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Escape From Tarkov: What makes its brutal realism so engaging?

Escape From Tarkov is a hardcore, realistic FPS experience that is gaining the attention of many players and viewers. Any person unfamiliar with the game may wonder why the game has garnered so much attention—given how unforgiving it can be for players. With the rise of the game’s popularity on Twitch, let’s take a closer look at the key factors that make Escape For Tarkov stand out and grab the attention of so many players.

A mix of gameplay and systems that crosses genres

Players can choose to go on raid with their main “PMC” character, or as a random “Scav.”

Rogue-Likes

Escape From Tarkov borrows many elements from different game genres to create a unique experience as a First Person Shooter. EFT’s matches are called “Raids,” with a solid rogue-like influence in its core gameplay loop. Players enter a map and have to navigate to an exit point within a set amount of time. Players who die during a raid or run out of time lose the equipment and items they carry. Any items or equipment the player manages to find and successfully extract will be theirs to keep and use as they wish. The game also offers players to join a raid as a “Scav” with a random loadout. They will have the time to loot items around added to their main stash should they extract.

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Resource management is a crucial aspect of EFT, with players preparing their weapons, ammo, medicine, armor, and any additional items such as keys. Loot is diverse, with items ranging from everyday items such as soap and screwdrivers all the way to complete weapons and armor. Each item has its value by trading with the game’s traders or other players via the in-game market.

MMORPGs

The MMORPG aspects of Escape from Tarkov come in group finding, trading, and leveling. With players able to search for teammates before going on raids. The game’s flea market allows players to trade their items through currency or bartering with other things. The game also has an auction house planned as an upcoming feature.

The RPG elements link to the player character’s skills and experience, with a questing structure similar to most MMORPGs. Players throughout their playthrough will gain XP by killing enemy players, AI Scavs, searching and looting. Quests are given by the traders; some take the form of simple fetch quests and kill quests, while other quests can involve specific mechanics and locations. Quest rewards can reward XP, money, gear, and reputation to the trader. Which will allow players to purchase higher tier gear from them.

Tactical Shooters

All of these aspects feed into the main gameplay of Escape From Tarkov, a hardcore realistic FPS. The gunplay in EFT is nothing short of lethal and punishing. Weapons, ammunition, and armor are modeled to behave realistically. Any weapon is capable of dropping players in a couple of shots, especially if they are unarmored. Players will have to be alert and on their toes at all times.

Preparation is important to stand a chance of surviving a raid. Tactics and constant communication will help much more than twitch reflexes. Players with solid situational awareness and nerves of steel will generally make it out of more raids than those who are timid and unaware.

Survival Games

The hardcore elements also come from survival games. Hydration and energy levels are also important. Players might need to pack water or food during more extended raids to ensure they don’t die of dehydration or hunger, especially after taking a shot to the gut. Characters have their overall health split to each of their limbs. Damage to specific limbs can cripple or outright lead to their death during a raid. So carrying medical equipment that can fix or stabilize the injuries will help a player’s chances of making it out alive.

So you can see why it’s hard to really pin down and described Escape From Tarkov. With a broad mix of systems and gameplay, the quickest explanation of Escape From Tarkov I can come up with is calling it a “Rogue-like Hardcore Multiplayer FPS.” Although, each person may have their own way of summarizing EFT.

These gameplay elements are essential to understand when playing EFT, but there’s much more to learn about the game. This leads us to the following key factor of Escape From Tarkov.

There is a lot to learn, about a lot of things…

Each item in Escape From Tarkov can be examined for more details.
Each item in Escape From Tarkov can be inspected to reveal more information.

Escape From Tarkov has a steep learning curve, not limited to the gameplay systems and mechanics. Players will learn about the game’s weapons and equipment, maps, loot spots, quests, traders. There are plenty of resources for players to learn about the game, and they would have probably spent a significant amount of time watching and reading as much as they can. Even browsing the menus and inspecting individual items can give plenty of info.

Weapons and Ammunition

One of EFT’s biggest draws is its attention to detail with firearms. The freedom to customize weapons in whatever fashion players wish, keeping in mind their access to attachments and parts. Players will understand how these weapons work, their components, the ammunition they use, how they can be customized, etc. In time, players will understand the weapons and best customize them to suit their role or playstyle.

Ammunition is just as necessary as the weapon you are holding. What’s the point of carrying around a tricked-out M4 when the bullets you shoot can barely punch through medium-tier armor? Most players will look to check ammo stats and compare them before buying and using them. Sites like EFT Monster are a godsend for players to compare ammo types and their effectiveness. As it’s hard to know how effective a specific type of ammo will be just by reading the in-game descriptions. Let’s be honest. We can’t say what those ammo labels really mean if we didn’t look them up.

Armor and Gear

Armor is the other side of the coin, with players looking to better protect themselves against any variety of weapons and ammo being used in EFT. The armor choices range from light vests that can stop pistol bullets and shotgun pellets to helmets that deflect and even sustain rifle rounds. Vests and rigs allow players to carry and swap magazines, quickly access medical equipment and grenades. Backpacks are straightforward, allowing players to bring any items they find during a raid.

Other considerations in this category are headsets, which aid the player by tuning their hearing range to catch vital sounds such as footsteps and reduce the impact of harsher sounds like gunfire. There are masks to conceal your face, along with colored armbands to quickly identify teammates. Players can also customize their character’s outfits through the trader “Ragman,” granted they have reached a certain rank, loyalty level and have enough money.

Basically everything else

An example of one of the many quests players will go through in Escape From Tarkov.
A quest like this may seem simple at first glance. You might just end up looking at a guide at some point.

Players will also spend an awful lot of time going through wikis, guides, and videos to make their XP and quest grind much more manageable. There’s no shame in having to constantly look things up while playing EFT. There’s so much information to take in, and you will be constantly presented with more details to take in once you progress. The game’s progression is based not only on your gear and account level but also on your own game knowledge and experience.

Experienced players will know the strengths and weaknesses of certain weapons and armor. Understanding which items take loot priority and where they have a chance of spawning. Which routes to take when crossing a map, where the action hotspots are, and where the exits are. There’s a lot to learn and appreciate when watching an experienced EFT player go through a raid.

Now that you have a general idea of the gameplay and understand some aspects of Escape From Tarkov. You might be wondering who in their right mind would be interested in playing a game like this and their reasons for doing so.

Escape From Tarkov’s masochistic charm

It’s no lie that some gamers love a challenge or enjoy the pain and suffering. Escape From Tarkov delivers both through its challenge and the pain of losing. The magic is that you never really know what will become a challenge or how you might have your next painful moment.

Players go into EFT for various reasons, the realistic gunplay and combat, the customization, and the attention to detail of the weapons and equipment. The challenges that the quests and raids provide to players. Sometimes it’s just the raw feeling of overcoming the odds and succeeding. Cause when a game is that punishing, success tastes sweeter than ever.

However, it can be a double-edged sword cause when you lose, it can really hurt. Setbacks happen in EFT for various reasons, although there’s one real-life adage that fits into EFT perfectly.

Murphy’s Law – The Game

Death in Escape From Tarkov means not just gear loss, but also to pay for the recovery.
The post death treatment menu will be a familiar sight.

Here’s the thing deep down, anybody who plays EFT will probably expect the worst to happen during a raid, hence Murphy’s Law. There’s the all too common “Gear Fear” that comes from losing your hard-earned gear during a raid. Any EFT player goes through this stage while playing the game. Let me set a scene that will give you an idea of how this fear might manifest itself.

While preparing for a raid, you decide this will be the one where you go in with your best equipment, wiping out anything that stands in your way. So you buy that rifle, customize it, and stock up on the best ammo you can get. You buy the best armor and helmet you can get and the most oversized backpack you dream of filling with loot.

You then choose a map and pay the insurance on that expensive gear (Worth about the same as a budget loadout). Then you finally load into the raid, walk for a couple minutes, and it’s all quiet. You think, “Hey, this might finally be the one where I pop off.”

You then see a guy holding a pistol pop out in front of you and fire. Your character screams as the camera falls to the ground with your screen turning black. The next thing you see is the post-game death menu, with the person who killed you and where they hit you. This is where you realize they hit a clean face shot, and all that loss could have been prevented if you bought a face shield.

Rock bottom moments like this are seared into the memories of EFT players. Where the one thing you didn’t account for comes into play and ruins your whole raid. Losing is much worse in EFT since it sets you back financially in-game. Even with insurance, there is no absolute guarantee that your items will come back. Players often learn from these experiences, especially since they are that painful. Although it’s easier at times to laugh at someone else’s suffering.

Schadenfreude is our bonding factor

Let’s be honest. We can’t help but laugh if we see someone on the receiving end of a horrible experience. Watching someone’s raid go horribly wrong on a stream or video will always yield some entertainment.
Most of all, it becomes a bonding factor for the community. Take a look through one of the many short EFT fail clips, and you will see plenty of people who share their sympathy, empathy, or amusement. Either we’ve been there, or we don’t want to be there at all. The many different systems that go into EFT allow for these moments to happen organically. Nothing is scripted, and that makes these moments genuinely extraordinary.

Overcoming the odds

A good Scav run will help players who have been down on their luck.
A good Scav run can make up for some bad PMC raids.

If you take a closer look at Escape From Tarkov and all of its systems and mechanics. It really does put you in the place of an operator in a war-torn city, doing whatever they can to survive. It’s never easy, nothing is simply handed to you on a silver platter, and it comes at a cost that is paid either with money, effort, or blood. The risk-reward factor of every raid is there.

The newest patch and wipe has changed the progression of the game. With the Flea Market now accessible at level 20, rather than it was before at level 10. Players are now progressing much slower than before. Previously the flea market allowed players to effectively shortcut specific fetch quests and hideout construction. Also, allowing players with money to access high-level gear through trade. Making the early game a speed bump rather than a challenge.

With this new challenge, many players who have started this wipe face the difficulty of a much longer early game. This has also slowed down the pace of high-skill players from quickly reaching the later stages of the game much sooner. Overall, it seems that EFT really wants players to work for their success, and that’s nothing new for experienced players. Because either way, nothing comes easy in Escape from Tarkov.

Personally, this new season has been a re-learning experience for me after taking an extended break from the game. The game always manages to give you a goal to work for and moments that make those efforts truly rewarding. Joy can turn into frustration within just one raid. On the other end, a streak of bad luck can be broken with just one shot.

You just never know what will happen in Tarkov. To me, that’s what makes this game worth coming back to. If you are also an EFT player, I would like to know your reasons for playing the game in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in grabbing a copy of Escape From Tarkov, you can go on their website. Do keep in mind that the game is in beta and is still a work in progress.

Christian Satria (HeyItsChris)

Chris' passion for gaming stemmed from a young age ever since he first got his hands on a Playstation. An avid fan of shooters, he is constantly looking at the best in gaming hardware, along with the lore of his favorite games.

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