Permadeath is a staple of Fire Emblem, but most players just restart missions when somebody dies, which sort of defeats the purpose of the mechanic. How would you redesign permadeath to force players to deal with it rather than cheese to avoid it?
It’s tricky. You could go the obvious route and have no permanent save file to revert back to, but that’s harsh. My first thought was go dark souls and autosave constantly.
But then you run into the trouble of, what if everyone dies? Do you just reset everything? do you give them a checkpoint (that isn’t a save point) and restore the characters to what they had at that checkpoint? Then if they lose one character, they might just intentionally wipe their party, which is dumb and a waste of time on their part.
I asked a friend who is a fire emblem fan and he said you’re basically paying in the real time that you’re losing, so resetting is already a big punishment to players. Which makes me think that maybe permadeath isn’t actually supposed to be the intended consequence, maybe the permadeath thing isn’t supposed to be a real persistent factor, maybe it’s just a way to force loss-averse people to keep retrying. Maybe it’s a way to force people to play to a better standard of excellence, because if units revived, then you could just rush enemies down, and not worry about a few casualties, since they’ll be there the next mission. Maybe they don’t actually intend for you to lose units at all, they just hold that threat in the air so you’ll always try to play perfect.
The fundamental problem here is, you want people to occasionally basically be forced to progress with 1 less unit, to be forced to see things through when a unit dies, but you also want to always restart a mission with all your units intact. If you get a total wipe, then it’s ridiculous to ask people to go back to the beginning of the game.
Maybe it could be solved by having a set limit to how many characters can die per-mission. So if a character dies, they get marked for death automatically on the save file, meaning that if you lose the mission, that marked for death thing is still on the first 1, 2 or even 3 characters that died. Then when you complete the mission successfully, those marked for death characters die invariably. From there, build the game so you’re not allowed to revert to checkpoint in the middle of a battle, just suspend saves when you quit the game, meaning that if a character is about to die, you can only resume at the point you’re currently playing at, you can’t say quit the game and reload from checkpoint. Then if they die, you might wipe your whole party to restart from checkpoint, but that’s increasing your losses instead of decreasing them, creating an incentive to continue with the mission. So you’re allowing people to retry with all their characters, but they still take losses as they go and can’t reset. If you’re really harsh on people, you could even allow another 3 characters to be marked for death on the retry, or just allow the whole squad to be marked for death post-mission, assuming there’s backup units waiting in reserve.
Though talking to my friend, I don’t think anyone actually loses units intentionally. The fandom would probably hate a real solution here, they don’t actually want anyone to die.