Like many of you I am dying in anticipation of the release of the Firefly Online game, hopefully in the next few months. In the meantime, we can get a taste of the world SparkPlug Games is creating with the Cortex, the official companion app for Firefly Online. The app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows and Mac via Steam.
The first thing to note is this is a companion app, not a game per se, and, in its basic free state, is simply an easy way to manage your profile, lock in your account name, and get news updates about Firefly Online. You can also earn a handful of Brownie Points (BP) by going through the app, referring friends, and clicking through to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube from the app. The BP will convert to in-game currency once the game goes live, but, overall, the free version of the app is probably just a once-and-done for most folks.
Where the app starts getting really good is when you pony up the $4.99 for the Big Damn Hero pack. The BDH pack gives you access to the Map of the Verse, Trade missions, collectible digital cards, unlockable badges, behind-the-scenes content, your name in the credits of Firefly Online, and the “Crappy Town Where You’re the Hero” DLC. Perhaps the biggest reward for buying the BDH pack is helping to support the Firefly Online game. SparkPlug Games has already used the money to hire more staff to help polish and deliver the game.
The Map of the Verse is where you will spend most of your time once you have the BDH upgrade. There are unlimited free routes that earn you 50 BP per run, a daily route that will earn you a mystery loot crate (all copper level crates in my experience), and a weekly route that will earn you a silver loot crate. You can also just explore the map without doing a route. Each trade route takes less than a minute, which makes them something you can easily do commuting or standing in line.
Selecting a mission drops you into the map where Mal welcomes you and, yes, he is actually voiced by Nathan Fillion! In fact, the entire original cast will be voicing their characters in Firefly Online, including Alan Tudyk as Wash, as the game takes place between the series and the film.
While the unlimited free routes give you as much time as you like, the daily and weekly routes are timed. You have the time allotted, visible at the top of the screen, to make three cargo deliveries. The way the deliveries work is that a crew member gives you the info and then you have to quickly zoom in and out of systems in the galaxy to find the location. Once you find the right location, the next delivery is assigned.
Finding the right locations is much easier than it sounds. The crew member usually gives you enough information to drill right in to the location, though sometimes you’ll have to do a little guessing and hunting. Once you complete the entire route, you are rewarded and can head over to view your loot.
Your loot comes in three different flavors of crates–copper, silver, and gold. Copper crates grant three cards and 50 BP, silver crates grant 10 cards and 100 BP, and gold crates grant 25 cards and 500 BP.
The cards you earn go in to a digital gallery, and some of the cards form sets that then earn you even more loot crates. This set is my favorite because Morena Baccarin, of course. Each card gives you a little history of the show and tells you which episode the still is from. It’s quite nostalgic to relive a lot of these scenes.
If you really want to complete your card collection without grinding on the trade routes, you can also buy card packs. I haven’t tried buying them so not sure how worthwhile they are. I’m more than happy to grind away in the ‘Verse!
Brownie Points not only convert to in-game currency, but they also increase your rank. With the free version of the app, I was able to earn a couple hundred Brownie Points. Playing with the BDH upgrade, I’m currently at 13000 BP and Rank 132. Every 5 levels of rank, you earn a loot crate. Everything in the app is about getting BP and getting cards.
Completing routes and increasing your rank also earns you badges. You can select one of your badges to show up on your profile.
The final feature is the ship viewer. Once unlocked, the 3D models of the ships from Firefly Online can be viewed here along with some details about the ship.
The one downside to the game is that, like more and more games, a connection is required to play. This prevents me from playing while I’m underground during my commute. However, the game does sync your account to their servers, which means you can play on your iOS, Android, PC, and Mac all with a single account and always pick up where you left off.
Overall I think the companion app is well worth the BDH upgrade for any Firefly fan, especially if you have any desire to play the Firefly Online game when it comes out.
A major update to the game will be coming in the next couple weeks, so now is a great time to jump on. Version 2.10 will include a second series of cards to collect, so getting series 1 cards will be a little harder post update. A Shipworks tool will also be added for BDH which will allow for customizing the paint jobs on your ships.
Checkout keepflying.com for the latest news and updates on both the Cortex and Firefly Online.