The majority of visual novels on Steam are made by relative newbies when it comes to writing and storytelling. This isn’t the case with World End Economica. It’s a thinly veiled recreation of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, told with a level of attention to detail that requires more knowledge and research than you’d expect from your average visual novel. This is also a love story. But it takes up so little of the actual word count, that you better be on board for the economic drama, or you’ll have a miserable time. 

This is the third episode, so by now you should know what to expect from this series. Everything from the characterization, production values, to the pacing are all of the same quality as the past two episodes. I’m not sure if it’ll turn out to be everything you hoped, but it is in large part exactly what you think it is.

I would’ve played the entirety of episode 3 in a single sitting, had I not started playing it too late in the evening for that to be feasible. The story keeps a good forward momentum between scenes, making it hard to stop reading. Many key moments hinge on characters and reader understanding how economic instruments work. This creates a dangerous balance, where the story has to make the jargon easy enough to understand quickly, and not dumb it down to the point where the characters don’t act as smart as they’re purported to be. There’s a built-in glossary this time, but at the time of writing, it isn’t translated yet. This will apparently be fixed with a patch. This isn’t a critical feature, as characters still go to some length to explain terminology in the script itself. So the glossary seems to have been added afterwards, and not something you have to wait for in order to understand what’s going on.

I’m not an economist, but everything you see in the story feels correct, authentic in its portrayal. Some of the events in the story are a bit too on the nose, with how they borrow from the 2008 crisis. But in most parts, it’s believable. Using the subprime mortgage crisis as a basis for the story was a good idea, because it’s an economic scenario that has aged well. Ie, it’s likely to happen again, with how China is going through its own housing bubble. When you get to “live” the crisis like this through a story, you get a better understanding for the emotional rationalizations that made it happen, and how it’ll happen again. Putting human faces behind the companies, governments and the people on the ground, living through the build-up and collapse makes it more tangible than it is just sitting at home, watching news anchors panic.

There’s three great criticisms I can level against World End Economica. First off, it’s not particularly good sci-fi. All the economic drama portrayed in episode 3 is stuff directly based off recent real world events. It was the same in the first two episodes. This isn’t how the economy will run when we have a moon colony, as we will have moved to a system beyond our current imagination. I feel it’s reasonable to expect something more visionary from sci-fi. I wouldn’t know how to begin to write such a story, so I’m actually fine with what we’ve got here. But it’s an easy thing to point out as a problem. The second thing is how characterization is packed into info heavy scenes. At times it comes across as desperate, like someone “puffing out their surprisingly developed chest”, before continuing a deep dive explanation of how credit default swaps work. Like witnessing a mashup of Frontline and harem anime. Dissonant is how I’d describe it.

The third and final criticism is the most damning one. This is the one that affected me the most. The ending feels cut short. I wanted something more indulgent, I wanted an epilogue. There’s 7 bits of CG that roll over the end credits, showing scenes I would’ve liked to have seen play out as full scenes instead. This isn’t nearly as bad as Final Fantasy XV, but it just chose to end at a spot where I felt like there was something missing, which we’re forced to fill in with our imagination by looking at pictures. It took the wind out of the finale, because up until that point, it was doing everything I wanted.

But overall, this is still very good. Time flew effortlessly as I read, and it was nice to see the story pay off on what it had spent three titles building up to. Anyone who enjoyed the first two will have a good time with this for sure. And maybe you’ll be more forgiving of the ending. I just feel like there was maybe 30-60 minutes missing there in the end. Just a bit more, and we would’ve had complete closure. So close! Still happy though.

Peter HasselströmComment