This could also be called "How to achieve balance without cheating", since so many people asked about it in this way. Well, here's a summary of the way we think about balance.
Have you ever played an RTS that frustrated you? Is it possible that the frustration came from getting slaughtered by seemingly invulnerable enemy units? Or was it because your own units seemed underpowered?
If a game frustrates you, it is probably caused by design decisions that have to do with balance. RTS/ RTT Game designers - understandably - want their games to be successful and so they will make sure there is a sense of balance between factions. There are are several ways of influencing the balance. In RTS games that depict war, this is usually done by upgrading or downgrading units. Let's have a look at that.
By simply using the "three degrees of cheat" you can influence a game in a big way. These three degrees are called Gimp, Nerf and Buff.
In many games, at least one of these is used to create balance. In some games, you will even find 2 or 3 degrees in a single situation. For example, if you come up against a tank that has a crazily effective gun while at the same time it cannot be destroyed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the enemy's gun and armor are buffed and your gun is nerfed.
This doesn't mean it's a bad way to have balance, but because CtA: Gates of Hell intends to be as realistic as possible, we have something else in mind to balance our factions. The magic word is "history". Since we want our content to be historically correct, we obviously should stay away from buffing, nerfing and gimping units. So how to achieve balance then?
The answer is never very simple.
For one, it will always be arbitrary; we offer 4 different difficulty levels, so which one is the realistic one? The answer is up to the player, it's not possible to pick one that everybody would agree on.
In the end, we also achieve balance by means of unit price, cooldown times, and basically - history.
For our single player and multiplayer missions, we intend to give you situations that will bring balance based on the tactical situation and the environment. For example; you have the better tanks but you're fighting in city streets. Or maybe your tanks are weak, but you have twice as many as the enemy. In other situations, you may have the weaker forces but there is time to dig trenches and foxholes.
Our level designers and mission scripters use every possible bit of historical and/ or geographical context to achieve balance.
So there you have it, history is the cure to cheating.