Preface: I know this is disgustingly long, but give it a chance, I honesly think it's worth it Also, some people already proposed similar things in different threads, I want to build up on them and give them some shape.
(note: english is not my native language and I struggle a bit to word my ideas here and there, but I hope I manage to get my points across).
I believe there are some fundamental problems to the elite system now and it could be relatively easily improved to make DoW3 better. This will be a multipost, sorry, but I want to explain each proposed thing in detail to allow for potential deeper discussion. First I want to lay down some baselines to this post:
I really like DoW3, I think it's far from perfect but it has the potential and I really want it to get better and bigger. I'm not asking for a different game with my changes, even though they would make a significant impact. I believe the spirit of this game would be kept intact and even improved on maybe.
This is not a race balance thread, so please stay on the topic of general changes to the elite system applied similarly to all races. It is also a fundamental discussion, the problems I present here won't change as players get better because they are that, fundamental, it's not something players are doing wrong. I even dare to say that these problems will become way more obvious as players get better (forced pacing, forced early elite builds, etc., see below).
I'm going to talk almost exclusively about 1v1. Early 1v1 is where the problems of the current system manifest the most for different reasons (see below), so my proposed changes are aimed at this stage, while not influencing late game and team modes that much.
Also I believe 1v1 is where the heart of every RTS game lies and that's where you need to balance things. I believe if you balance 1v1 right, 3v3 will be well balanced as well, but it doesn't necessarily work the other way around, because of the teamplay influence in team modes.
I regard elites as "free" because they are outside of the main game economy, you buy them for a resource that you gain automatically, which basically equals free. Yes, you can speed it up, and it is related to elite point generator costs and map design, and these could be modified as well, but it wouldn't really solve the problems I want to talk about, so let's regard them as free for now.
So, to let's get to the "problem": Elite units are free, way stronger than line units, with no leveling throughout the game, so they come into the match with a big power spike that eventually fades out slowly. This creates some disproportions in unit micro and overall a weird and different but not really great feeling to the game, while introducing problems with balance and pacing of the game. My goal is to decrease this power spike and improve on the feel while still keeping the game revolving around elite units. So what do I propose and why?
I. Nerf early game elites damage significantly
The biggest problem here are the nuker units that have potential to almost wiping out even multiple squads with the press of two buttons, but not just exclusively them. The problem it creates is that you can be perfectly on top of your micro, outplaying your opponent with your line units, but then fail to dodge that one ability and lose the fight decisively because of that, which creates a dissatisfactory feeling to the game imo. There is a huge disproportion in unit micro mistakes where if you make a small mistake in the wrong moment, you lose the fight instantly. Ideally you should be punished hard for big mistakes and punished lightly for small mistakes, but it doesn't apply at all here, because same mistakes lead to vastly different punishments. The unit wiping abilities are not easier to dodge or harder to pull out than other things in the game.
It doesn't matter as much in the late game, because you have more units and more resources, so the focus shifts more towards the macro game. But in the early game, where the focus is on tight micro, this feels unhealty and not good for the game. And yes, you can say l2p and so on, but the point is such a difference between different unit and ability impacts will never feel good, it makes the weaker unit feel worthless. I'm not saying they are, but the game is actively creating this feeling.
On the other hand, I would keep the tankyness of the elites, that is fine. They shouldn't drop like flies. Look at other RTSs that have heroes or something similar, (WC3, previous DoWs), the heroes are tankier than other units from the first moments, but damage-wise they are around the same. That's the right way to do hero units in an RTS.