Deadlock: Planetary Conquest is a 2D turn-based 4X strategy. Players take the roles of aliens deadlocked on a planet surface. The game has seven different races with special abilities, for example the Maugs are great scientists, ChCh-T have the highest birth rate etc. They spend turns building, expanding, and ultimately warring. The planet's surface is divided into smaller areas. Each area is home to one of the cities that need to be constructed. To colonize a new area, the player must build a colonizer. Players can expand their cities by erecting residential buildings, farms, factories, mines and research centres. Inventions made in the latter provide new units, new materials and better buildings (for example a hydroponic farm is far better than a normal farm). The residents' satisfaction is important - dissatisfied citizens (taxes are too high) protest and don't work.
The battle begins after the player places their units in a foreign land. Battles are separately animated - after being initiated players have no control over them. The game also has a spying mechanic that spies can use to steal technologies. The player wins by fulfilling one of the victory conditions, for example remaining the last living race on the planet, or reaching a set number of city centres first.