Gunshots fire off in the distance melding with the occasional explosion. You hear the shouts and screams as scav bodies hit the floor, a fully geared PMC is out there on the loose. Moments later, everything goes dead silent, is the path to extraction clear? Is it time to stop chewing sugar cubes and high tail it out of customs?
Maybe they’ve moved on now but best be safe. Considering the implications of a prolonged firefight, you check your mag, confirming your remaining rounds. Fumbling through your pockets you top off before crawling through the bushes. There isn’t a moment to waste, if you’re too slow, there won’t be an extraction anymore.
You’re close now, just a twenty metre stretch of open ground till sniper’s roadblock. The gunshots blaze once again, this time far too close for comfort. Then everything stops, your vision fades to black as you collapse lifelessly onto cold tarmac. Your run is over, you have lost everything, you have failed to escape from Tarkov…
What is Escape from Tarkov?
Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore military FPS developed by Battlestate Games. While it’s in the upper end of indie, almost bleeding into the ‘A’ space in production value, I would go as far as to say it has the soul of an indie title, living in relative obscurity and more than willing to take risks. Following in the vein of early DayZ, Escape from Tarkov paints itself as a brutal FPS experience where mistakes and small lapses in judgement are punished heavily.
Raids in Tarkov
You play as a SCAV (a completely randomised character) or PMC (your personal operative) trying to secure loot and extract from around the city of Tarkov. Spawning in a random location around the map, you must optimise your escape route, weighing between potential loot and relative safety. After all, you aren’t alone out there, other players with the same objective are out to kill over even something as minute as a pack of croutons. And death means losing everything.
So how do you stop yourself from meeting the business end of a ramshackle rifle? You gear up with your own weaponry and armor, praying that it’s enough to fend off any would be assailant. A dead body is no threat, a live one always has the potential of shooting you in the back. Thankfully, EFT provides myriad ways of customising your weaponry.
The variety of firearms, attachments and armor is honestly quite horrifying. To this day I can’t tell the difference between M80 or M61 rounds, let alone whether you should take one armor over another. This unfortunately expands to much of the rest of the game. There is an insane amount of military content recreated in exquisite detail, but very little to teach you about it all.
That’s not all though, done away with are many modern day crutches and conveniences. There’s no minimap, no indication of extraction points, reference manual or even tutorial to teach you anything at current. You can’t rely on the hud and systems to do work for you. You have to keep track of everything yourself from your remaining ammunition to where the heck you even are on one of the many extensive maps EFT has to offer.
So forget about learning curve, Escape from Tarkov has an inverted learning cliff. It has no plans at all to hold your hand through the affair, and is made better for it. Taking such a risk, any player that sticks around for long forms a more engrained understanding of the game’s systems. They integrate game knowledge on a more intimate level and are always learning something new.
That said, such an experience is not for everyone. Personally I dropped the game after I got my money’s worth. The cliff was far too steep for me to climb and my aim is god awful. I’d miss the broadside of a barn with a shotgun, let alone pick off a SCAV metres ahead of me. However, I do have the privilege of knowing a mate who’s stuck with the experience for long enough to appreciate the vast amount of content provided.
The Choppah Experience
This long time FPS veteran goes by the name Choppah and he’s quite the crackshot. He has stuck with Tarkov for hundreds of hours and knows more about guns then most would deem reasonable. I asked him a few questions regarding his experience with the game and the factors that drew him to it as well as what kept him playing for so long. Here’s what he had to say about the game.
So what’s your story? Why Tarkov?
“I’ve always wanted a hardcore shooter that wasn’t your average millionth battle royale or ARMA clone. None of that static 20 different ways to walk in a straight line bullshit.
Initially I followed the development of Tarkov back in 2016 and was hesitant to purchase the game fearing its lack of completion. But with an overwhelming Twitch.tv community and unhealthy habit of liking anything and everything weapons related, I had to pick it up and try it myself. With friends of course. Waiting a comical amount of time for the full release was just ridiculous.
I understood the consequences that would follow and I was bracing for impact.”
Would you consider the game fair/balanced? Why?
“The game is life like and much like life, it just isn’t fair. It’s just how it’s supposed to be. Anything that can harm you in Tarkov, is a threat. Doesn’t matter if it’s a pistol wielding scav or hatchling, anything can be fatal in the right hands. You can die to just about anything, so keep up your guard and don’t disregard any possibility. Wrong moves in Tarkov are usually punished without mercy.
Newcomers experience this the hard way, starting out with barely anything and faced with higher leveled players with better equipment, skills and above all, experience. Over time new players will learn and gather gear becoming seasoned veterans in no time. Tarkov’s ability to play as a scav, bridges the gap between having nothing at all and somewhere to start. This enables players to gain loot and necessary experience to progress in the game while coming to terms with its brutality.
Usually when a new major patch drops at around the 4 month mark, Tarkov wipes resetting the progression and equipment of all players. Not only does this keep the game fresh but it does give everyone a fair, even playing field. Of course this creates a competitive atmosphere and some players accel to higher levels before others.”
How brutal would you rate the learning curve? Are you yourself still learning things about the game?
“Escape from Tarkov is a constant and vicious cycle of looting, shooting and dying.
The game certainly does not hold your hand, instead it punches out your teeth and kicks you in the balls. The game is not beginner friendly and most importantly is designed to be as hard as nails.
”It is intended to be that way and if you don’t like it don’t play it.”Nikita, Lead Developer on Escape from Tarkov
Starting out as a new player, it is almost a habit to die, as there’s no tutorial and a plethora of unknown ingame mechanics. Most information you uncover yourself at your own pace. Tarkov’s nature as a punishing game rewards players for patience, strategy and instinct. All things I had to learn the hard way as a newcomer. I’m still learning new things each raid, and since there’s a content stream of content, I’m still learning.”
What keeps you playing?
“Originally, myself and three other friends purchased Tarkov on the same day, a good few months ago. To this day I’ve remained the sole and consistent player of the game amongst them. Perhaps what keeps me going is the thrill of killing other players and being on top? The willingness to have my balls busted? Who knows. I really enjoy the possibilities of encounters and looting. Plus as a gun /k/ nut I have Tarkov as a canvas to impress upon.”
What direction do you think the game should take?
“I think the current approach of Battlestate games is fine. Tarkov is designed and intended to be a difficult game, which should not change as a unique factor of its success. Despite slow and steady production of new content, all components of Tarkov are subject to change, a fact which I’m okay with considering it’s early access. However I do hope the game won’t include DLC in future and instead integrate features directly into the game.”
Who would you recommend this game to?
“Any adept FPS player who enjoys frustration and challenge, complemented by detailed weapons, military and Russian elements should enjoy this game. In fact any person with an open mind willing to try a new hardcore first person shooter. They should be willing to accept a firm kick to the balls, who knows they might just like it.”
One Last Story
Tell me about one of your raids.
“On Woods as a PMC not too long ago, I was running a basic loadout consisting of a class 4 ceramic armoured chest rig with no helmet, a scoped mosin and an AKS-74 which was slightly modded. I was out to complete a quest that ordered me to kill 2 scavs from a certain distance with the mosin on my back. I finished in the first 3 minutes and decided to extract at the nearest exfil across the map. Of course heading that way meant running into other PMCs.
Literally ~20 seconds after completing the scav sniper quest, two other PMCs crash head on into my position. Lightly armed and dangerous, they were swiss cheese at the cost of an arm being blacked. Arm out of action I had to carefully plan firefights, which meant taking a low profile route. Careful positioning, painkillers and stim meds were taken before fights.
These PMC encounters would happen two more times before I made it to the extraction. I left the raid with a better armoured rig, a class 3 helmet and a backpack full of vepr hunters. Oh, and 6 dog tags.”