How Escape From Tarkov saved me from multiplayer burnout.
I’ve not been having a good time with first-person shooters lately. While I mostly enjoy single-player games with strong stories, I always have a multiplayer game that I’m ‘maining.’ I’m definitely someone you would call competitive – if I’m playing a multiplayer game, I want to be good at it.
Over the past few years, I’ve been playing Battlefield 1, Rainbow Six: Seige, and then Fortnite since it released. Fortnite held my interest for a long time – it’s a game that you can really see progress being made. The building mechanic adds a certain depth that your standard shooter just doesn’t have. Practicing your building and editing in the creative mode, then using what you’ve practiced to win a game, is incredibly rewarding. Lately, I’ve just been a bit tired of Fortnite. I still jump on to play with friends now and again, but around the time of Chapter 2, beginning in October, I wanted something new to play.
I had hoped Battlefield V would be the game. Battlefield 1 has been the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game, but five didn’t do it for me. Then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare came around, and I really thought that would be the one. Everything I’d read about the game sounded great to me – the series returning to its boots-on-the-ground roots, deep weapon customization, and free content updates. I was looking forward to practicing Modern Warfare and caring about a multiplayer game again.
But the problem is that Modern Warfare is an extremely frustrating game if you’re someone who cares about improving. The skill-based matchmaking is so strict that if you do well for a few games, you’re put in a lobby with better players, and you get slapped about. It’s a vicious cycle of fun and frustration that gets old quickly.
Escape from Tarkov
So for the past few weeks, I’ve just been flitting between multiplayer games, looking for something to get my interest. Then I thought I’d give Escape From Tarkov a try. Tarkov is an extremely hardcore shooter that includes looting, PvP, and PvE. I had been following Escape From Tarkov since the alpha in 2016, but it never seemed like a game I’d be interested in. All I’d heard was how difficult and confusing it was. They’re not wrong – it’s brutally complicated, incredibly complicated, but also so much fun.
The goal is to load into one of several maps, loot for gear and items, and then extract with what you find. The problem is that if you die, you lose everything your player was carrying. Taking proper gear with you is a balancing act. The better your equipment, the more chance you have of winning your firefight, but if you die, you’ve lost it all. You must pick everything from your backpack to the type of ammunition you want to chamber. Raids can be completed either as a solo or with a squad of up to five friends, making the game extremely tough for solo players.
Every game is a story
Because I’m so new to the game (only level four) and playing solo, I don’t want to bring too much gear into Tarkov with me. I played a game this morning and just brought an AK-74U, a spare magazine, and some medical supplies for when I get shot (which I most certainly will). I spawned by the old gas station, a location I’m pretty familiar with now. But before I could even figure out what my plan of attack was, I heard footsteps nearby. I wasn’t sure if it was a player or AI, but I knew I’d need to drop him.
After a firefight, I managed to kill him with a headshot and only suffered minor damage. I healed up, looted him (he was an AI), and feeling pretty good about myself, pressed on. Then I heard footsteps behind me, so I spun around, and a player had managed to sneak up behind me, but I killed him. This time, however, the damage wasn’t minor. My right arm and leg were ‘blacked out’ – damaged beyond repair. Without painkillers, my character would now only be able to limp. The raid was over, and I had to extract as soon as possible.
High as a kite on painkillers, I started the long and dangerous journey to extraction. Keeping an eye on a map open on my phone, steering clear of the hotspots, and any firefights I heard, I made it to the woods at the north of the map. Almost out of painkillers, an eventuality that would make my journey ten times more perilous, I stopped at a small encampment to check for medical supplies. It had already been looted, and then I saw the player who looted it about ten meters away.
Weighing up my lack of armor, arm, or leg, I did the cowardly thing and ran. This reopened the wound on my leg, but I was safe for now. Almost at the extraction, I passed another small campsite, so looted it and found medical supplies. I went prone and started googling the medical supplies I found to see if they’d help my condition. Then I heard footsteps.
Things start looking up
I lay as still as possible, and the player passed me. I could see that this player had a massive backpack, armor, a helmet, and a fully kitted AK-47. In a moment of madness, I shot at him. The first shot missed, he turned to face me, and then my second shot hit him in the face, and he died.
Heart pounding, too scared to move, I lay there for a couple of minutes. His dog tags showed that he was a level 27 absolutely decked out with high-level gear. Although he had loot I’d only ever dreamed of; my priority was finding painkillers. If I couldn’t extract, there would be no point. He didn’t have any. Limping towards extraction, carrying gear way beyond my level, I stopped by a tree to recheck my map. Then again, a player walked past me, so I shot him in the back and looted him as quickly as I could, wasting no time. Still no painkillers. I got to extraction and made it out with more loot than I know what to do with. I had escaped from Tarkov.
There’s just a flavor of how intense, scary, and satisfying a raid in Escape From Tarkov can be.
It feels so good to have a shooter that progress feels rewarding. It doesn’t hold your hand in any way, and you really need to work at it. The game certainly isn’t for everyone, but right now, I don’t think there’s a feeling in gaming quite like escaping from Tarkov.
What’s your experience with Tarkov? Have you been thinking of picking it up, or are you a veteran from 2016? Let us know down in the comments!