For those of us who enjoy Star Wars, we know that the heroes are everything. Let's face it, the whole damned universe revolves around the plot involving Luke and Vader. All the supporting plot elements involve huge characters as well. Boba Fett, Han Solo, Leia, Mara Jade, Wedge Antilles, etc. We all know that these names make the universe what it is.
Which is why it's no surprise that heroes are such a big deal in Star Wars: Rebellion. Basically, each side has about 30 unlockable heroes, each of which is free, compared to units that can accomplish comporable missions, and can grow in power, as opposed to units which stay the same. Also, special forces are limited to one kind of mission, whereas heroes can go on two or more types of missions. Also, while there's a chance that heroes can be killed outright, it is rare, whereas special forces are cannon fodder. Heroes are much more likely to be injured or captured than killed.
In Empire At War, heroes take a lesser role. Yes, they are still powerful (there's one mission where the emperor alone takes on a whole planet of bothans), but far from unbeatable. Damage them enough, and they'll retreat and be unavailable on the galactic map for a short time. In tactical mode, they provide a definate advantage or raw combat power, but never enough so that they're unbalanced. EAW turns unbalanced, superhuman heroes and brings them more in line with the rest of the units. They're still heroic, but not to the point of being Gods.
Which brings us to the concept here. Heroes can work well in a game. They're present in ever-increasing numbers these days, and in some cases it works really well. The thing to note, however, is that heroes alone should not be able to win the game, and they need to be kept in balance with the other units in the game. Command and Conquer: Generals did a good job of this. Colonol Burten, Black Lotus, and Jarmen Kell are all very powerful, and damned deadly when micromanaged. However, Burten is very vulnerable, especially to gattling fire, when he's setting bombs. Black Lotus can't defend herself, and is vulnerable when using any of her abilities. Jarmen Kell's ability only works on vehicles every 30 seconds, and leaves him open long enough to be hit and killed.
Balance is key to heroes, as with everything. They must not be the entire game. Even Neverwinter Nights relied on henchmen, NPCs, and pets to some extent, and that was a game entirely about heroes. Heroes are an addition to the game, not a game maker.
Next time: I'll explore Research as it applies in a Rebellion and an Empire At War.