Regardless of who you're playing, the goal is the same; protect your warp gate, and destroy your opponent's. The battles take place on a grid with a planet in the center, the players on opposite sides, and various obstacles occupying other places. A handy tutorial in the first mission explains everything you need to know; just click on your warp gate to deploy ships when available, and click on a ship to issue orders to it. Each turn, you gain energy that you use to warp in different ships you can then direct about the battlefield and attack. When you're done, click the planet in the center to end your turn and start your opponent's. Reduce the opposing warp gate to zero hit points by attacking it with your ships to win, but don't leave yourself unguarded. Be warned; the game only saves after each mission. You can't save in the middle of a battle, which means you have to see each one to the end or lose all your progress in it.
After each turn, the entire battlefield rotates clockwise around the planet in the center of the screen. Why should you care? Because this orbit is different depending on how close you are to the planet, and not only does it shift obstacles around the playing field, but beneficial objects such as repair stations and energy sources as well that grant bonuses to anyone who has a ship stationed nearby. Fortunately, the lack of a timer means you can sit and mull over your strategy and plan your moves in advance. Might I recommend deploying an obscene number of warships and coming down on your terrified foes like the hammer of God? It's an oldie, but a goodie.
Analysis: Star Relic wasn't a game I expected to enjoy at first, but found myself quickly falling prey to "... five more minutes" syndrome. The presentation is extremely tight; while I might wish everything was a bit larger, the visuals are well designed, and the inclusion of voice acting makes the whole thing feel like a professional little package. The downside to voice acting, of course, is that most ships only have one audio clip they play over and over when preforming any particular action; when your enemy gives the same command to five identical ships, hearing the same clip five times in quick succession can set your teeth on edge. The endless looping music track for some species can likewise get old quick, but fortunately there's a button to toggle it right at the top of the screen so you can play something more appropriate. I don't know about you, but I prefer to do all my conquering to Black Sabbath and AC/DC.
There is a story involving a relic (surprise) being uncovered somewhere in the galaxy that both the humans and the reptillian Klossians have their knickers in a twist over, but it's mostly relegated to short text blurbs in between battles. Which isn't necessarily the kiss of death since, while sort of interesting, it isn't integrated well enough to be compelling. No, where Star Relic shines is its simple, point-and-click strategic gameplay The gameplay is extremely accessible and easy to pick up, with only one resource to keep track of and no complicated commands to master. It also features a pleasantly robust single battle mode that lets you select your opponent and choose from a variety of maps to duke it out on, in addition to allowing your chosen race access to all its technology from the get-go.
All of this combines to form a surprisingly addictive bit of galactic strategy that is as relaxing as it is involving. What's satisfying about Star Relic's gameplay is the knowledge that when things turn south, it's usually your own fault; it might not sound comforting, but knowing any failures are from your lack of planning rather than an unfair advantage to your AI opponents. If you're careful, you can usually think your way out of any battle, even if your chances for victory look slim. And if you're not careful, well... there's always openings in the star fleet maintenance department.