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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 of Hero Must Survive include:
  • Age of Empires I and II use this in the campaigns, and the hero is usually just slightly stronger than a regular unit.
    • Making them not only unAwesome, but also completely impractical. Joan of Arc is a particularly Scrappy example of this.
    • 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 his death and making him powerful, or placing him in the keep to make your army powerful.
  • 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 and 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 loose Tanya the mission would automatically fail. it was also the only lose condition that had a unique announcement (Tanya has been lost).
  • Inherent in the original Final Fantasy Tactics, and in jagd in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but it has its roots in Final Fantasy VI, where if the enemy gets to Terra in the first multi-party battle, it's game over. Also, if Banon dies in any Banon fight ever, game over.
  • 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.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater: Snake Eater: After you encounter Ocelot for the first time, he gets knocked unconscious in a cutscene. If you kill him while he's lying on the floor, the Game Over screen appears with "Ocelot Is Dead" instead of "Game Over", eventually fading out into "Time Paradox".
  • Many chapters in Namco X 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, it's game over, and you're sent back to the last save point.
  • Starcraft does this with Jim Raynor, Zeratul and other characters.
  • Warcraft II and the limited-forces campaign levels in Warcraft III.
  • 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.
    • God Mars is a bad example of this - once God Mars appears in the game, he cannot die or you get a Nonstandard 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 Dawn of War There is an optional mission objective of 'assassinate' where you start with a hero and he/she must survive.

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.
  • 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.
  • Dawn of War campaign heroes can be rebuilt like any other unit.[1] 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.
  • A non-video game aversion: Warhammer and Warhammer 40000 core rulebooks make a point of averting this so that you can purposely build up your characters through conversions, and justify why you can loose 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".

Notes

  1. the skirmish/multiplayer games just have a generic 'Force Commander', 'Farseer' etc., so replacements could well be actual replacements
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