Hero Unit

A Hero Unit is a unit, usually in a Real-Time Strategy game, that represents the Player Character, or a major character in the game's story, on the battlefield.

Hero Units are usually larger than basic units (sometimes inexplicably so), and more powerful than the basic infantry unit of the same type or species. They may be capable of one-shotting the basic infantry unit, and can take scores of hits before you need to consider healing them. Many of them have spells, weapons, or abilities than can hamper, if not obliterate, entire platoons of enemy units, and often have "Auras" that can confer buffs to any friendly unit near them.

But their special power does come with a price. In Single-player campaigns, completion of the mission is often dependent on their survival; if you lose them, Game Over, man! Even if their deaths don't result in instant failure, the loss of their power and enhancements will most likely swing the battle in the enemy's favor. In strategy games, every faction may have its own hero unit, and eliminating it will eliminate or convert all their other units and buildings.


Examples:

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     First-person and third-person shooters  

  • The first person shooter MAG has a variation on this. To clarify: Squadleaders give buffs to everyone nearby; Platoon Leaders give better buffs to everyone nearby; and OIC's automatically heal everyone nearby, increase their armour protection, and everyone near them do not show up on the map (including the OIC). Also, every leader has abilities like dropping bombs, poison gas, destroying emplacements, slowing down the opponents' spawn, speeding up allies' spawn, making everyone not near the OIC show up on the minimap, etc.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront has Jedi heroes as one of the bonuses you can purchase for your army in campaign mode. But rather than being controllable, they move of their own volition (usually killing large numbers of enemy troops). In the sequel, the Jedi (and non-Jedi like Han Solo, Leia, and the Fetts) heroes are severely depowered and made playable.
  • Metal Gear Online has "Unique Characters". All of them are important characters in their respective games' single player mode and have a wide variety of abilities that far outstrip the average soldier. Both teams get to have only one of these unique characters, and the players that get one are usually decided at random.

     Real-time strategy  

  • The Age of Empires series:
    • Age of Empires and its sequel have these only in the built-in campaigns (in which, as these campaigns follow the careers of famous Historical Domain Characters, their survival is a victory condition) or through the Level Editor; one Action Bomb hero is available through cheats. The Expansion Pack for Age of Empires II causes heroes to regenerate, and allows one to create custom heroes through the editor by changing a normal unit or hero's name, Hit Points, or attack points. The death of any unit or building can cause a Game Over if the triggers are set right.
    • Age of Mythology uses these as an extension of the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors along with Myth units (beasts taken from the different mythologies used in the game) and ordinary human soldiers. Heroes beat Myth units, Myth units beat normal units, normal units beat heroes (if only due to superior numbers, as the heroes can take them one-on-one easily enough). The main campaign has several unique heroes as main characters, more powerful than normal heroes and effectively immortal. The expansion pack race, the Atlanteans, had an interesting twist on this — most infantry troops could become a Hero Unit for additional cost and population slots, which would increase their stats and make them effective against myth units. Although it's entirely possible to reach your population cap with infantry units and then convert them all to heroes.
    • Age of Empires III has hero units in the campaign, and the Explorer (and potentially his dog) serving the same purpose in random maps; they are near-immortal, as the unique heroes in Age of Mythology.
  • One mission in Aztec Wars gives you a badass Arab as a Hero Unit you must escort to a safe place. In practice, the best way is to leave him tucked away in a corner, conquer the entire map, and then get him to his goal.
  • Both Battalion Wars games put the player in full control of a unit. But rather than a special unit, the player takes control of any unit in his/her battalion, and can change to a different one at will. Whichever unit you are controlling is less subject to Artificial Stupidity and, it seems from witnessing a bug in action, also gets offense and defense power boosts.
  • Battle Realms has five per side, called Zen Masters. The Zen Masters always come with pre-equipped battlegear and most of them have unique abilities, but fill the battlefield role of an equivalent regular unit in that faction.
  • In Brütal Legend, the player controls the Hero Units, who can give orders to nearby units. Each Hero has unique guitar solos that all do different things. Eddie Riggs commands Ironheade, Doviculus commands the Tainted Coil and Drowned Ophelia commands the Drowning Doom.
  • Command & Conquer:
  • In Company of Heroes, the British units don't gain Veterancy, but they can train Lieutenants, who follow squads around and emits a passive Status Buff to all surrounding infantry, which grows more powerful as the infantry score kills and gain experience for the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant himself is armed with a Sten, so while he can bolster the close range firepower of a squad, he shouldn't be relied upon to engage and defeat enemy troops directly and he definitely shouldn't be needlessly exposed to enemy fire. The Captain is a tier-2 unit who functions like the Lieutenant but grants an even larger boost to all units in an entire sector as opposed to just squads, but he's only armed with a revolver and hence even less capable in combat — it's generally a good idea to keep a Bren Carrier handy to ferry him quickly around the map. The last British hero is the Cromwell Command Tank, which imparts similar bonuses as the Lieutenant but for tanks and vehicles.
    • In the Ardennes Assault and Western Front Armies expansions for the sequel, the American forces function similarly, with a Lieutenant, Captain, and Major as trainable units. Each is required to unlock certain portions of the tech tree, and at least one of the lower ranked officers is required to unlock the Major. Like the British units above, each has certain special abilities befitting their respective ranks, and each confers status buffs on nearby units (or production buildings in the case of the Maajor). Unlike the British units, each American officer spawns with a squad, which can be upgraded with weapons in the same way as other infantry units. Additionally, while the Major's squad is only 3 men with an initial loadout of two carbines and a pistol, the Lieutenant and Captain spawn with full strength five man squads, at least one member of which is automatically equipped with a special weapon — a BAR and a Bazooka, respectively.
  • Dawn of War usually has two Hero Units per side, with one being the main character of each campaign. They could destroy entire squads singlehandedly, but were balanced by the fact that most "walker" units (Dreadnoughts, Wraithlords, etc...) can chew them up and spit them out with no problems. Dawn of War II gave each army 3 Hero Units each.
    • The Space Marines have Force Commanders and Librarians, along with Apothecaries and Techmarines in the sequel.
    • The Orks have Warbosses and Big Meks (replaced by Mekboys in the sequel), with Kommando Nobs added in the sequel.
    • Chaos has Chaos Lords/Daemon Princes and Chaos Sorcerers, with Plague Marines added in the sequel.
    • The Eldar have Farseers and the Seer Council, with Warlocks and Warp Spider Exarchs added in the sequel.
    • The Imperial Guard has the Command Squad. The sequel replaces them with Lord Generals, Commissar Lords and Inquisitors.
    • The Tau have Commanders and Ethereals.
    • The Necrons have Necron Lords and Destroyer Lords.
    • The Sisters of Battle get the Cannoness and Confessor.
    • The Dark Eldar have the Archon and Haemonculus.
  • Divinity: Dragon Commander: The Player Character themselves. When commanding a battle personally, you can switch from Non-Entity General to a jetpack-enhanced dragon and lay waste to your foes personally.
  • End of Nations have buyable hero units to complement your company on battles, and have special abilities.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings has you build your forces around them. If they all die, you lose, but the same is true for your opponents.
  • Halo Wars: The Covenant has their leaders, which can be quite important to have out on the field, as their other units tend to be on the "subversive" side of the Faction Calculus scale. You can also only use your faction superpower by controlling them directly. The UNSC, on the other hand, have Spartans, which, while not as singularly powerful as the Covenant's leader units, are still quite badass in their own right and can hijack enemy vehicles or commandeer friendly vehicles for a power boost. The limit on how many of these units you can have still goes for both sides, thoughnote . Namely, one leader for the Covenant, three Spartans for the UNSC.
    • In the campaign, Sgt. Forge and SPARTAN Red Team function as a quartet of Hero Units. If one of them goes down, there is even text reading "You have a downed hero."
  • Herzog Zwei was one of the first games to use hero units, which actually integrated them into the interface, using them to move and direct the other units around the battlefield.
  • There are three such hero units in the Homeworld series, all in Homeworld 2: Captain Soban's super-frigate, the Dreadnaught, and Sajuuk. All feature greater firepower and sometimes greater HP than other vessels in the same 'class'. Soban's frigate has a substantially greater firepower than a regular frigate, the Dreadnaught is rather more powerful than the Battlecruiser, the most powerful ordinary vessel, and the third... well, calling it a god is about right.
  • Ogre Battle is full of units with unique sprites and unique stats who are members of a standard class. The Opinion Leader and Magnus Gallant in OB64 have unique attacks.
  • There is one in Patapon 2, named "Hero" by default. He wears a mask, can change his class and activate special attacks of the class and connect with Hero Units of other worlds via the Paraget. If he dies, he's resurrected within a short while.
  • Each player in Rescue Raiders requisitions automated ground units while directly piloting the only airborne unit, a helicopter. Multiplayer games permit up to two players/helicopters per side.
  • Interestingly, Rise of Legends used three heroes per side, unlike its predecessor. Oddly, air heroes cost more and are Always Female.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire has Capital ships act as Hero Units, with RPG Elements like the ability to level up, gaining new abilities, auras, strikecraft squads, etc. and upgraded stats. Additionally, the player has to train new crews specifically to build more capital ships.
  • Sacrifice has the wizards, who cast the spells, build the armies, order their creatures around, and function as the player's controllable avatar: Everything on the battlefield is seen from your wizard's point of view. Defeating a side's wizard for good by desecrating his respawn altar wins the games. Their spell and unit list depends on which gods they follow, and in addition each wizard has some minute differences in movement speed, health, and physical/magical damage resistance. Sacrifice also has unique Hero Unit versions of certain units, representing some particularly important non-wizard servants of the various gods. Some of them appear only on certain levels and have a <Hero> Must Survive clause, others join your cause permanently (as long as you keep supporting their patron god) and are expendable (but will not be accessible in subsequent missions if they die).
  • Star Wars:
    • Used in Empire at War and its expansion. All heroes are larger, though in some cases they're still at their canon scale, and most of them are unique units. The only ones that aren't are Red/Rogue Squadrons (X-Wings, but larger), Luke's X-Wing (again, just larger, though in this case it's the size of a freakin' transport), Accuser and Admonitor (larger Imperial-II Star Destroyers), and Merciless (a Zann Consortium flagship). The Admonitor is coloured blue (except when it dies), though, and the Merciless has unique engine exhaust colour and hull paint.
    • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds has hero units in the campaigns and Terminate the Commander games. Hero units tend to be extremely powerful, although as soon as they die, you're screwed (except in Terminate matches, where the hero isn't even capable of attacking, and has to hide in a fortress in order to survive).
  • Total Annihilation had its Commanders as the linchpin of the gameplay, with them as the standard builder unit in the game. Losing the Commander often meant losing the game. If not automatically, then because of the fact that a good chunk of your base or army is usually destroyed when a killed Commander goes up in a massive explosion.
    • Supreme Commander takes this a step further, allowing for customization of the ACU and support ACUs. They still go up like nukes, though.
  • In the Total War series, generals are deployed with the rest of your army. On the field, the General's Bodyguard is usually a large group of heavy cavalry (e.g., knights or lancers, although some of the later-set games give them revolvers as well). Sometimes, especially in the early game, they're the only heavy cavalry around, and a well-timed charge by the general can make or break a battle. On the other hand, if the general dies, every unit in the army loses some of its morale and the army loses the passive benefits of their traits. Unled armies are also disadvantaged in other ways; depending on the game, armies without a general might not be able to replenish their numbers, hire mercenaries, purchase new units from nearby cities, or call in naval fire support.
    • Total War: Warhammer expands on this concept, having three distinct types of Hero Units.
      • Legendary Lords represent individual characters of importance in Warhammer lore, such as Emperor Karl Franz, Warboss Grimgor Ironhide, Archaon the Everchosen or Orion the King in the Woods, each faction starting with two or so, more being available through DLC. They act as generals for armies and are very powerful units in their own right, being quite able to fight several normal units at once. Even if they die, they can be recruited again in a few turns, and will not "die" permanently as long as their faction exists. The one you choose at the start of the game will serve as your faction's leader.
      • Lords are essentially regular generals, in charge of the armies the Legendary Lords don't lead. They will not respawn if killed.
      • Heroes are the more typical type of Hero Unit. They can operate separately from armies and can be sent to scout out territory, boost cities and provinces, assassinate enemy units and prevent enemy heroes from doing the same. They can also be attached to armies, serving as very powerful units on the battlefield. They're faction-unique, each faction having a number of types to choose from, usually including a hero suited for assassinations, such as Imperial Witch Hunters, a more melee-oriented hero, such as the Beastmen's Gorebulls, and a selection of spellcasters.
  • WarCraft originally had most heroes, at least in part II, as simply being a more powerful version of a regular unit, that was usually given a different team color than your regular units. Blizzard continued the concept in StarCraft, with heroes being significantly more powerful than their regular units. (Zeratul, the hero Dark Templar, can do over 100 damage in a single hit.) One character even got its own unique sprite in game. In Warcraft III, heroes really came into their own, with each having distinctive spells and appearances that pretty much took over the gameplay; additionally, unlike StarCraft, they could be built in multiplayer. Many user-created maps were made as essentially Diablo-like RPGs, and ultimately resulted in the birth of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre. Blizzard themselves got into the act with the Bonus Orc Campaign in The Frozen Throne Expansion Pack being effectively this. On top of this, in WarCraft III the importance of Heroes lead Blizzard to ease up penalties for their deaths—unlike other units, Heroes could be reborn at an altar, and if a mission required the hero to stay alive, the Hero wasn't considered dead until the Altar was destroyed and you'd lost any possibility of building more.
    • Starcraft II brings back the hero units in both forms. The classic heroes are available in the campaign, sometimes possessing different abilities, depending on the mission they're in. The mechanic for RPG-style heroes exists, but they are not implemented in the game itself, and must be created manually in the editor. Like the original StarCraft I, they cannot be used in multiplayer, unless one counts the Protoss Mothership, which a player can only have one of at a time.

     RPG  

  • Fire Emblem: The "Lord" class has always been a staple of the series. Lords are the main characters of the games, have unique sprites, and usually start off slightly more competent than your other units. The Lord tends to be quite a powerhouse by the end of the game, getting more and more overpowered as the series progresses. They are also, however, the only units that will always cause a Game Over should they fall in battle.
    • Note that many players will quit and restart the mission if any character dies anyway...
    • In Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem and Fire Emblem Awakening, the actual Lords, Marth and Chrom respectively, share their main character duties with a player-created Avatar.
    • Radiant Dawn averts this, as not only are the Lord characters no longer "lords" per se, the death of MANY story important character can lead to a game over, especially early in the game. There's Micaiah, Elincia, Ike, Tibarn, which make a modicum of sense — and then there's Sothe, Soren, Nolan, Tauroneo, Raphael, Nialah, Skrimr... Nephenee, Brom, Lucia, the game gives you many many many characters, and almost any number of them dying can cause a game over in certain parts of the game. Sometime it doesn't exactly make sense.
  • Used in Heroes of Mana, a spin-off of World of Mana, where they're called Leader units. They have an aura to boost troops and are very strong. You only lose if the main character dies, but losing others can lower your rank.
  • Ys Strategy on the DS gives you two types of units literally called the hero and heroine. The actual fighting methods differ depending on which country you're playing as but the common trait is that they're stronger than everything else. Their power can be cranked up further when the player chooses to directly control either by not only overcoming Artificial Stupidity but literally boosting movement and offense power.

     Tower defense  

  • This is what sets the Kingdom Rush series apart from many other Tower Defense games out there. Aside from towers, they also have hero units.

     Turn-based strategy  

  • Age of Wonders:
    • On the one hand, Wizards are not too cool, and are forced to stay in towers most of the time. On the other hand, they are killed for good only when their Empires are wiped out and there's nowhere to respawn.
    • Ordinary heroes, on the other hand, can wipe out armies singlehandedly about halfway through the campaign. Bringing them back if they are killed is very hard, through, as it requires powerful spells you are likely not to research throughout the whole campaign (because the research tends to be extremely slow). And since they are so powerful and rare, losing them usually means reloading the last save.
  • Battle for Wesnoth has at least one (the Player Character, with the ability to recruit units) per side, and usually a number of others who are Hero Units in that they are plot-critical, and you lose if they die. Multiplayer mode simply has you pick from a list of upgraded unit types to serve this purpose.
  • Elemental - War of Magic: You can have an army of them. Your sovereign's children, their children, their children etc. and whatever champions you may pick up along the way.
  • Endless Legend allows players to hire heroes from the mercenary market, who can be assigned to armies (granting large bonuses to attack, defense, movement, et cetera) in addition to being a powerful unit in combat (or support), or can be assigned to cities to grant bonuses to food, science, industry, or Dust. Every game starts out with one Hero, a settler, and two basic infantry units. Heroes can't be permanently killed; if one falls in combat, they're returned to your Academy to heal slowly or be revived instantly with a large sum of Dust.
    • Endless Space doesn't have heroes as independent units, but they function similarly; large buffs to fleets or solar system statistics. The Pilgrims specialize in Hero utilization; any Hero they hire is immediately promoted to level two, allowing them to get a jump-start on expansion or combat to make up for their sub-par fleet strength.
  • These were introduced to Heroes of Might and Magic in the fourth game, but removed in the fifth. At level 1, they had a ridiculous amount of HP, but poor offensive capabilities—at level 30 (generally only reached in the campaigns), they could take out entire armies single-handedly. Depending on the mission, some were main characters who had to stay alive, but the rest could be brought Back from the Dead.
  • Langrisser (Warsong) for the Sega Genesis had characters and "troops" which could be bought. Troops were ineffectual enough that it was possible to play through the entire game (except for the first map) without using any.
  • Nintendo Wars: In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the CO can travel with a unit, promoting it to the highest rank, and projecting an aura of power around it.
  • In XCOM 2's two Downloadable Content missions (Alien Rulers, and Shen's Last Gift), Central Officer Bradford and Chief Lily Shen (respectively) take to the field as the highest ranking soldier in your squad. Bradford uses an impossibly-customized and ludicrously overpowered assault rifle, and Shen uses an Attack Drone you cannot normally get until the endgame.

     Visual novel  

  • Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!: During the Kawakami War segment, pretty much the entire main cast, barring a few exceptions, become these, effortlessly knocking aside all of the portrait-less characters in seconds. Momoyo takes it to a whole new level, requiring three of the other most powerful characters just to hold her off!.

     Other/undetermined  

  • The eponymous King of King Arthurs World for SNES was a powerful fighter, but was prone to the same instant-kill traps and situations that plagued the rest of his far more expendable army. Often, a few preventive measures were necessary to keep him alive, such as building a little platform for him to stand on so he wouldn't get eaten by teleporting monsters while the player was occupied elsewhere.
  • In Lord Monarch, the leader unit is very strong, but money can only be raised when it occupies its throne, and losing it means losing everything.
  • Savage 2 has the Hellbourne units, a selection of nasty demons that can only be used while controlling a certain location and expending souls from defeating enemies. Each can easily take on large numbers of normal units, and have a counter in the form of the otherwise offensively weak support units for either side, who deal more damage to the Hellbourne.
  • Warlock: Master Of The Arcane allows player to hire up to four "lords" to serve him.

     Non-videogame examples  

  • In the GURPS Mass Combat system, elements can have the Hero enhancement. A hero element counts as an element of his type, but is made of only one soldier. Elements are typically made of ten soldiers.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: The actual mages and other powered individuals during the Mage vs Martians battle, who were allowed to use their full power since the Muggle students believe that it's all special effects that's part of a game, were explicitly called Hero Units (this series loves its gaming references).


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