Escape From Tarkov Beginner’s Guide: The Absolute Basics

Escape From Tarkov is one of our favorite games out there and we recommend most shooter fans to give this a try. But picking up this hardcore shooter is a daunting task for even the most dedicated gamers. In this Escape From Tarkov guide series we will take you through your first hours in this game. But before we start, a small disclaimer: EFT is still in beta so even the most fundamental gameplay mechanics may be subject to change.

What’s is Escape From Tarkov?

Escape From Tarkov, or EFT for short, is a Russian-made hardcore shooter with survival and military simulator elements. Your main goal in a typical game of Tarkov is to survive. But there’s a lot of reasons to even put yourself in a potentially deadly situation in the first place. Loot is one of those reasons. And like the famous Abba song says, it’s all about the roubles, roubles, roubles.

Every item in the game (and there’s a lot) has a variety of value. Of course, there’s a monetary value tied to every item, depending on to which of the eight distinct traders you sell to. Most items can also be bartered for other items. Furthermore, bits and bobs are also used to upgrade your Hideout, an offline ‘hiding place’ that grants you bonuses. But forget about that for now.

Lastly, items can be traded through the player driven economy called the Fleamarket. Be sure to read Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal before you go on there, because you can make some big bucks selling late game items to other players.

Prepare to escape

Setting up your loadout

Before you load into your first raid, there’s a couple of concepts that you have to understand. On a meta-level, the game is being wiped every once in a while (for development purposes). As of writing it’s been a while since the game has been wiped, so you’ll see a lot of enemies that will completely outgun you. At the start of a new ‘season’, you will get a long way with a simple pistol.

And that’s all you basically start with. Load up some Makarovs with a few mags, and put some of the appropriate ammo in them. You can find out what ammo a weapon takes by double clicking on a weapon (or right click and inspect). You will also start with a secure Alpha container; everything in the container is safe from being lost when you die. Eventually, more guns will be available to you. In this guide we dive deeper in what guns to choose early on.

It’s best to put some medical supplies in the Alpha container so that you don’t have to buy new ones every time you perish. Also, when you find valuable stuff (besides weapons, cases and armor), you can chuck it in there to insure you end the raid with a profit; dead or alive.

escape from tarkov
A scav with a pea shooter and you with half the U.S. army’s firepower equipped

Scav vs. PMC

You load into a session – a raid – with either your main character (PMC) or a scavenger (Scav). Your PMC is equipped with whatever you give him from your offline stash. If you survive the raid, you take out whatever you have on your person, including all the juicy loot that you gathered along the way. If you die, you lose everything you took in (unless you insured it or put it in your secured container, but more on that later).

As a Scav, you are assigned a random set of gear, mostly low grade items. All other A.I. Scavs on the map are friendly to you and you can work together with them to hunt down players. If you decide to pop a fellow scavenger in the back of the head though, you’re ‘compromised’; all Scavs will then shoot you on sight.

Whatever you escape with as a Scav, you can transfer to your main stash and if you die, you did not lose a thing. Scav runs are a great way to get some gear, risk-free. But they also don’t give you any player XP and you won’t be able to level up the traders doing quests. Still, starting out I recommend always doing Scav runs whenever you can to get some free stuff.

escape from tarkov
You and a fellow Scav scouring Factory for juicy loot 

Into the fray

Learning the maps

Now it’s time to start raiding right? Wrong! If you load into a map completely unprepared you’ll inevitably die. Escape From Tarkov has one of the biggest learning curves in gaming history but that’s a great thing. I’ve got hundreds upon hundreds of hours in this game and I’m still figuring things out, learning new ways to play and find new spots on the maps.

But without a basic understanding of what the game is about, you’ll unnecessarily put yourself at a disadvantage. So let’s take out a few variables real quick. For example, you can learn the maps in offline mode. You can choose whether you want A.I. enemies to roam the map. It’s a great way to learn about firefights, about the different negative effects of specific wounds and most importantly, where to go, what to find where and where to extract.

The wiki is your friend

That last part is really important. You could kill half a dozen players, scoop up all their juicy loot and be an absolute badass in the process. But if you don’t know where to extract you’ve lost everything anyways. Whenever you’re in-game, double tapping ‘O’ (by default) shows you which extraction point you have to use. You can cross reference that with a map from the Tarkov Wiki (not the in-game one, those are worthless) to figure out where to go. And before long you’ll be a regular at that wiki.

escape from tarkov
Don’t look at it! 

Whenever you’ve got an item that you’re not sure about whether to keep or not, just check the wiki. In principle though, sell everything that can be bought through the traders. After a while your stash will overflow with goodies and you won’t have any more space to stash something away anymore.This is especially critical after you finished a Scav raid because you have to stash the stuff on the spot, no space means you can’t keep the items.

Lastly, you’ll need to meet a few requirements to level up a traders and gain access to buying more advanced items. One of those requirements is spending certain amounts of money through the traders. Both buying and selling items to a trader counts as ‘money spent’.

Let the grind begin

And that’s where we’ll leave you for now. The basic concepts of the game should be clear enough for you to start escaping from Tarkov. Don’t be discouraged by death, losing gear or not understanding certain mechanics. By making mistakes, you’ll learn to adjust. Be sure to have the Tarkov Wiki on speed dial.

noob vs pro loadout
You vs. the guy she told you not to worry about

If learning isn’t going quick enough for you though, there’s a couple of ‘shortcuts’. First, you could always watch streamers or YouTubers play the game, essentially showing you how to do it right. You wont really learn though; emulating a ‘pro’ can be helpful but they skip over ‘obvious’ things, leaving you confused.

The EFT Reddit is also a helpful place (generally speaking). You can ask concrete questions there and expect to be helped pretty quickly. Lastly today, you can always join a Sherpa program through the official Sherpa Discord. Experienced players will take you by the hand and show you the ropes live, while communicating via Discord.

You could however always wait for our next EFT guide coming up. We plan to cover Loadouts, detailed Scav Raids, Ammo, Weapon Modding, Inventory Management, and much more. Stay tuned!

Image/screenshot credit: BattleState Games

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3 thoughts on “Escape From Tarkov Beginner’s Guide: The Absolute Basics

  1. Super useful guide. My brother is new at Escape from Tarkov and this article helped him to get into the game faster. I was looking for something that could help him to learn basics of the game to join me and my friend 🙂

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