Escape from Tarkov has just received its first major update after entering the Closed Beta phase in late July. I’ve been playing this game a lot and I have to say the early experience can be quite overwhelming as Tarkov is not a very friendly city. I’ve been watching a ton of streams and doing a lot of testing in order to get better at the game and I’m still not quite happy with my performance.
I will share with you my findings together with some tips and tricks in order to spare you the pain I had to go through and the amount of gear I lost before I started to hoard my small fortune.
What is Escape from Tarkov?
Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore MMO loot shooter with simulator gameplay mechanics and a persistent progression system, a combination of genres and features that we haven’t quite seen before. This is a game where loot is really important but acquiring and retaining it isn’t an easy task. Raiding for gear always comes with its risks as death means the permanent loss of any unsecured gear. The complex gameplay mechanics take even further the feeling of uncertainty as combat requires a high level of expertise, skill and tactics to be good at it.
Escape from Tarkov might have just recently entered its Closed Beta state, but its complexity is far beyond that of a testing phase and players shouldn’t rush into it.
Learn the maps
Getting by in the abandoned city of Tarkov requires knowing its districts. There are currently four raids which represent instanced maps of different sizes allowing a limited number of players per session. Each raid is unique providing various exploreable locations with randomized loot but also threats in the form of enemy AI or other players. In the current state of the game, the raids are pretty much large deathmatch arenas with loot where players try to kill each other while grabbing all the loot they can carry and extract safely with their goodies.
To outsmart other players, avoid frontal confrontation with the potentially deadly AI and find the right loot spots you need to know the maps. And there is no better and safer way to learn the maps’ layout than exploring them in the peace and quiet granted by the Offline Mode.
The Offline mode is in the game for testing purposes and allows players to join any raid without having to face other players and depending on the settings even AI enemies. This is a great way for beginners to explore and understand the maps without the risk of losing anything. All the progress made in Offline Mode isn’t saved which means that nothing can be gained or lost. But keep in mind, Offline Mode will be removed at release as it’s not part of the game’s features.
Gear isn’t the only thing that can be gained while raiding. The player character has a bunch of skills available which can be leveled up based on the actions performed in raids. Eating and drinking will increase Metabolism. Running and holding your breath will increase Endurance. Taking damage will increase Health and Vitality. Throwing grenades will increase Strength. Using various guns will increase their respective skills as well as contribute to Recoil Control.
The number of skills available in the Closed Beta is limited compared to the full set, but these skills play an important role nonetheless. Leveling them up will make the character tougher and reaching the maximum level grants elite bonuses that make all the difference. So keep track on your skills leveling as you want to have even the slightest advantage over your enemies.
Damage model and healing system
The damage model and healing system in Escape from Tarkov are in synergy. The health is modular meaning that the characters, players or AI, can take different damage to multiple body parts. There are 7 body parts that form the damage model of a character: hands, legs, stomach, chest and head. Each body part has its own hit points with the smaller and less resilient like the head having less than others. Taking damage to a body part lowers its hit points and therefore the overall life of the character. When a body part loses all the health it’s blacked out and cannot be healed anymore affecting the character’s performance. Completely damaged hands will make the aim shaky while lost legs will make the character limp. When the total health of the character reaches 0 points, you will die. However, there are multiple variables that can contribute to death. A headshot will kill instantaneously sometimes even through protective head gear while a blacked out body part takes double the normal damage spread throughout all the body parts leading to a faster demise.
Another effect caused by taking damage is trauma which manifests in different ways. Fractures will slow down the character’s movement or aim depending on the limb affected. Bleed will continuously lower the hit points. Pain makes the image blurry. There are some other traumatic effects, but not as bad. Luckily, in most cases the damage taken and its negative effects are reversible.
There are multiple healing items in the game which are capable of saving your character from a though situation. Healing can be done by either dragging the healing item over the body part in need or by dragging the item on the hotkey bar and pressing the hotkey when needed. Different traumas will require specialized items to get rid of their effects and when going to battle you should be ready for anything.
Customize or build your guns
Escape from Tarkov has a customization system like none I’ve ever seen before. Guns are actually composed out of parts which are changeable in order to customize them to the player’s liking. This system allows for an insane amount of customization options, but it also means that guns can be built by just getting the right parts. But customization isn’t just for show, each gun has stats which adjust based on the modification made to them allowing multiple gun loadouts.
Raiding is currently the only interactive activity in Escape from Tarkov. It is a continuous source of combat and gear, but can also be extremely costly. Death means the loss of gear and without a constant stream of resources you’ll end up bankrupt. However, do not despair because there is a solution, not a fun one, but a solution nonetheless: hatchling raids.
The term hatchling is derived from hatchet, a melee weapon given to the higher pre-order tiers. Like all the melee weapons, the hatchet is quite effective at killing people and AI if you are fast enough. A hit in the head or two hits in the same body part guarantees a kill. The melee weapons are not lost on death which means a hatchling has nothing to lose and everything to gain. These hatchling raids can turn out quite profitably and if you are in a tough financial spot then you should start doing them.
Scavs are currently the only AI faction in the game and they are hostile to all main player characters. Every 30 minutes the players can raid as a Scav and in instances that have already begun. As a Scav the players receive a random gun from a loadout with limited possibilities, ammunition, a vest and possibly some backpack and healing items. As a Scav the players won’t be attacked by the AI Scavs unless they are spotted killing one of their own, but they are most likely in grave danger from other Scav players hungry for loot or the main player characters that are raiding the map. Extracting with the Scav allows you to keep all the loot got your main character.
Raiding as a Scav is a great way to get gear and money. You can loot the map and you don’t have to deal with the AI unless you really want their gear. The even bigger upside is that as a Scav you usually spawn in the proximity of the extraction points of the raid meaning you can safely extract in a matter of seconds or minutes with your given gear.
Depending on the version purchased, the stash space can be quite limited or good enough, therefore inventory management is a big deal. Escape from Tarkov’s stash is like a Tetris game where you try your best to fit in as much gear as possible in a confined space.
First thing you should know is that by default the letter R rotates the picked up item in your stash or inventory allowing you to place them horizontally or vertically. The second thing you should know is that backpacks can be placed in other backpacks as long as there is enough space in the holding one. But the rule of thumb in inventory management is to always have space in your stash before going to Scav raids as you can’t open the backpacks when transferring the Scav gear to the stash..
Inventory management is a real pain. But this agonizing Tetris game which will most likely make you waste some gear is going to end soon. Once the Open Beta lands the Hideout will be introduced and it will allow players to upgrade their stash.
Vendors and trading
Trading is one of the biggest features in Escape from Tarkov’s Closed Beta. Selling items to the vendors is the real source of revenue while buying items from vendors can make things easier if your scavenging runs aren’t so lucky.
There are currently 5 vendors in the game, each providing certain gear pieces and particular items which sometimes intertwine. The vendors are interested in gear and items that benefit them so the price varies depending on the vendor with many items being buyable or sellable by certain vendors. The trading system includes purchasing and selling items using the in-game currency but also bartering as some vendors require specific items for some of their more valuable items.
Prapor – Buys all kind of guns, gun parts, ammunition and most of the items in the game. He mostly sells Russian guns, a small roster of gun parts, all kind of ammunition types together with grenades and some small grade healing items. Prapor deals in rubbles.
Therapist – Buys and pays the most for keys, healing items, household items and various other goods. She sells healing items, food, water, maps and cases to store money and items. Therapist deals in rubbles and euros.
Fence – He pretty much buys everything at the lowest price. He also sells items bought from other players at the highest possible price which makes him an exploiting douchebag of high importance. His inventory can contain rare items scavenged and sold by players, items that are used for bartering or even required for completing tasks. Fence deals in rubbles.
Skier – Buys armor pieces, clothing accessories (glasses, hats), vests, backpacks, scopes and a select number of gun parts and customizations. He sells shotguns, gun parts, backpacks, armor pieces and cases used to store weapons and weapon’s parts. Skier deals in rubbles, dollars and euros.
Peacekeeper – Buys armor pieces, gun parts, clothing accessories (glasses, hats), all kind of guns, ammunition, household items and various other goods. He sells western made guns including M4 and MP5, various gun parts, ammunition and healing items. Peacekeeper deals in dollars.
In order to access the full offer of a vendor there are some requirements. The most basic ones are a specified character level and trading worth a certain amount of currency. The harder requirement is the reputation which for a few vendors can now only be raised by completing tasks, which are Tarkov’s version of somewhat generic quests.
Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore game where the gear is lost on death. But there is a way to slow down bankruptcy by saving the smaller items by placing them in the secure container.
The secure containers are part of the player’s main character (not Scav) gear and are small inventory boxes that preserve the gear inside even on death. The containers cannot be looted from a player’s body as long as they are placed in their dedicated inventory slot. So be careful how you manage your inventory or you might lose this precious cargo.
The size of the secure containers differs based on the version. Alpha container is available for players who bought the first two version of the game. Beta container is part of the Prepare to Escape pack or buyable from Peacekeeper vendor for $5000 when a certain level of reputation is achieved. Gamma container is currently the most spacious and it can only be obtained by purchasing the Edge of Darkness edition.
There are many keys in Tarkov, some open houses, others open cars, but no key is as important and rare as the Factory key. This key is valuable because it opens up a shortcut to avoid the Scav patrolled area of the Customs raid, but also grants access to two safer escape routes in the Factory raid.
One of the places where you can find the Factory key is the residential complex of the Customs raid. Factory key can be found in multiple areas in the Customs raid, including one of the factories and in a jacket at the heavily guarded checkpoint. The key can also be found in AI Scav backpacks. Make a priority in gaining this key and be sure to store it in the secure box when taking it with you in raids.
Don’t bother with climbing ladders and swimming
As the sub-title says, don’t bother trying to climb ladders or swim. The only way to get to vantage place for spotting and sniping is by jumping (sometimes a high strength level is required). The same goes for big bodies of water which act as an invisible wall that can’t be passed through in anyway.
Shoot on sight
The city of Tarkov is a rough place, even more so without a VOIP, so don’t expect any mercy. Be it Bears, USACs or Scavs, the players will most likely shoot you on sight. Sometimes players wiggle left-right multiple times signaling that they are friendly, but don’t be naïve and watch your back or you might end up with a bullet in your head.
Progression can be wiped with major updates
There are multiple layers of progression: character, gear and vendor reputation, but do not attach yourself too much to your character or your gear because sometimes the progression is wiped with major updates. Decent players won’t have a hard time getting gear back and the progression road is quite a thrilling one. But before buying into Escape from Tarkov’s Closed Beta you should be aware that all your work might be gone every now and then.
It’s a Beta!
Escape from Tarkov is currently in an early stage of Closed Beta. This means that bugs and performance problems are to be expected while gameplay mechanics and features aren’t fully implemented and are subject to change. The pre-orders are available to support the developers and help with the testing of the game. So make sure you know what you are getting into and don’t let the unstable servers, desync and other problems ruin the game for you. There is always the option of waiting for the full release.
The current version of Escape from Tarkov might be nothing like the full version of the game. But if you are willing to play during the Closed Beta the above mentioned guidelines will make things slightly easier for you. I will try to keep this guide up to date through the game’s Beta phase and who knows, maybe even write a new one after release.