Am I missing something? It requires you to either bend the game mechanics around the save/load feature to make it painful to reload, or make acquiring things so easy that the whole notion of losing something becomes meaningless; you just get it back right away anyway... The first is a terrible kludge, and the second really is bad design.
The second option is not a bad one.
I agree, that's bad level design; retrying is just a convenience to make that issue slightly less painful for the player. But what is the alternative? You could have a 'skip this scene' button I guess. You could patch the game when you realize that players die a lot there. What if there's some trick to beating that scene? like 'you have to burn the rope' or something? Until the player figures it out, they just have to keep trying. That's kinda the point of creating a challenge for the player, you're placing the bar this high, and you say, "you must jump over the bar to continue"
In my opinion reloading is bad game design, technically it is sometimes worth to have such a feature, but from a game design view reloading a scene (atleast many times) is just boring. I remember once a scene in max payne where [lots of reloading, unpleasant]
Fair enough. It's not an intrinsic design solution. It's offering different rankings for players based on whether or not they made use of the save/load feature. BUT save/load is, as you have noticed, a feature extrinsic to the design of the game itself. In essence, you get to relive portions of your avatar's life (or avatars' lives). If that's what you're so uncomfortable with, then getting rid of load/save may actually be the right thing to do to get the aesthetic you want.Has this anything to do with game design ? Load/save is a technical feature which could spoil the game, either because you can't reload an older save to overcome an else impossible situation (=>bad gamedesign) or you need to "grind" load/save a certain situation until you beat it (=>bad gamedesign). I never talked about getting rid of load/save I just want to approach the goal, that the player does not see any necessity in reloading the game.
Blah 'casual' mode blah save/load blah 'normal' blah 'hardcode' blah
I understand your goal to be that your level design is so good that the player is consistently challenged but never actually loses so much that she feels the need to reload. That's a great goal to have suppose you actually succeeded in doing so; why would you need a save/load feature then?
So you asked the question: unique or generic recruits? Are you worried that the player might lose a unit she could carry on without, but because she liked his name and anthropomorphized him just a little, she's going to reload just to get him back? The other side of that is equally important; loss is not loss if you don't care about what was lost. Maybe what you really want is to make a game where the player never loses things that are valuable.
Having units with unique names is cool! even more so if every one of them is mechanically unique, when one of them dies, you have both the practical 'value was lost' (like losing an expansion in starcraft) loss, and the emotional loss, which is actually entirely made up by the player if you think about it; she uses her little imagination to instill that individual unit with emotional value.
This is a ridiculously long post, and I think I edited out any redundancy, sorry for rambling.