it straight into Crapsack World.
- Dragonlance has whole races and orders of evil knights. The Big Good has to die to stop the Big Bad and the gods remove their support from mortals for a while. It's still a High Fantasy world where some hero has always stepped up in the Darkest Hour. Latter adaptations written by other writers tended to miss this element.
- Planescape has seven independent hells, each infinite, and seven heavens all of which are rather terrifying in their own way. Good is downright terrifying when it isn't pants-on-head stupid. The central City of Adventure is a dystopian blend of Charles Dickens and Dungeon Punk. Completely incompatible ideological groups have taken over vast aspects of public life and so are always a hair's breadth from civil war. Most of the planes are Death Worlds whose (mortal) inhabitants have come up with ways to survive the various demons and Eldritch Abominations. Yet in just the published adventures, players can cripple the demons and devils forever, prevent the return of a massive Big Bad (the trope-naming Orcus), and help free Sigil from its unending strife all before 12th level.
- Eclipse Phase: Extinction is approaching. Fight it.
- The Fallout series was internally described as "post-post-Apocalypse" by the developers of Fallout 2 (and possibly the first), reflecting how the game world immediately centers around civilizations that are making a successful effort and rebuilding, albeit having to deal with how war never changes.
- In the original the player stumbles upon the functional and (barring external influence) post-war stable town of Shady Sands almost immediately upon exiting their vault and learns that, less than 100 years after the war, the world having been rebuilt to the point there's a national currency. The game takes place in a desert not because of ecological damage, but because it's in the real life deserts of the Mojave and Sonora.
- Fallout 2: Each town has their own ending upon the hero defeating the Enclave. The best route of options to save the Wasteland will involve Modoc being able to feed the people surrounding them with the Slags, The Den becoming a tough-but-honest bar, turning New Reno to a center of education, Redding becoming a mining town with its own say in their affairs, and NCR and Vault 15 beginning their path to rebuild civilization. This is of course the most morally correct answer, and naturally screwing up is always possible in Fallout no matter what situation you are in.
- Fallout 3, however, is a pure Crapsack World. You are raised in a Vault that has a despotic authority over its people, a hotel tower housing a snooty man who views the survivors of the Wasteland as entertainment, Ghouls who will use you left and right for their own aims, towns that condone slavery, and our favorite untrusted government remnant come back to purge the Wasteland. Yet in spite of that, you have a father who has an ambitious dream to bring water to the Wasteland ( it's a pity he gets killed for his dream), a radio station that preaches the hopes of the good fight and the freedom fighters who risk their safety to allow an outsider to free slaves, and for the first time in 200 years, a piece of sanctuary (Oasis) that won't get purged by the Enclave and hopefully not by you (compare that to Vault 13 in Fallout 2, where the last of the intelligent Deathclaws were killed off along with others).
- Fallout: New Vegas depicts a world in the Midwest which is steadily recovering and may not be that bad to live in. You'll find working electricity and plumbing, food and fresh water that won't give you a dose of rads with every bite, and even green trees and plants appear. Besides which, it turns out the War might have been actually beneficial to Earth. Before, it was overpopulated, companies controlled nations, and pollution and war were at an all-time high, even as natural resources were reaching their end. After the bombs fall, there are now hundreds of peaceful communities, humanity has never been more technologically advanced, hundreds of new species have evolved, and life is generally more exciting. Probably shorter, but definitely more exciting.
- Instead of a world overpopulated by humans, we have a world overpopulated by giant insects and genetically-engineered horrors like the Deathclaws, a single one of which could easily wipe out a small town were it so inclined. There could be argued to be zero peaceful settlements, because every town needs at several armed guards to protect it from giant ants and Jet-addicted psychopaths. Compared to the Capital Wasteland, though, life in the Mojave is pretty good.
- The Lonesome Road DLC has this at its end. Ulysses wants to rain destruction on everything because he thinks the Bear is diseased, the Bull will feed on itself, and Vegas has too many ghosts of the past to ever let go. You can however convince him that the world can be saved and civilisation built anew - after all, you did it before.
- Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict goes this way with the After the End setting. The world is obliterated, and many of the survivors are still fighting each other- but characters like Captain O'Brian/Brenner, and soon the protagonist Ed/Will hold strong faith in human goodness, and are fighting tooth and nail to save humanity. The 'S' rank victory animation has a touch of this theme, with white doves flying over the devastated battlefield.
- In Epic Mickey, after Mickey Mouse accidentally creates him, the Phantom Blot turns the Cartoon Wasteland into a twisted, Disney Theme Park themed Crapsack World. Part of the game's main plot is that Mickey must stop the Blot and restore the world to its former self.
- In the Wild ARMs series a common theme is how the environment will only last a couple more years, so obviously the main characters save it. Of course, if the manual is correct, and all the games take place on the same planet, there's an invasion/war/disaster scheduled for a century or two after they do save it, and it's going to set everything back to ruined square one... but a new bunch of heroes always end up fixing things a couple thousand years later. It isn't very fun for the people in the intervening years, but things do get fixed eventually each time.
- In World of Warcraft, the world is a broken mess. Demons and undead are rampant and even the local wildlife requires trained warriors and magicians to kill. Irradiated monsters, oozes, corrupt nobles, more demons, rampant racism, magical addiction, eldritch abominations... But. You can make the world better. The monsters are generally killed off and the really nasty characters are decreasing more rapidly than they appear. Things get worse at the beginning of a new expansion, but generally end up slightly better than they were before whatever catastrophe started the expansion in the first place.
- The Burning Crusade introduces Outland, which is a mess physically. It's the remains of a planet torn apart and the remaining pieces just stuck together at random. Things get better through player actions, though they can't fix the planet. Cataclysm will start with Azeroth undergoing the cataclysm in the title, thus getting worse before things get better.
- It's already happening, to a degree. Yes, much of Azeroth was absolutely devastated in The Shattering. However, Desolace is now once again full of plant life, the Plaguelands are slowly recovering from plague toxins due to the Cenarion Circle, Earthen Ring and Argent Crusade, and Duskwood is finally on the road to recovery due to the death of Morbent Fel and the Gilneans bringing the madness cure to the Nightbane worgen, among other recovery efforts
- The Burning Crusade introduces Outland, which is a mess physically. It's the remains of a planet torn apart and the remaining pieces just stuck together at random. Things get better through player actions, though they can't fix the planet. Cataclysm will start with Azeroth undergoing the cataclysm in the title, thus getting worse before things get better.
- Deus Ex, depending on your personal beliefs, any of the endings can fall under this.
- The Milky Way in Mass Effect is a dangerous and brutal place to live. Filled with monstrous aliens, pirate fleets, amoral mercenaries and cruel slavers, with the largest civilized government hamstrung by red tape and millennia of tradition and unwillingness to budge, an entire species has been driven from their homeworld and is locked in a 300 year long Hopeless War with their mechanical creations, and every 50,000-odd years, all technologically advanced sapient life is purged and consumed by Eldritch Abominations. Yet in spite of this, one person can make an incredible difference, galactic peace can be attained, pirates can be brought to justice, slaves can be freed, the aforementioned Hopeless War between the exiled species and their creations can be negotiated to a possible reconciliation, and you can punch out Cthulhu.
- Arguably, the Light Side path of Knights of the Old Republic 2 is this. Either that, or the Exile is merely an Unwitting Pawn. It can be both for a Light Side Exile. Despite how, in the main plot, Kreia is pretty much manipulating everyone all the time, the Exile's actions throughout the Galaxy can drastically improve life for both individuals and for entire planets (though, this being an Obsidian Game, a lot of the 'good' decisions can end up having sizable downsides as well).
- God of War III is this at the end. The world has gone straight to hell due to Kratos killing damn-near every Olympian there is. However, Kratos, in one of his rare acts of selflessness, decides in the end to restore Hope back to the world by sacrificing himself rather than simply handing the power back to Athena. It's still more like "A World Millionth Full", though, when you consider just how many people and creatures he killed For the Evulz.
- City of Heroes, heavily inspired by both Marvel and DC, sets out its world like this. The world is filled with criminals, monsters and Supervillains of every imaginable kind, is recovering from an Alien Invasion that's not quite over, and looking at The Multiverse, this is one of the best options. So what stands in the way of evil? Superheroes. Lots and lots of superheroes. (and even the villains can help out a bit)
- Baroque is set in an After the End world where humanity has been reduced to a handful of mutated freaks whose forms are based on their own individual psychoses. At the end, you don't fix the world. But you do make it so that the world has a chance.
- In a franchise where God is almost always evil or out of the picture, and the heroes never save the day without a huge sacrifice on their part, Persona 4 stands out by having this type of message at the end. It basically boils down to "Humans can act like assholes, but we can change for the better if we have the courage to accept that fact first."
- Devil Survivor also qualifies. God is actually good and will accept whatever future you build, even if you mess up big time! That's right. God basically trusts you to govern the entire planet, in spite of all the horrible things human beings are capable of.
- The world of the Ace Attorney series, though the world's crappiness is much less severe (and therefore much less readily apparent) than many other examples of this trope. Crime is apparently so common that the justice system's been perverted into a series of all-but-kangaroo courts, the vast majority of prosecutors will do anything to get their conviction, and nobody seems to give a good damn about due process or suspect's rights anymore—nobody, that is, except for the main character and his few but loyal allies, who will willingly walk through fire for the innocent, for justice, and for each other.
- Sera in Gears of War becomes this after Adam Fenix's Heroic Sacrifice. The Locust and Lambent are wiped out and the Imulsion is destroyed, but Humanity finally has its future.
- Die Anstalt is crapsacky with the poor stuffed animals driven insane by their owners' abuse, but it takes on more optimistic view if you can cure them. Also, while the Humans Are the Real Monsters, it's not because of malicious intent, but because they're products of a consumerist culture.
- Galaxy Rangers: The Crown Empire may be crumbling, but it's still powerful. The Queen herself is a bloodthirsty, genocidal megalomaniac. The jail system is about as good as Arkham Asylum. Tortuna is a Wretched Hive, and some other planets aren't much better. Earth's politicians are often questionable or worse, as are the business-beings. One of the Rangers is essentially a slave. A quarter of the episodes are Bittersweet Endings. A few are Downer Endings. Oh, and Eliza is never rescued. Still, sometimes the "villains" are merely misguided. There are also GOOD Corporate executives, benevolent scientists, competent military personnel, friendly alien factions, and sometimes the townsfolk have a change of heart and show up to help.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: War, genocide, death, a cast of Child Soldiers on both sides...but that just makes any success by the Gaang all the sweeter.
- The Earth, after the crew and passengers from the Axiom return there. It's still completely covered in garbage and smog. Can it actually sustain life? Who knows, but there's at least one spot where a plant's able to germinate.
- Real Life, for all the problems it still has, seems to be shaping up to be this. Wars are getting less frequent and less severe. The War On Terror- as costly as it is- is nowhere near the scale or death toll of the Vietnam War, World War 2, the Napoleonic Wars, etc. The Internet has allowed the public to more easily see when businesses or politicians behave unethically, discouraging such behavior. Crime and drug addiction are falling, standard of living is improving, people are living longer, and the mentally ill are treated far, far better than they used to be. Civil liberties slowly improved in developed nations until 2001, though they've taken a beating since. And of course there's Earn Your Happy Ending...........
- It gets even better: Terrorism, though perceived as global, is generally a regional issue at worst, and though some forms of crime have increased, violent crime rates have decreased dramatically (which, unfortunately, doesn't change the fact that close to 2% of Americans are imprisoned). And although some germs have become resistant to antibiotics, new and better antibiotics to which disease have not developed resistances are invented every year. Divorce, abortion and illegitimacy are far more frequent than ever, but far greater (and increasing) tolerance makes such things almost irrelevant and devoid of real stigma, at least in the developed world. Unemployment and poverty are in decline. The world economy continues to grow, though rather more slowly in the developed world. The Internet has opened new avenues for creative crime, but still far fewer than in the past. Slavery does still exist, and is far more commonplace than anyone would like to admit (especially considering that slavery is finally illegal in every country) and there are more slaves today than at any point in history (between 12 and 27 million), but slaves today represent a much smaller part of the total population than when slavery was ubiquitous. That is, today there are 7 billion humans, as opposed to about 1 billion in 1800, when the slave trade was at its height. A World Half Full indeed.
- It gets even more better. Space technology appears to be stagnating. However, commercial space travel is starting to boom(check out The New Tens for more on that). Likewise environmental protection laws are starting to have an effect as numerous species are being reported as recovering nicely. Also while resources are depleting, certain resources aren't as scarce as you may think. And many people and companies are working hard towards clean energy and sustainability and making great progress. Yes there are problems, but we are doing well towards finding solutions.
- Let's give public health a special mention. The First World and much of the Developing World has undergone one of the greatest triumphs of human ingenuity. We die old, fat, and rich, rather than young, hungry, and wounded. We have pandemics of obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes because we have enough food, good sanitation, good treatments, and extensive safety measures. They save the majority of us from infectious diseases, injury, and hunger. Just in the disease category, consider the following killers: bubonic plague, anthrax, gonorrheal meningitis and blindness, syphilis, polio, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, measles, rubella, smallpox, influenza, diphtheria, mumps, Hepatitis B and liver cancer (Taiwan 1984), shingles, rabies, hookworms, and Ascaroides. In industrialized and industrializing nations, these sicknesses are mostly gone.
- Even the HIV pandemic is a good example of how much we've progressed. In about three decades, the first world has determined the etiological agent of the disease, discovered its structure, broken down its genome, figured out a very complete picture of what it does to our cells, completely mapped its genes, discovered how it spreads and how it could be prevented from doing so, found ways to hold it in check and keep patients from succumbing, and implemented public health programs which have brought the pandemic to heel in the first world. Compared to how any other time period in history would have fared, it's nothing short of miraculous. By contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa is being devastated in a manner which is simply heart-wrenching to watch as well as a chilling reminder of what other great pandemics did before we learned how to fight back.
- There are about 1,000 cases of polio yearly in the world. At its peak in the US, there were over 55,000 per year. The disease was scheduled for complete eradication (like smallpox), but unfortunately fanatical groups in a few remote areas in Nigeria have preached the vaccine is a "Western mind control drug." India has some severely crowded, hard-to-treat populations heavily affected by polio. A few cases from these regions enter the neighboring African and Middle Eastern nations. All of Europe, north and east Asia, the Americas, and Australia are completely clear. That's almost 5,000 American kids dead per year in the 50's to zero today.
- We are increasingly specialized, interconnected and tolerant. We are indeed earning our collective happy endings. Together.
- Do you think glorified spam can stop internet censorship, cluster bombs or capital punishment for sodomy? Well it did. Life has never been better.
- Not to mention how far we are moving in terms of renewable resources and sustainability, and corporations are trying hard to become green and sustainable for the future. Of course we have some ways to go, but we're getting there.
- Of course, while this situation seems all fine and dandy, resources becomes scarcer by the day and won't fulfill the needs of an always growing population anytime soon; space technology is stagnating, meaning the solution to this problem could be not found in time; pollution and deforestation are ruining more than ever the environment and biodiversity. How long will it last before Earth becomes a World Half Empty once again?
- In Japan, doves mean death, as they're the messenger of Hachiman, God of War.