Hero Unit

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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.

Examples of Hero Unit include:

  • One of the first games to use a Hero unit was the early Sega Genesis game Herzog Zwei, which actually integrated them into the interface, using them to move and direct the other units around the battlefield.
  • 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. 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, they cannot be used in multiplayer, unless one counts the Protoss Mothership, which a player can only have one of at a time.
  • Warhammer 40,000: 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.
    • Space Marines have Force Commanders and Librarians, along with Apothecaries and Techmarines in the sequel.
    • 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.
    • Eldar have Farseers and the Seer Council, with Warlocks and Warp Spider Exarchs added in the sequel.
    • Imperial Guard have the Command Squad. The sequel replaces them with Lord Generals, Commissar Lords and Inquisitors.
    • The Tau have Commanders and Ethereals.
    • Necron have Necron Lords and Destroyer Lords.
    • Sisters Of Battle get the Cannoness and Confessor.
    • Dark Elder have the Archon and Haemonculus.
  • Elemental War of Magic - You can have an army of them. Your sovereign's children, their children etc and whatever champions you may pick up along the way.
  • 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.
  • Non-video game example: In 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars Battlefront had Jedi heroes as one of the bonuses you can purchase for your army in campaign mode. But rather than being controllable, they moved on 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 were severely depowered and made playable.
  • Tanya and her ilk from Command & Conquer: Red Alert and it's sequels.
    • The Commando could count, too. Only difference is that the Commando didn't have a name (not counting Havoc). Of course, you could build Tanyas in multiplayer just like you could build Commandos. I can understand an APC full of identical-looking commandos, but an APC filled with 5 Inexplicably Identical Individuals? Subsequent games in the series averted that with a one-Tanya (Ghostalker, Boris, Burton, etc...) limit.
      • Unless, of course, you're playing Red Alert 2 and you get your hands on a Cloning Vat. Then you can build two heroes.
    • From the same franchise, Command & Conquer: Generals has an American commando (Col. Burton), a Qurac sniper mercenary (Jarmen Kell) and a high-level hacker (Black Lotus) as the hero unit of each faction.
  • 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.
  • The Age of Empires series:
    • |Age of Empires I and its sequel have these only in the built-in campaigns or through the 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). Heroes beat Myth units, Myth units beat normal units, normal units beat heroes (if only due to superior numbers). The main campaign has several unique heroes as main characters, more powerful than normal heroes and effectively immortal.
      • Its expansion pack race had an interesting twist on this - most infantry troops could become a Hero Unit for an additional price, which would increase their stats and make them effective against myth units, but it would generally cause them to be horribly outnumbered by normal soldiers if you made as many as possible, as they also cost additional population.
        • Although if you were able to hold out for long enough, you could build your Atlantean army up to maximum size, save up a ton of resources, then hero the whole damn lot of them. Then finish undigging your Titan and set off to curbstomp the entire universe.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The game 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Age of Wonders series. Only, Wizards are not too cool, and 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.
  • Used in Heroes of Mana, an RTS spin off of the Mana (series). Oddly, 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
  • Used in Star Wars: Empire at War and its expansion. All heroes are larger, though in some cases are still to their canon scale, and most of them are unique units. The only ones that aren't are Red/Rogue Squadrons (X-Wings, though 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 (Zann Consortium flagship). The Admonitor is coloured blue (except when it dies...), though, and the Merciless has unique engine exhaust colour and hull paint.
  • Another Star Wars entry: 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).
    • That may the biggest stretch on calling it a Hero Unit possible.
      • The basic trope description up the top says that a Hero Unit is important and represents a major player. Since the Terminate the Commander match is Exactly What It Says on the Tin - you have to terminate the commander to win - it qualifies. (Mind you, there are also some drawbacks for the canon heroes - none of the Force-using heroes seems to have enough power to convert buildings, even though you can build a small army of Convertamasters and take over most of your opponent's base in skirmish mode.)
  • 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.
  • The "Lord" unit has always been a staple of the Fire Emblem series. Lords are notable right off the bat for having a unique sprite, and they 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.
  • A somewhat different example, but Captain Olimar.
  • 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.
  • Interestingly, Rise of Legends used three heroes per side, unlike its predecessor. Oddly, air heroes cost more and are Always Female.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The first person shooter MAG has a variation on this. To clarify: Sqaudleaders 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.
  • 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 clausule, 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).
  • In Brutal 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 Dark Ophelia commands the Drowning Doom.
  • Ogre Battle is full of units with unique sprites and unique stats who are members of a standard class. The Opinion Leader (and Magnus Valiant in OB64) have unique attacks.
  • 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, though.[1] Namely, one leader for the Covenant, three Spartans for the UNSC.
    • Halo in general has the Spartans as the human variant of this. The Arbiter is the Elite variant of this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  1. , but their respective population caps are also independent from the main one in either case