How to play Escape from Tarkov: EFT basics and more

By Nicholas James


Oct 8, 2021

Reading time: 4 min

Escape from Tarkov is the hardcore survival-focused first-person sohoter that’s become a cult classic among fans and streamers alike. But Escape From Tarkov is a also very complicated game, and diving in can be intimidating for new players.

We’re here to give you the tools you need to load into your first Scav run and find success. We’ll walk you through the various options for purchasing Escape From Tarkov and give you a rundown of the game’s basic mechanics.

How to buy Escape from Tarkov

There are three different versions of Escape from Tarkov available for purchase. Escape from Tarkov is still technically in a beta with no real end in sight, so all available options are technically pre-orders of the full game that include its current beta version.

The Standard Edition is $44.99 USD and gives you the basics you need to begin your journey in the collapsed Tarkov Economic Zone. From there, in ascending order of price and benefits, are the Left Behind edition, the Prepare for Escape edition, and The Edge of Darkness Limited Edition. These cost $74.99, $99.99, and a whopping $139.99 respectively.

Each edition grants escalating rewards. These include more in-game storage, free guns being made available from the start, increased reputation with traders, and more. If you have a strong group of players and already know this is what you want to play, the enhanced editions can be worth the extra money. However, you can always upgrade your version of the game later by paying the difference between your current edition and the one you’d like, so starting with the Standard Edition may be the most prudent decision for most players.

Once you’ve purchased the game, you can set it up to download immediately.

How to play Escape from Tarkov

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A preview of Streets of Tarkov, the game’s highly-anticipated upcoming urban map.

Escape From Tarkov has two modes of play, as a Private Military Contractor or a Scav. Your PMC is essentially your main character, with skills, gear, and quests that carry over from game to game. Tarkov’s central conceit is that if you die with gear on your PMC, you lose all of that gear. There are some ways to recover gear from a dead PMC, but generally, if you die while playing as a PMC, the gear you are carrying and wielding is left behind permanently. PMCs can embark upon quests on behalf of the game’s merchants and can stockpile resources to become stronger.

You need to equip your PMC each and every time that you load into a run, stocking back up on ammo, meds, and more. Your PMC’s general mission in any game is very simple: get to the other side of the map, doing quests along the way, and do your best not to die.

Scavs are the antagonistic faction for PMCs. Every player has a PMC but may also opt to play as a Scav. Scavs are the armed ex-civilian population of Tarkov. Some Scavs are controlled by the game’s AI and spawn throughout the match, while others are controlled by players. A Scav run is essentially a temporary character on the side of the game’s AI that you can pilot for one lobby. You will load into the game with randomized gear, generally worse than an average PMC’s, and can run around the map scavenging for money or resources.

Loot taken in a Scav raid can be transferred to your PMC’s inventory at the end of the game, should you survive. Scavs even have well-equipped bosses that can occupy certain areas of the map. PMCs are at higher risk, but have much higher possible rewards. Scav raids are a low-risk way to familiarize yourself with the game or make some much-needed money to fuel your PMC’s adventures.

Your first game of Escape from Tarkov

We recommend trying out Scav raids for your first few games of Escape from Tarkov. Between the extensive variety of meds and negative conditions, you’re more likely to end up dead with a bunch of your starting supplies gone if you load up on a PMC. Customs is the best map for beginners, and it’s always worth pulling a map before or after you do a raid to try and familiarize yourself with the layout of the map.

Here are three easy tips for the early game: concentrate on completing your quests, avoid the TerraLabs dorms on Customs, and carry your medical supplies in your safe container.

Along your journey to learn how to play Escape From Tarkov, the game won’t always be the most forthcoming with needed information. Seeking out third-party content will save you time and plenty of frustration. For more in-depth content, Tarkov’s resident boogieman, Pestily, has great guides on how to start thinking like a grizzled Tarkov veteran.

Tarkov is a complicated game with a lot for players to learn. But for those who are willing to put in the hours, there are few games as satisfying. Don’t be afraid to check fan wikis and online resources to help you along your way.


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