I agree the generals play very "assassin-like" in this incarnation and I'd certainly like to see their playstyle differ much more. I don't however think you need such drastic measures as have been mentioned so far to achieve that.
The things I don't see as a problem with the current system are :
- The summoning units system as opposed to barracks
- Experience and gold earning system
The summoning mechnic itself is fine and is actually a more unique system than the traditional barracks system in most RTS, it's also already implemented and a shame to waste. Earning experience and gold in the same way as assassins means both demigods have the same goals if very different means of achieving them. If they had different goals they could end up ignoring each other while they focus on achieving their different goals.
As I see it the main points encouraging a general to play like an assassin are :
- The generals themselves are stronger than a full set of minions (skills and basic attack).
- Unit effectiveness diminishes as demigods level (AoEs get stronger, demigods can outrun minions, minions don't get stronger).
- The general can spend far more gold upgrading himself than minions through items.
- The benefits of leveling up only slightly help minion power.
My solutions :
Demigod strength - Of a general and his force, the general provides the majority of the damage and as he levels up it just gets worse. I propose drastically reducing the generals damage output, by half or more. Not just by reducing the damage of his default attack but also changing most of the direct damage skills to deal less damage and emphasising the secondary effects (Stronger slow, greater armour reduction, bigger armour bonus for friendly units, better health drain ratio, etc.).
The general's health and armour however should remain about the same to stop them being too much of a soft target, they should be toothless compared to an assassin, not fragile.
The only other change that might be nessecary would be to make all generals slower than assassins and increase minion speeds. So the generals have a chance to finish fleeing assassins without being able to escape/kite too easily when the situation is reversed.
Minion strength - The primary solution is to have the strength of a generals minions increase as he increases in levels. Increased HP, faster regen, increased damage, increased armour and increased speed. This is would be one of the general's main incentives to level up, if he keeps up in levels the combined fire of his units will still be as frightening at level 25 as it once was at level 5.
Also, reduce the summoning skill cooldowns to ~10 seconds, make them summon one at once and make the casting time even longer than it already is. That way a general replenishing lost units must be immobile and vulnerable for a long period for each unit he replaces, so each minion loss in an indirect way dissables the general for a short time.
Uses for gold - Get rid of the totems and start the game with the ability to summon all 3 units. A general is his units, don't make the ability to use them in the first place an expensive purchasable. Instead restrict all the current items to assassins and add a range of general specific items that increase various aspects of his minions, so he can customise his army somewhat through them. They can take up slots just like the items do on assassins so there's a choice about which 5 items you want but the items should primarily help the minions with few (if any) secondary benefits for the general himself.
Adding some consumables that have a use to generals would be nice too, with area of effect buffs or a cheap quick summon item.
Those changes don't require too many (I hope) drastic changes to the current system but would certainly shift the playstyle of generals strongly towards his units and give the diversity between generals and assassins we all want.