Escape from Tarkov will wipe probably this week. And that means it’s the best time to get into what is probably the peak of the hardcore survival shooter genre. Let me try and sell you on how losing is fun, pain is real and the unexpected warmth of human interaction in a video game.
What’s an Escape from Tarkov?
If you’re like me, you probably thought at first that Escape from Tarkov is just the latest attempt to cash in on the fading glory of the DayZ mod. And we can definitely see how this game originates from that ArmA 2 mod DNA string. And while titles like Rust focus more on the base building and sandbox nature of that genre. We also have the battle royal titles like Call of Duty Warzone, PUBG and Fornite going through their evolution. Escape from Tarkov rolls all of this back, embracing the military-sim roots of the survival shooter genre. And in its current iteration, it is probably the best version of this type of game.
But what is Escape from Tarkov? It is a survival game, trying to simulate the ongoings of a lawless warzone. After two factions clashed, the city of Tarkov has been abandoned by the outside world. And everyone within the zone is now fighting over scraps and resources. And where there is trouble, there is opportunity. There are now several factions and splinter groups trying to thrive in the hostile environment. You the player, are just a little organism in the world of Escape from Tarkov, one that slowly starts to develop a life of its own.
You’ll do tasks for traders, try to establish a base and gather resources. But actually escaping Tarkov is not on anyone’s mind. Why would you if lucrative opportunities present themselves around any corner? And the story of Escape from Tarkov, being told through books, in-game events and interactions with NPC’s is actually a rather fascinating one. It is military fiction at its finest, with enough realism to keep it rooted in reality. With just enough eastern European influence to make it fascinating for someone who isn’t familiar with that style of storytelling.
Make no mistake, the story of Escape from Tarkov is closer to titles like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro. Just without the post-apocalyptic setting. Maybe we can describe it as This War of Mine but playing out on a Day Z server? Anyways, the setting and story are fascinating and still evolving. And the goal is to have at one point in the future, push this story into the forefront. This will be whenever Escape from Tarkov officially launches because the game is as of writing still in open beta.
Yea but what sets Escape from Tarkov aside?
Competent shooters are around aplenty these days. If you want a quick round of scavenging and killing, you probably want to pick up a battle royal title. Do you want something with base building and more focus on the survival elements? You want to pick up something like a Day Z or Ark. Trakov is more of a happy medium between those types of games. And what it lacks in the wealth of variety, it makes up for in depth.
Because outside of military sims, you won’t find another game that gives you such detailed customization options for your weapons and arsenal. It’s not just picking a weapon you like, you’ll also match it with ammunition, and attachments that all come with their own RPG stats. So I guess calling Escape from Tarkov the Ultima Online of the first-person shooter wouldn’t be too far-fetched. Even its relatively hands-off approach matches that description.
So yes, if we have to slap a genre on Escape from Tarkov, we’ll end up on ‘non-linear MMORPG first-person shooter centered around PvP, PvE and coop elements. With reputation grinds and a player-controlled market’. We haven’t even gotten into the core gameplay loop.
The gameplay in Escape from Tarkov revolves around dipping in and out of so-called raids. Matched rounds, that’ll have a number of players enter a map at the same time. That map will also be populated by AI, hostile towards players. Those rounds have a generous time limit that’ll eventually encourage players to move towards the designated exits. The player can only choose what map they want to run and at what time of the day they enter the raid. Players then spawn on different points of those maps and usually do a sweep through the area.
From here on, the rest is up to you. Maybe you’ll chase after quest objectives or you just make a supply run. Technically, you are not encouraged to shoot at anything that isn’t part of your team. Half the time taking pot shots is not worth the trouble unless you want to pre-emptively eliminate a threat. Choice play a big part here. Because the player has influence over their equipment and their route through the map. So the choice of pushing a fight, or trying to loot a building with high-value items becomes all the more meaningful.
This only gains more meaning, once you start assessing your own ability to fight and combine it with your knowledge of the map. And when all those elements come together, Tarkov becomes less about looting and shooting. And is instead a fight against the inner goblin.
The Tale of the Chad and the Rat
A few years ago, Tarkov scholar and rat king General Sam posed a theory… There are two kinds of players in Tarkov, the Chad and the Rat. In an attempt to categorize the citizens for Tarkov, he created a great divide in the community. A chad describes the kind of player that is always looking for a fight. They enter the raid with the best equipment, and pockets full of medical supplies. Ready for war.
The rat on the other hand plays a different game. You’ll never find a rat engaging you in a firefight. And if you do, you should worry. The rat has on any pesky morals. Everything to bring home the loot. And the first thing about the rat is, that you’ll never know you have encountered one until they stab you in the back. They could unassumingly join your group, play friendly with the in-game voice chat. But their existence is a grim reminder. In the streets of Tarkov, the only person you can trust is yourself.
What I just described, is probably my favorite part about Escape from Tarkov. Not the euphoria from scavenging something rare, or winning a tense firefight. It’s when different creeds and gameplay styles collide on a small map. Everything is up for grabs and the only thing stopping you are your ambitions. Combine this with a brutal risk-reward gameplay loop and you have the recipe for chaos. But I should probably tell you a tale or two from my adventures in Tarkov to sell you on the experience.
On one lonely afternoon, I loaded into the map Interchange. A massive shopping mall packed with all kinds of resources, and I was just there to stock up on food for my stash. So of course I pick a quick route through the back to get to the supermarket. I know I’ll find some canned goodies here, maybe even an energy drink which will give you a temporary buff. And while I’m here, might as well check out some of the smaller stores.
So as I rat my way through to my target, some delicious canned meat. I hear yelling and shots, apparently, someone had angered Killa. An AI boss that patrols the mall, who I had no intention to fight. After all, I was here for food and food only. And while I stuffed all sorts of cans into my backpack, those shots I heard earlier were a lot closer now. And as I peeked past a shelf I saw another player hauling ass while being chased by Killa. Only armed with a handgun and light protection, I chose to be the bigger man and.. hide. Wait till all of this blows over and make a swift escape.
But no, life is rarely that easy isn’t it? Two more players joined the fight, together with one or two what seemed like AI scavengers. And a full-on firefight erupted in the supermarket while I hugged my backpack and prayed for a miracle. But it only got worse once Killa and his AI friends were dead and the players engaged in combat while yelling at each other with the voice chat. But with this firefight going on, I will be able to turn this around. And it just so happened that the solo player was exposed to my point of view. So when they started exchanging fire again, I lined up a shot and dropped him.
Then followed another waiting game. If everything went as planned, I hadn’t been noticed yet. So once the duo was done looting, I could check for the scraps left behind on bodies and make a swift escape. But another delicious opportunity presented itself as the two players huddled together to loot Killa. And at that moment I saw it, I could leave here with all their stuff. So I lined up my shot. It only took a few well-aimed shots and they both fell. Great! Then I quickly stripped them for all I could fit in my pockets. Forget the food we’re eating out tonight!
That is the rush, once you are loaded with expensive guns of other players and the loot from a boss. You’ll quickly give up any other ambitions. I only had to make it out, and there was plenty of time to reach the next exit. So I decided for the long, safe route. the one I expected to be the safe route at least.
Let this be a warning. No matter how well prepared you are, or how beefy your equipment might be. In Escape from Tarkov, it takes confidently turning a corner to flip your world upside down. A loud noise numbed my ears. And suddenly, my left leg was crippled. And as I limped to cover, I saw him, confidently lining up the shot.. and I knew it was over.
That guy probably ran into me by accident. But deep down I know, it was a punishment from the universe itself. Punishment for taking advantage of my fellow PMC’s. Not that it deterred me from doing it again mind you. It encouraged me to think bolder. The next day, I loaded into a map with a group of random players. We had some fun conversation and a rather lucrative raid. But then one of them picked up a graphics card and something snapped. It was so easy. There… just a few steps before the exit. I lined up the shotgun. I told them that I’ll cover their backs. And I did cover their backs. With lead.
I’ll probably go to whatever identifies as video game hell at this point. But the fact that Tarkov allows an unshackling of the morally bankrupt instincts I developed in DayZ long ago, got a kick out of me. I don’t even play for the loot, or the dynamic firefights. It’s the enjoinment that forces players into interactions when you have quickly chosen if you can trust someone or not. And once Escape from Tarkov expands on its karma system. Those choices will only get more interesting.
Now is probably the best time to get into Escape from Tarkov
But this is how Escape from Tarkov is now, who knows what the game will look like in a few years or once it actually releases. But if you’re starting the game now? Good luck because everyone sits on the military arsenal of a small country. And it’s no fun to shoot a BB gun against walking tanks, equipped with laser beams. There is however reason to rejoice because Escape from Tarkov will wipe soon. Really soon.
That means everyone’s progress is being reset and more players are incentivized to follow the way of the rat. It’ll also mean that many players will return to the game to check out the new update and try the new guns. And it will be beautiful. Not that Tarkov has ever suffered from players, but it’ll be easier to throw together a group to chase after quest objectives or stir some chaos.
If you can’t talk your friends to play with you, go check out the official Escape from Tarkov Discord server. It’s very easy to hook up with players, and I had a lot of good experiences there. Especially with veterans who are surprisingly eager to teach you. Probably because having more people to play with, is always a good thing right? So go ahead and ask on there.
The only thing that watching YouTube videos won’t help you with, is gaining experience. Because no matter how good you might be playing FPS, Escape from Tarkov is a different beast compared to them. Having map knowledge and knowing strategies is one thing. But the ability to execute on them and how to take the right risks at the right time really starts developing after you have failed hundreds of times.
So Escape from Tarkov lands in the ‘Losing is Fun’ bucket of video games. And if you have a low tolerance for failure and dying to nonsense. This game will probably not do your heartrate any good. But it’s that punishing aspect of the game that makes it so addicting in the first place. You never know what to expect in a raid, or which daring strategies pay off. And every raid tells its own heart-breaking if you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
You can buy Escape from Tarkov on their website. But beware that the game is still in beta and probably won’t see a full release for a couple of years. And if you’re not into the looting and betrayal, Escape from Tarkov will get a standalone arena mode. Which will combine the hardcore shooting mechanics of the main game, with smaller maps and an emphasis on small-scale PvP.
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