It was a surprise to find out I’ve been playing the beta version of Escape from Tarkov. As one of the latest crazes in the multiplayer FPS genre, many, including I, say this is unique.
The beta came out in July 2017 for Windows PC. The setting is the fictional Norvinks region, where two private military corporations are at war. Players take part in either side by joining “raids.” You enter Tarkov and fight other players for loot.
There’s a catch, though: there’s a great emphasis on the survival element. Loot is scarce, and ammo is not at all plentiful. Every time you die, you lose everything you’ve found (although there’re a few exceptions).
Add the realistic and depressing setting for a survival simulator looter-shooter with RPG multiplayer features.
We’re here to review the game and see if it might be worth it for you. If the shooter piques your interest, we’re also sharing the information every beginner should learn to get started.
Escape From Tarkov Review
Escape From Tarkov Reception
With ongoing support and constant updates, the game keeps growing in popularity. Last year, developers Battlestate Games reset every server and wiped all progression as part of a global patch. As a result, the game broke its record with 200,000 concurrent players.
The game has been growing ever since. It’s not the biggest one out there, though. As context, Escape from Tarkov is one of the top 30 most-watched games on Twitch.
As you see, it’s not the most popular multiplayer shooter out there. However, it’s not a battle royale as Warzone or Fortnite, so these games are not competing in the same genre.
Also, the game has been a complete success for the Russian developers. They were even able to fund and release the homonymous movie on YouTube:
Aside from its growing player base, both fans and critics praise it for its challenge. Surviving Tarkov is the goal, and achieving the objective requires skill, stealth, and strategy.
It’s not a beginner-friendly shooter, though. But if you’re tired of pink Ak-47s over at Call of Duty, Tarkov offers the mature experience you might be craving.
The situation at Norvinks keeps degrading each day. Developers progress this setting to add new features into the game.
The plot revolves around the city of Tarkov. Two aggressive corporations ruined the place after a greedy war.
Parts of the city are under the control of violent locals, the “Scavs.” Scavs and military corporations are at war within Tarkov streets, buildings, forests, and sewers. The local population is trying to flee, but others are looking to find fortune.
Chaos amok, there’re unseen borders all across the city. Different groups are in control of each area, but no group is free from large-scale conflict.
UN and Russian military units are blocking the city. Supply chains and communications don’t exist.
Still, surviving the city requires gear; you’ll need to find it first.
It’s an exciting setting that’s enough to create one of the most interesting and challenging FPS shooters out there. You’re there for a reason; you understand the circumstances, and you fight to beat the circumstances.
There’s a series on Battlestate’s YouTube channel that details the setting and the lore of the game. These 10 minutes or so clips serve as the game’s promotional material.
PMC vs Scavs
As you boot the game, you can choose to play either as a Scav or a PMC (Player created character).
The PMC chooses one of the two factions: the United Security (USEC) corporation; or BEAR, a Russian organization. Each faction has its advantages, cosmetics, and weapons.
When using your PMC, you’ll use the equipment you’ve earned during your entire Escape from Tarkov playtime.
A loot system includes crafting, healing items, ammo, grenades, weapons, and armor. Additionally, there’s scrap you can salvage to barter with trader NPCs for gear. There’s also a limit to how many items you can carry. It depends on the backpack you carry.
However, remember you’ll lose everything on death. It’s a high-risk, high-reward system.
Either way, you have access to a stash to keep your loot. This is outside of the raids, though, on the Offline Hideout.
Scavs are mostly AI enemies populating the raid. They present the best way to get fast loot for your PMC character.
But if you choose to play as a Scavenger, you’ll get randomly generated gear. Your loadout is not very strong, but you also get free low-tier stuff every time you spawn.
Moreover, you can kill both PMCs and Scavs to get their gear. AI Scavs are friendly to you until they see you shooting at them.
There’s another factor: PMCs can disguise themselves as Scavs if they loot their apparel. You’d need to check their behavior and see if they move as a person or an AI.
Players can deploy at any of the dozen Tarkov locations, like the Reserve or the Factory.
The deploy point serves as the map, and each map holds a different number of players. Typically, the limit goes from 6 to 12 concurrent players per map.
For example, Customs can hold 7 to 12 players, and it has a maximum time of 35 minutes. Also, it has Scavs spawn points, boss spawn points, hidden keys, treasure chests, and more.
Most importantly, there’s a PMC Exit, which is the point you need to reach before the time limit.
Meanwhile, the Scavs are the opposing NPC faction. Enemy NPCs have different rarity levels. Upper levels increase the AI and the gear for a bigger challenge.
The goal is to find getting loot and then escaping at the extraction point.
Escape from Tarkov also has a skill system. It takes inspiration from the Skyrim design: you improve your skills by using them in the field. You can level the skills up to level 51.
There’re no points to spend, though, nothing to choose when you level. However, levels provide passive buffs and extra abilities.
The more you level a particular ability, the slower it becomes because of “exhaustion.” You’d need to stop using it for a while to recover from exhaustion.
The exhaustion system delivers a “skill progression speed” that allows you to level up your skills faster or slower. Both your Scavs and your PMC gain skill levels. The only thing that changes in the Scav on new raids is the name and the gear.
The first tree is the Physical tree. You can level up these skills by doing physical activities. Playing the game normally can take you miles ahead in the physical tree. Jumping, running, and walking overweight are the main activities you can do.
You’ll find Endurance, Health, Immunity, Metabolism, Strength, Vitality, and Stress Resistance within the tree. Notably, you can level up Stress Resistance by taking damage without any stimulants to mitigate.
Together, they improve your overall physical performance like speed, stamina, health regeneration, resistance to negative effects, and similar.
The next tree is Mental. It’s a set of abilities that increases your chances of finding better loot, repairing weapons, and trading. You level up Mental by finding and picking up loot, trading, and completing tasks.
These skills are Attention, Charisma, Intelligence, Perception, and Memory. Notably, memory decreases the rate at which your skills lose XP.
The next group of skills belongs to the Combat category. There’s a skill for each weapon type, and you level them up by using them. There’s a Recoil Control skill that gains XP by aiming and hitting a target.
The next category is Practical. It packs all of your survival skills like Prone Movement, Crafting, Weapon Modding, and Barter. Again, you level these skills by using them. For example, you can use a surgery kit to fix a friend’s fracture to level up your Surgery skill.
Lastly, PMC characters unlock a Special tree. Both Bear and USEC deliver five unique skills to level up.
Escape From Tarkov Verdict
I understand Escape from Tarkov doesn’t have the best graphics. It’s not Warzone, either, with over a hundred players firing at each other.
But it has something special, an incredible setting that moves forward a survival looter shooter.
It can be tough at first, but it’s not hard to understand. Just playing the game and reading the item specs is enough to become a decent player in a couple of days.
I highly recommend Escape from Tarkov to anyone tired of playing one battle royale after the next. If you’re looking for a quieter time that requires more strategy and less mouse movement speed, try this one out.
Overall, it’s the most realistic FPS out there. But its survival elements make it the most difficult one as well. Its PvP is as hardcore as it gets.
Beginner’s Guide to Playing Escape From Tarkov for the First Time
I’ll share some beginning tips so you check Escape from Tarkov yourself and survive a couple of rounds. Now that you know the basics, here are the extra bits you could use during your first playtime hours.
Scavs or PMCs – Which one is better?
Playing as a PMC is often more entertaining. It feels more akin to an RPG game. However, you can play as a Scav a couple of times before you choose a PMC.
What to Do First?
When you go into the game for the first time, choose the Customs map. It’s beginner-friendly as it has a low amount of Scavs and not many secrets to discover. Otherwise, Factory and Reserve are often harder but offer better loot.
As you start exploring the world, check for the nearest Scav spawn point. Avoid the bosses, though.
That said, it’s better to have access to a map. You can have it on your phone, for example. It tells you where your extract points are, which is the most crucial location.
Similarly, every raid you do has quests or tasks to complete. You can earn loot or cash through them. Be sure to try them out.
Bear in mind, raids have time limits. You can double-tap ‘O‘ to see the countdown. If you don’t reach the extraction point in time, the raid doesn’t count.
Protect Your Loot
You can ensure your loot with a Prapor or a Therapist NPC. If you die, but no one picks your loot, you can get it back in 24 hours, (after you ensure your loot).
Additionally, every player has access to Secure Containers at the beginning of every raid. These have limited spaces, but they can protect your items if you die.
Similarly, only bring what you need on your raids. Because Tarkov is a realistic scenario, you’ll need to bring medical supplies, food, water, and decent armor. For example, you start with a level two vest armor, which doesn’t protect you very much.
The first thing you do with your new character is getting familiar with your inventory and the items you already have.
The inventory works as a classical Resident Evil inventory, with spaces and items of different sizes.
That said, you have four inventories on the interface: Tactical Gear, Pockets, Backpack, and Pouch. On top of that, there’s the gear you’re carrying, which includes armor and weapons.
You may feel confused by the headset space, though. They serve to cancel out noises like rain, gunfire, and ambient noise. Similarly, eye-gear reduces the effect of raindrop effects on your screen.
Also, you won’t lose whatever you put on your pouch. I recommend you place your medical supplies there.
Lastly, there’re containers, which fit inside your bag and can carry additional items.
A Regular FPS With Scarce Ammo
Every weapon has recoil, but gunplay is smooth and familiar. As general advice, though, fire single rounds instead of a spray of ammo. Why? Because you have to reload your guns manually (sometimes bullet by bullet).
Movement and combat controls are also familiar. You can jump, crouch, prone, aim, throw grenades, shoot, change weapons, etc.
If you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse, you can configure your keybinds as you like. Use the same configuration you use on your favorite FPS games.
However, consider ammo is scarce. Also, think about how much ammo you’re carrying: it could take you a full AK-47 mag to take out a human player.
Likewise, there’re different ammo types, so be sure to read the item specifications.
The Most Important Items
Much like ammo, health regeneration is tough. You need medical supplies to survive, and these are the main items you need to stockpile.
Splints, painkillers, and similar items are paramount for beginners. Survivor kits are also at the top of the priority list.
See, you can suffer different types of injuries on your body parts. Thus you need different types of supply kits to heal you and your allies.
Use the Action Bar
This takes us to our next point. You can place items on your quick action bar to use them mid-fight. Jumping to the inventory to heal yourself while dodging enemy fire is not the best idea.
The best items to use on your action bar are med supplies and drugs. Then, when you take a shot, you can take cover and press the corresponding number to heal.
Understand the Healing System
Escape from Tarkov has complex health, damage, system, the Hazardous Environment Combat Simulator.
In essence, particular damages can apply a negative status to a body part. The body parts that include the system are head/thorax, right arm, left arm, stomach, and legs.
Each body part has its own HP bar. Suffering massive damage on a body part can drain HP across your entire system.
When a body part suffers damage, you’ll get a negative effect. So, for example, you can break your legs if you fall too high. As a result, you would run slowly and jump less.
Another example: if you get shot on your right arm, your weapon reload and aiming times will suffer. Or a single headshot can instantly kill you.
Notably, suffering stomach damage will make your character suffer dehydration, draining HP and energy. You’d need to take plenty of water until you fix your stomach.
Likewise, restoring your energy requires taking provisions (mostly food cans). Nevertheless, provisions drain your hydration. As I said: you have to prepare yourself before a raid with ammo, weapons, armor, medical supplies, food, and water.
Lastly, you can heal on your hideout and gain health, hydration, and energy. You can use provisions and medical items to consume. Otherwise, you’ll gain 8 HP per min / 1 Energy per min / 1 Hydratation per min. Additionally, you can upgrade the recovery rate by upgrading Hideout modules like the Water Collector.
Everything Makes a Sound
Use headsets as everything in Tarkov make noises. You even hear the sound of a grenade hitting the floor.
Use these sounds to detect your enemies: from bullets in the distance to an enemy’s last breath.
Moreover, use stealth and suppressors to stay hidden.
And, by the way, you can die very fast. A single headshot from an experienced player takes you out.
Practice With Offline Raids
You can play on offline raids. It means you go in alone without any other real players. Still, you could choose to play with NPC Scavs or alone.
If you want to get the hang of the survival elements, going alone might be a good idea for the first time. However, items you find offline don’t transfer to your hideout stash. Also, you won’t level up your online character with offline playtime.
There’s a silent rule in Escape from Tarkov to identify friend vs. foe. You can press Q and E repeatedly to wiggle your character.
This is the way to say “I’m friendly” to another player. You can still shoot them, though…but why would you?
Defeat the Bosses
Once you get some loot and experience, you can finally attack the bosses. Bosses are super aggressive and heavily armed. Various Scavs also guard them, so you should only engage when you feel ready.
Improve Your Hideout
Lastly, you can improve your hideout with things like an AC system. Each upgrade you place gives you access to new things and even perks for your character.
For example, you can unlock the Workbench to mod guns. Another upgrade is increasing the health regeneration in-between raids.
Another upgrade is creating a Bitcoin Farm within your hideout. It allows you to create real Bitcoins to get rich fast…No; I’m kidding. It’s a late-game upgrade that slowly rewards cash, but you need a high investment.
More importantly, you’d want to heal faster in-between raids. If your character dies on a map, you’ll need to heal it on the hideout. You’d better have some extra med supplies!
During your first raid, you need to be careful, sneaky, and strategic. Search for medical supplies for your pouch and action bar, and keep an eye for suppressors.
Take a look at the map to be aware of the extraction point and carefully explore the world. If you find trader NPCs, interact with them. In particular, Therapists can keep your player healthy.
I’d recommend you to complete a task. These are about searching particular items in particular locations.
As time goes on, you need to approach the exit. Don’t overextend, and don’t risk your character. If you see a boss or a group of human players, run away.
Otherwise, take down enemy Scavs to get their loot, and then go to the extraction point to keep your rewards.
Can You Play With Your Friends?
You can. You’d need to launch the game and select the Messenger button. The button is at the top bottom right.
Then, press the Friends button on the top right to invite your friends. You can add friends by writing their Player Nickname.
To create a Squad, you and your friends need to play as a PMC of the same team. Once you see your friends in the Prepare for Escape lobby, right-click on their usernames and click Invite to Group.
Beware, though; there’s friendly fire. Perhaps you and your friends could wear gas masks as identification.
Can I Play It on My PC?
According to Systems Requirement Lab, here’s the minimum hardware you need:
Is Escape From Tarkov Free?
Escape from Tarkov it’s not free. You need to register at their website and then pre-order the beta version to play. The standard edition has a price tag of $49.99. You can go for pricier editions that grant additional items, cosmetics, and such.
There’s also a merch store, by the way.
When Is the Full Version Coming Out?
Non-official sources claim the full version is coming out by late 2021. If you pre-order the game, you’ll get the proper updates on the release.
Are There Any Downsides?
Of course, there are. Most notably, Escape from Tarkov is incredibly frustrating. The fact that you lose so much progress every time you die makes it painful and punishing. If you don’t like punishing PvP experiences, you’d better avoid this one.
In fact, the experience is so infuriating that it has become a meme. There’s a bunch of YouTube videos “explaining” Tarkov in seconds. And it’s always about instant death.