Relativity is a new game by UK based Indie developer, PurpleGames, which has recently appeared in the Xbox Live Indie spotlight. It's a game that puts science first, as many of its principles are based on Einstein's theory of relativity - hence the name. It's also a game that lets players battle it out on the galactic front against an alien race, all while exploring the space/time continuum.
Taking up the effective role of the Toodians' leader, players start off by enabling them to expand their horizons and take their first steps at space exploration. However, when they start to branch out a little further, they encounter a formidable foe in the form of the Squishians. They adapt quickly and don't like to play fair, all this does though is allow the Toodians to flex their muscles and show the universe what they're capable of.
The game's real-time strategy component is pretty basic. Players can take over planets in the galaxy, and on each planet a set number of buildings can be made. Build time depends on the happiness of the planet's population, as well as the size of the population. It's also possible to invent things as well though, although this is completely independent from the buildings. Inventions are based around improving the quality of ships, defences and improving life expectancy. Terraforming is also something which can be researched, and this allows for more planets to be taken over. Each invention has three levels of improvement, and the next level is unlocked upon researching the one before.
Where the game starts to get more interesting though, is with the combat. Everything is displayed in a 2D plane, but gravity is represented in 3D plane. It means that an entity like a sun, is nestled deep into the game's landscape in order to represent its gravitational pull. While it is possible to manually fly ships and fire their lasers with the right analog stick, the game is far more interesting when using space/time weaponry. Space/time waves send shockwave across the galaxy in a specified direction, affecting the gravitational pull objects are influenced by. If a planet gets caught on the crest of a wave, it can simply fly out of a sun's orbit, or it can be pushed closer into its orbit causing it to spiral into the sun.
Space/time bombs are similar, except they are user controlled, like a ship. They detonate when their time expires, creating a circular impact wave from where it ended up. Placing this next to a planet can cause serious damage to both the inhabitants and its future within the galaxy. Naturally, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and so countermeasures are also available. They help to dampen the effects that waves cause. It's some seriously advanced warfare and really makes for some interesting exchanges. Sure, it's possible to take over a planet by invading it, but why do that when it can simply be obliterated?
It really serves to highlight both the physics and graphics on display. Watching a wave ripple across the screen is great, and watching how planets/ships react to it looks great too. Watching waves collide is even more impressive. However, the overall presentation is fairly standard. Ships are bland and the planets are just circles with some very basic textures slapped on top. It's a shame that the graphics couldn't compliment the smooth representation of the physics that are present within the game. The voices during a level can get a bit tedious too - hearing that something has been built over and over again could have been done with a simple text pop-up.
The game actually has quite a lot of length. There are ten levels to play through, some of which can actually be quite time consuming. There is a slightly annoying aspect to this though, as players must save in-level if they wish to continue through the campaign. There's no option to continue from where they left off without doing this. After reaching a certain place in the campaign they can play older levels, but this doesn't help with progression, only to reminisce. To cap the experience off, there's also a skirmish mode, which players can tailor to their liking.
Relativity is a pretty fun game, although its fairly simple in its gameplay concepts. What helps it to distinguish itself though is its use of physics, and its interesting take on space warfare. Who needs ships when it's possible to send a space/time wave across the galaxy to distort gravity?