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Hero Must Survive

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Wait. How can Chef help the good guys and fight?

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.


  • 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 POWs 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 has objectives where heroes has to survive the entire scenario. As they are just slightly stronger than a regular unit, they're very impractical to use. One of the most annoying example is Joan of Arc, as she has to survive in five out of the six scenarios in her campaign, with the sixth taking place after her death. 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.
  • Ancient Empires: The death of the King results in loss for a side. Kings are the only unit that can't be bought and they are needed for a side to buy new units, so this makes some sense. Averted in the sequel, mentioned below.
  • 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 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.
  • In Bladestorm: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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(said missions give the player the luxury of re-training the required commando at no cost).
    • The original Tiberian Dawn didn't exactly have this mechanic, rather the commando was the only unit you controlled. Losing 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. For the first mission, as she's the only amphibious unit around and you lack a naval yard, the game mercifully gives you a fleet of Aircraft Carriers should Tanya go down to destroy the Psychic Dominator on Alcatraz island.
    • 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.
  • Cortex Command has this as one of its main objectives during each battle. The players themselves are disembodied brains (either in a humanoid robot, or simply mounted to a wall) and control troops that are genetically engineered to be strong and unflinching, but literally brainless (so that you yourself may control them). If the brain is destroyed, it's an instant loss for the player, since their troops are meaty paperweights without them.
  • The Dark Legions does this over the course of its second campaign. 90% of the time, it's a heavy cavalry 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.
  • Dawn of War:
    • In Skirmish games 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.
  • Lords and player avatars tend to be treated this way in the Fire Emblem games. Other characters that the story requires to stay alive can be brought to 0 HP without causing a Game Over; rather than dying, they will be "critically injured" but will still be unable to fight again. In Paralogues for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the unit(s) involved in the Paralogue must survive. For example, in "Rumored Nuptials," the goal of which is to get Ingrid to the exit, not only must Ingrid survive, but so must Dorothea, whose presence is required for the mission.
  • In Feda: The Emblem of Justice, the game ends if Brian or Ain die off.
  • 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. Some individual scenarios will give you a hero whom you must keep alive, lest you fail the mission.
  • Generally averted in Iron Harvest (heroes can be re-purchased at the base or revived by friendly units in the field for free), but played straight in Baseless Mission campaign levels. The player is typically given very few units in these missions, so using your Heroes is a necessity.
    • Played particularly straight in the missions of the Russviet Revolution DLC where you control Tsar Nicholas. Unlike other Heroes—badasses all—Nicky is a politician, not a fighter, and has terrible combat stats. Also, if he dies, Rasputin and by extension, Fenris wins, so you'll need to keep him alive at least, until Fenris assassinates him anyway.
  • 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 yourself some time and hit "Quit".
  • 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.
  • In a Visual Novel example, during the Kawakami War segment of Majikoi! Love Me Seriously!, the war instantly ends if Yamato or Hideo is defeated in combat. While Hideo's a pretty good fighter, Yamato tries to spend as little time on the front lines as possible.
  • Both Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser and Bowser Jr.'s Journey features this — if your Captain is defeated, you have to try the stage again.
  • 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.
  • In Planet Alcatraz, if one of your team mates goes down to 0 HP, you can keep fighting and he will be revived when all hostiles are dead. However, if it happens to Boar, the main character, you have to reload a save.
  • 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 Series of 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. The mission "Belly of the Beast" plays with this; should one of your four heroes lose all their HP, they go "down" instead of dying, being incapacitated for a while before they get revived. This is later played straight in the final part of the mission as you've just set off charges that will annihilate the map, and you need to outrun rising lava, hence no time for any incapacitations whatsoever.
    • In missions without a base, applies to Kerrigan.
  • 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.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon: In the campaign, if Jim Hawkins' ship is sunk, the mission fails. Does not apply to skirmishes however, as if the command ship is sunk, the second ship in the fleet will become the new command ship.
  • The Triptych Continuum features a non-video game example of this trope. Luna and Celestia are the only beings on the planet (except for the imprisoned Discord) who can interface with SUN and MOON, meaning that if they both die, the world dies with them. It is for this reason that they so rarely risk getting directly involved with the crises facing Equestria.
  • Valkyria Chronicles II has several missions where a special Escort APC has to make it to a designated point on the map. While the game refers to these as Escort Missions, the player has full control over the APC. A number of other missions also have the death of specific characters as a failure condition.
  • 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. Though in the final human mission, the Mage, Khadgar still had to be kept alive as he was the only character with the knowledge to destroy the Dark Portal. Blizzard probably didn't anticipate making further Warcraft games at the time, so characters like Grom Hellscream, Turlayon 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.
  • Much like one of the titles it is a Spiritual Successor of, if your Commander unit in Wargroove gets brought to 0 HP, it is a Game Over.
  • Another Warhammer 40,000 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.
  • 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 Permanently Missable).
  • 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.
  • Xcom:
    • 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.
    • In the final mission of XCOM2, The Commander's Avatar must survive until the end of the mission, because it is, well, you. It also plays an important role in defeating the Elders, and getting everyone out to safety.
    • While XCOM in general tends to treat your own units as cannon fodder, XCOM: Chimera Squad takes the opposite extreme: any squad member dying gives you an instant Game Over. Fortunately they're quite hard to kill; if one is downed you still get a few turns to stop them from bleeding out, and they're back hale and hearty the next day.


  • Age of Empires II: Later expansions passed The Conquerors have hero units in the campaign but most scenarios do not require their survival to succeed.
  • 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.
  • Because you tend to just send in four units at a time without including any of the central characters in Fire Emblem Heroes, the series standard is done away with in-game. However, the story mode narrative still treats this trope as if it were being played straight when Alfonse and Sharena's father harshly lectures Alfonse on being reckless.
  • In most missions of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, you're free to train a commando should you have a functional base with all the necessary prerequisites and have unlocked the ability to train said character at that point. Should said commando get KIA, you can simply train her again.
    • In the third Allied mission you can rescue and obtain Tanya through a secondary objective. You won't fail the mission if you lose her, but you won't be able to train her again for the rest of the mission.
  • 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.
  • Tactics Ogre, despite playing We Cannot Go On Without You straight for Denim (the main hero), averts Hero Must Survive quite strongly. While the game does have plot armor "escapes" for certain uncontrollable characters should they fall in battle, once a character is in your army, they absolutely can die in battle - did I mention, this game features Permadeath? That's right, if any of the plot relevant characters die in battle, they die for good, and all subsequent scenes and plot points will be rewritten without them, including endings.
  • The Lord of the Rings licensed game War in Middle Earth (not to be confused with the much more recent The Battle for Middle-earth) gives you one objective: Bring the Ring to Mount Doom. Beyond that, every single named character is expendable. Once very viable strategy is to stash Frodo and the Ring somewhere out of harm's way while you focus on the war against Sauron's forces. Then after you manage to occupy Mordor, have Frodo get killed, wait for a Nazgul to grab the Ring and speed off to Mordor where it will then fall to you forces.
  • Some of the recruitment missions in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon require you to escort a Pokemon, whether it's to find a locked door, show them an item they lost, or help them fight another Pokemon. They aren't officially a part of your team yet, but if an enemy knocks them out, they're warped to a random location on the floor, which can be incredibly frustrating since you have to find them and use up a Reviver Seed in order to complete the mission (even moreso if it's a long dungeon and/or the Pokemon residing there are very powerful). This trope also comes into play during certain parts of the main story, such as the Ancient Barrow, Submerged Cave, Calm Craggy Area, etc.
  • In Colobot, although the player is given the option to directly control any unit, the human character they start out as absolutely has to survive in order to complete the missions.
  • Ancient Empires II allows you to revive your commander if they get killed by buying them from an allied castle. The cost increases each time you do this, so it's still a good idea to try to keep your commander alive.
  • In both Daimadou Senryaku Monogatari games, as well as Arle no Bouken, the player is eliminated once Arle goes down regardless of who else is still available to fight. Justified in that Arle is the one summoning and commanding the other monsters. Thankfully, this also applies to the enemy team.

Alternative Title(s): X Must Survive