How does Escape From Tarkov work?

Escape From Tarkov Logo

Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore, realistic, online, first-person, action RPG that offers MMO and story-driven elements. It’s not truly an MMORPG, but there are quests along the way. It is probably the most hardcore game I’ve ever played. The game relies on many different mechanics all the way down to purchasing the right bullet to penetrate specific types of armor for each raid.

In the fictional region of Norvinsk, Tarkov is becoming increasingly more complicated each day. The constant war on Tarkov caused widespread panic; The local population has fled the city, but the residents of Tarkov – the “SCAVs” – formed local gangs to try and protect the city. Players select from USEC or BEAR factions, although there really is no difference between them, sparing in-game language and clothing.

What is the point of the game?

Realistically, the point of the game is to survive. You go into each raid trying to complete quests, find loot to sell on the flea market (unlocked at level 10). Once every 20 minutes, you can enter the raid as a SCAV.


SCAVs spawn with random equipment each raid and it can range from having only a knife, to having an SV98 and a Labs key card. If you extract, you can take all the loot you spawn with and find along the way. If you die as a SCAV, you lose everything you find, but what you spawn with. It can be very easy to engage every enemy you see but be warned, you won’t always make it out alive.


As a PMC (Private Military Company a.k.a player characters), you need to figure out what loadout you want to take into each raid, and if you’re killed in action, you need to heal after each raid (either healing over waiting in real time, or medical supplies purchased in the game).


There are multiple vendors to help you out with guns, ammo, equipment, and supplies along the way. You initially have access to the following vendors:

  • Prapor
  • Therapist
  • Fence
  • Skier
  • Peacemaker
  • Mechanic
  • Ragman

Eventually, you unlock Jaeger by being level 10, and through a series of quests.

Flea Market

Once you reach level 10, you gain access to the flea market which helps you out tremendously. Here you can purchase any item in the game provided you can barter for the items or can purchase with Roubles, Euros, or Dollars.

Online Mode

The entire game exists in online mode. In online mode, you will complete raids (dead or alive) and gain experience which helps you unlock quests and level up your vendors. I haven’t found any weapons or ammo that required specific levels, but you do unlock the flea market at level 10. In my opinion, when you first start and are getting the hang of the game, level 10 does take a fair bit of time, but you learn so much in that time. Learning the game and maps in online mode will prove difficult, as you lose everything you have on you except in your secure pouch (the version of the game you purchase determines how many slots you don’t lose if you die.)

Offline mode

Escape from Tarkov provides an offline mode which proves to be very valuable, You won’t be able to gain any experience or extract with loot (it shows you how much experience you would have gained IF it were a real raid, so don’t be fooled like I was). If you die as a PMC in offline mode, you won’t lose anything. It’s really just the best way to learn the maps, find extracts or loot caches, or try new guns. Nothing gained and nothing lost.

How do I play with my friends?

Carefully. No really, this isn’t like other games, so the experience is very different. There are no names, health bars, or any identifying markers above a character. First, you selecting Escape from Tarkov, go through the menus and insure your gear, then once you see your character, you can invite your friends to your group by searching for them and sending invites, or if someone else is inviting you, hit “Start looking for group”.

You will spawn together. Take a very good look at what your friend looks like because that’s the only way to see who is on your team. Friendly fire is always on, and it will be a very costly mistake to misfire. You can realistically one tap your friend and end the raid in seconds.

How do I stay alive in EFT?

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive – This is by far, one of the most difficult things to learn in Escape from Tarkov. You need to learn the maps to understand where the spawns and extracts are, where the hotspots of the maps are, where loot caches are, and how to move through the map quickly and as silently as possible.

You can have the quickest reflexes but still be one tapped by an enemy you didn’t even see or hear. Making sounds gets you killed. Lacking map knowledge gets you killed. There is no kill cam, no scrolling kill feed, remaining player count, etc.

Play offline to understand the game.

How do I play Tarkov?

There are many keyboard keybinds in this game. There’s really just a lot going on and it will take you quite a few raids to understand how things work, what to loot, how to loot efficiently, when to avoid confrontation, etc. Keybinds can obviously be remapped, but there are so many to remember that it takes a while to learn them all and have muscle memory for them.

For a list of controls and key binds, see here.

Quick Tips

A quick list of Escape From Tarkov tips

  • Learn the maps
  • Be as silent as you can be, all the time
  • Make sure you insure your gear every raid (yes, I know you’re worried about the money). You will get it back if you die in a raid ONLY if no one takes your items. That means if you die, you’re friend should hide your gear where no one can find it to ensure you get your gear back. It’s very helpful since normally, beginning unmodified weapons won’t be taken unless it’s by another lower level player.

Gear Fear

Yes, this is a real thing.

Depending on what version of the game you bought, it came with a specific amount of in game currency. Since you most likely won’t extract on your first few raids, you shouldn’t take in all your weapons and armor in for awhile – you will lose it. Fine, don’t believe me. You’ll understand after a raid or two. I lost most of my primary weapons and relied on night time SCAV runs to get some weapons back.

Since you can only get your guns back if you extract successfully or get them back through insurance, it will be very costly to buy weapons, medical supplies, and food through vendors. You’ll start to think about each round as how much it will cost you when you lose everything. You’ll start to think about doing a hatchling run (where you run with just a melee weapon) or just a handgun just to hopefully extract and take some loot to sell.

Once you hit level 10, the beginning weapons are cheaper then the vendors (although that can change based on the market pricing/demand) and the gear fear goes away. Some garbage items that you’re used to selling for very cheap prices all of a sudden go for 60k+ on the market place.