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<Hero> Must Survive
In short, We Cannot Go On Without You as applied to strategy games: Story-relevant characters appear in some missions as units in the player's army, to participate in the player's actual gameplay battles. They may be average or above-average units, or even carry a special designation such as "hero" — but since they're participating in battles that are waged in large numbers, there's a very real possibility that they may get lost and killed in all the firefighting. How can the story proceed without a central character? It can't, so the game tosses in an arbitrary mission objective: "<hero> must survive". If they fall, it's instant Game Over.

Ironically, this can also make the Hero unit Too Awesome to Use, with a player preferring to stash the Hero somewhere safe (away from the front lines) and complete the mission without them, contrary to the developers' intent.

Escort Mission is related, except that the escort is usually an NPC outside of the player's control, whereas the player can control their Hero unit directly.

For RPG examples, where overall party numbers are much smaller, use We Cannot Go On Without You.

Contrast Non-Entity General

Examples:

  • In Act of War most of the missions feature a named hero character who also appears in many of the cutscenes. He must be kept alive to preserve the story. He's actually considerably tougher than your average infantry unit, he's great at turning enemy troops into PO Ws for money, and best of all he's the only unit that has regenerating health which gives you a good incentive to use him over your other troops. However if you get too aggressive and bite off more than you can chew, it's an instant game over.
  • Age Of Empires I and II use this in the campaigns, and the hero is usually just slightly stronger than a regular unit so they're very impractical to use. Joan of Arc is a particularly Scrappy example of this. In skirmish games, the Regicide mission gives each player a totally useless (but quite nippy) king unit whose death loses you the game, and a castle for him to hole up in.
    • Heroes self-heal in 'The Conquerors', making it somewhat better.
    • Fortunately, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds avoided this by making most of the heroes Jedi with healing abilities.
      • Got really annoying when your party included, say, C-3PO, who is to combat power what The Load is to plot progress.
    • Later games avoid this, though very clumsily and by making heroes effectively immortal. See Aversions below.
  • In the first Age of Wonders game the death of a leader means the defeat of their whole empire. No matter how badly you're losing, you can make it all better with one assassination. Conversely, one stupid mistake with your own leader can avert what would be a winning game.
    • Other Age of Wonders games averted this with instant retreat Wizard Towers. If a leader is defeated but they have at least one other city with a Wizard Tower in their empire, they respawn in that city automatically. They still lose all items the leader had equipped at the time of death.
  • The Battle For Wesnoth: Practically every campaign. Here, you have a choice of risking your leader's death and making him powerful, or leaving him in the keep to recruit more units and make your army powerful. Similarly, most campaigns accumulate various hero units that spawn for free and can be very useful in combat, but must be kept from dying.
  • In Battle Realms' campaign, losing Kenji in the earlier levels is an instant loss. Once the keep has been unlocked, this restriction is waived as he can be re-summoned from it.
    • The expansion campaign adds the same restriction to Greyback.
  • The Command & Conquer series have missions that generally tell the players their Commando must survive to the end. Averted entirely in the case of Yuri's Revenge and some missions in Red Alert 3 for Tanya (said missions give the player the luxury of re-training Tanya at no cost).
    • The original Tiberian Dawn didn't exactly have this mechanic, rather the commando was the only unit you controlled. Loosing him meant you lost all units you controlled, which is the default condition for Loss. Red Alert was the first one to start using this mechanic, where you can still have your entire compliment of troops there, but if you lose Tanya the mission would automatically fail. it was also the only lose condition that had a unique announcement: "Tanya has been lost". The only exception is the final Allied mission where after you receive your base-building unit it's possible to lose Tanya without failing the mission, since it's the last mission and therefore Tanya wouldn't be making any subsequent appearances (this is before they decided to make a sequel to Red Alert).
    • Red Alert 2`s expansion pack Yuri's Revenge uses Gameplay and Story Segregation to try to discourage the Too Awesome to Use factor. It accomplishes this by treating Tanya being killed in-game as her being wounded and airlifted to safety—so she can no longer be used by the player for the rest of the mission but her 'death' does not cause the mission to be failed.
    • Amusingly averted in the Soviet Campaign in Yuri's Revenge where you get Boris and assault the time machine; if Boris dies before you get to the time machine, Lt. Zofia will lament his loss, before reassuring you that you can correct it since you're going to dick around with a time machine anyways. Sure enough when you do travel back in time (in the same mission) Boris will pop out of the Barracks. Zofia will then comment on how great it is to have him back, before he wonders what the hell she's talking about. It's played straight for the rest of the mission onwards however.
  • Lords tend to be treated this way in the Fire Emblem games.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic, with the main heroes of the campaigns from Heroes II onwards. For Heroes IV his is despite the fact that heroes are never completely killed and can be resurrected by taking them to a town or sanctuary. You are only defeated if the hero is not alive after the battle, so you can use spells to resurrect him/her before the battle ends, or if the hero dies during a siege but your side still wins, he/she will be resurrected by the local temple.
  • In Kartia: The Word of Fate, ALL human characters are given this status. Luckily they tend to outclass the vast majority of enemy mooks by a mile. But if the get surrounded...save yourself some time and hit "Quit".
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth used this in a few of its levels, though others you could just summon your heroes back at your base if you had enough money.
  • Lords Of Magic has a version of this. If your lord dies it is all over for that side. However if that side liberates the temple of a friendly faith, they get an heir unit.
    • The GS5 mod allows you to start with more than one heir in the custom start.
  • Many chapters in Namco Capcom have the general losing condition of "all player units are defeated", but at least half of the time the condition specifies a particular unit or units instead. Since the cast can vary so much between chapters (including having new characters appear during mid-chapter events!), the important unit also changes frequently.
  • Sacrifice adds this restriction to any mission featuring a Hero Unit that is with you for that mission only (i.e. Sara Bella, Gangrel, Gnome-mode Faestus & Lord Surtur). It also has a subversion in Astatoth, who has this restriction in the one mission you control him, but is also effectively unkillable for that mission due to storyline reasons. Barring a freak accident that drops him down a Bottomless Pit, his 'must survive' objective is impossible to fail.
  • The Shining Force games are possibly Ur Examples, having this as an inherent and central game mechanic. Each game has a hero character that acts as the leader of the force. If the hero dies, you're sent back to the last save point with half your gold.
  • The Dark Legions does this over the course of its' second campaign. 90% of the time, it's a heavy calvalry unit that goes by the name of Theodoric (complete with golden armor), the rest is either a specified Knight or a King, or sometimes all of these.
  • Starcraft does this with Jim Raynor, Zeratul and other characters.
    • Subverted in the Enslavers campaign. All hero units are listed as expendable in the final mission, though they are required to survive the previous missions.
    • Continued in some missions of Starcraft II, particularly with Raynor (who has the special mission objective "Raynor must not die. It would be bad for his reputation."). The massive Odin walker must survive its introductory mission as well, but is expendable in the second (and last) of its missions.
    • In missions without a base, applies to Kerrigan.
  • Warcraft II: beyond the Dark Portal introduced hero units on both sides and they had to be kept alive throughout the campaigns, with the exception of the final Human and Orc missions since (just like C&C Red Alert above) there would be no more subsequent missions for the heroes to appear in so they decided it's okay if your heroes die on the last mission. Of course, Blizzard probably didn't anticipate making further Warcraft games at the time, so characters like Grom Hellscream and Deathwing could die in your playthrough but then make an appearance later on.
    • In Warcraft III, if you have a base in a particular mission then you can lose your hero without failing it, as you can simply revive him/her. If you don't have a base though, the mission will require you to keep them alive. Fortunately, heroes in this game are quite durable.
    • This carries over to many boss battles in World of Warcraft. In most cases, though, if the person you're trying to protect dies, the enemies despawn; your group will have to try again, but the survivors won't have to run in or pay a repair bill.
  • Warlords Battlecry, where you must protect Your Hero and the other minor storyline heroes. Note that Your Hero is also in the skirmish games but there you don't need to protect him/her (unless playing Ironman mode, in which case the hero is Lost Forever).
  • Yggdra Union, Blaze Union, and Knights in the Nightmare all feature this. In fact, all through the first chapter of Blaze Union, it's Game Over if any party member dies; this just gets less strict as the game progresses.
  • Applies to the Commander in Total Annihilation campaign, as this unit is supposed to represent you (though it does raise the question of how were you able to control your army in the first Core mission, when it was deactivated). It doesn't necessarily apply to skirmish games, but many players keep it in their base, and upon its death it destroys almost everything in a three-fourth of a screen radius around it, often triggering a chain reaction of explosions and leaving unfortunate player at a disadvantage that is impossible to overcome.
  • Super Robot Wars does this with warships, making it more justified than other examples as losing them means losing the guys in charge, all your backup units and sometimes, the way home. They also do it to characters when they have to do something plot-relevant in a cutscene, though after said scene you can let them get blown up fine.
    • The first Super Robot Wars asks you to select a hero upon starting the game. Losing this unit results in a Game Over.
    • God Mars is an extreme example of this - once God Mars appears in the game, he cannot die or you get a Non-Standard Game Over. That's because there's a bomb placed in the Earth and if Takeru goes, the bomb goes off and it's over for everyone.
  • In Skirmish games in Dawn of War, you can set "Assassinate" as a victory condition: if a team's hero unit is killed, that team is destroyed.
    • The Dark Crusade expansion has this condition in two campaign battles: the primary objective to eliminate the Tau is to kill the ruling Ethereal, Aun'el Shi'Ores, while the primary objective to eliminate the Necrons requires your hero unit to personally deliver an explosive to the objective and return to your base; losing your hero costs you the battle.
  • Another Warhammer40000 computer game, Rites of War, has a couple of missions where you lose if a certain key hero unit dies. In the very last mission, only the Avatar of Khaine can kill the Hive Tyrant, who must be killed to win. Bear in mind, other units can wound the Hive Tyrant, but only the Avatar can finish it off. Obviously, then, you lose if the Avatar is killed. Of course, the Avatar is by far the strongest unit in your army, and quite possibly the strongest unit in the game, so that helps.
  • In Blade Storm The Hundred Years War, you control a mercenary captain who can control a squad of other units. While you can send them off to die, if your character gets knocked out, the mission ends immediately, and you only get paid what you earned in battle (usually a pitiful amount), and are returned to the tavern.
  • In Feda The Emblem Of Justice, the game ends if Brian or Ain die off.
  • Several versions of Civilization have Regicide modes, giving you a fairly useless King unit where if it dies, you lose. The most notable use of the Regicide mode is probably the "Sengoku: Sword of the Shogun" scenario from Civilization III's Conquests expansion, in which each House has a "Daimyo" unit representing the leader of the clan (e.g. if you're playing as the Oda, the "Daimyo" is called Oda Nobunaga); unlike the "regular" King of Regicide mode, the "Sengoku" unit is a fairly strong unit, although using it on the battlefield can be a bit risky and many players prefer to just leave him as a defensive unit in the capital.
  • Just before the final mission of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, one of your psychic soldiers volunteers to enter the Gollop Chamber, turning into the most powerful human psychic in history. You must then take him/her onto the final mission and one of the objectives in it is that the Volunteer must survive, because in the ending cutscene, he/she performs a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the alien Temple Ship from destroying the planet.

Aversions:

  • Age of Empires III: Heroes in campaign and the explorer/warchief/monk in skirmish which lose all their health will be downed and very slowly recover health, when their health reaches a certain amount they can be revived by moving any allied unit near them. Comes complete with a little text box to show their annoyance at being nearly dead.
    • The Asian Dynasties plays it straight in the fourth mission of the India campaign with the Shah, who also has no combat ability.
    • See also the Honshu Regicide skirmish map, which pretty much works like the mode in II, except the Daimyo can actually fight.
  • Age of Mythology: In the campaign, hero units come back to life if there are no enemy units nearby. Also, there is a very specific mention that "you will hardly ever lose a campaign if your hero is K.O.ed" but this does not always apply out of campaign when using re-buyable heroes.
  • Halo Wars has Sergeant Forge and Red Team (Douglas-042, Jerome-092 and Alice-130.) in Campaign using the same 'downed' system as Age of Empires III. Also averted in Skirmish where Spartans/Covenant Leaders can be rebuilt if killed.
  • In Sacrifice, any Hero Unit that sticks with you for a god's campaign (i.e. Thestor, Gammel, Sirocco, Toldor and Pyromaniac Faestus) is expendable. Losing one means losing that unit for the rest of the campaign, however, and most of them are too valuable to lose (especially considering the last two levels).
  • Warcraft III, in the base-building campaign levels. You can build an altar which has the capability of resurrecting fallen heroes.
    • Similarly, in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan will represented in nearly every mission with a powerful, customizable hero unit. If she ever "dies", she respawns after a minute at a Hatchery; the developers explicitly stated that they wanted players to view her as a resource, not a burden. As for how she survives, her DNA is stored at the Hatchery, and she is regrown after each death.
    • In Belly of the Beast in StarCraft II, whenever any hero dies, they are simply "wounded" and unconscious until they're revived. One of the heroes can't attack but can heal others and himself really fast.
  • Dawn of War campaign heroes can be rebuilt like any other unit.note  The Tau commander's death line is even "Carry on... without me."
    • Although in the Dark Crusade expansion campaign, there is one mission, the assault on the Necron base, that requires, as a victory condition, that your commander unit survive to place the bomb that will destroy the base, and then make it out before the bomb goes off.
    • This carries over into the sequel, where heroes are merely incapacitated and never killed. Indeed, one of the early levels drops a sudden Baneblade ambush on the player, which always incapacitates one of their heroes before they escape, to demonstrate the mechanic.
  • A non-video game aversion: Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 core rulebooks make a point of averting this so that you can purposely build up your characters through conversions, and justify why you can lose a plot-important character like Marneus Calgar and not suddenly cause a booboo in the meta story: whatever just shot him only incapacitated him in this battle, it didn't actually kill him. If they didn't have this, it'd be hard to justify special characters in normal, non-campaign games.
  • In Rise of Legends, heroes can simply be resummoned anywhere in friendly territory if they're destroyed. Justified for the Alin because their heroes are immortal genies whose physical defeat means little and for the Vinci because you presumably only destroy their vehicle and not the hero inside. The Cuotl are a more mysterious case.
  • The downloadable extra campaigns for Starcraft played it straight until the final mission of each, which gave the mission paramater: "Everyone is expendable".
    • On similar lines, the final mission of the protoss optional campaign in Starcraft II gives the player five heroes, which are completely expendable. Which is handy, since the player's forces are doomed and will all eventually be lost.
  • Battle Nations averts this one. The heroes can die with no plot problems: they simply walk it off. The only "straight" version of this trope comes from the duels Morgan fights in, where his death is an instant loss condition.
  • The Alexander expansion of Rome: Total War requires Alexander to survive in the campaigns and the historical battles.

Hard-Coded HostilityStrategy Game TropesHero Unit
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