So I have a new love. We met in Russia (ostensibly) and just fell for each other during some long walks through the forest. I remember it like it was yesterday. Beautiful meadows, mountains in the distance, the occasional wild flower. Oh and Gunfire and death, lots of death. It was a match made in heaven really.
Perhaps some explanation may be warranted here…..
….I’m talking about Escape From Tarkov (EFT), the game that is being developed by Battle State Games and is currently in Beta.
It’s a battle-royale-esque-game where you divide your time between looting abandoned locations, hunting NPC controlled Scav’s (scavengers) or avoiding (or hunting!) player controlled PMC’s/Scavs. Oh, and then you need to get out alive or you lose all your loot, weapons and gear.
It’s rather addictive. It did take me a while to ‘re-calibrate’ following my PUbG binge (running around shooting wildly will get you killed very quickly in this game), but once I had I grew to like this game a lot.
PUbG is an apt comparison, but only on the surface. It sets the tone for lack of a better word. Now picture that, crossed with S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s feel and game play (sans angry wildlife), and then throw in a soupçon of RPG and you’re pretty much there. It’s a great little niche and I think it works very well.
EFT revolves around performing raids across various maps. You load in as a PMC or Scav and try to make it to the extraction point alive with all the loot that you manage to grab on the way. There are NPC (and human) Scavs in the game that are hostile, and obviously any human PMC is also hostile.
When playing as a PMC (your ‘main’), you have to supply your own gear and weaponry, but in return you gain XP and level up things like endurance, stamina and weapon skills. It’s all done as you go, so it’s a very natural progression and to be honest, you’ll hardly notice it’s there most of the time.
When playing as a Scav you get random gear (which you get to keep if you make it out), plus NPC Scavs aren’t hostile to you, that is until you inevitably kill one to get their better gun. Plus PMC players don’t know if you’re a human, even if they kill you, so that opens up some interesting options. It’s a nice way to get gear, though you’re generally weaker and easier to kill.
It all works pretty well. It’s in Beta so there are some foibles. The traders, where you buy and sell gear (and can level up through use and ‘quests) aren’t the easiest to use, and there are some expected stability issues) but it IS a beta, so I’m not overly worried.
It’s hard though. Very hard, at least until you find your groove. You are going to die. A lot. Embrace it and move on, or this is not for you. There’s no kill cam (so no way to see how you died), there’s no compass and you even have to find maps for areas. It’s also more simulation than ‘game’ if you follow. Ballistics are accurately modelled, so too is damage. A gut-shot can kill you. Slowly, but surely. Broken legs (a great tactic to take out the heavily armoured higher-level players), reduce your speed and most injuries affect your vision and breathing to some extent.
Oh, the breathing. Sound is a problem. Insofar that any you make is an advertisement for someone to shoot you. Moving through bushes, walking over gravel or glass, jumping or running all make a LOT of noise. You’ll not want to do that; especially in crowded locations or when indoors. You may as well just shoot yourself, save someone else the ammo.
I have had some spectacular moments in this game. Limping across half the map with a broken leg to the extraction, jumping at every sound. A tense game of cat and mouse with another player in a woodland area- each terrified to make a noise until we had them in our sights (I lost that one- even though it went on for 20 minutes). A great one was killing a fully geared player, some 30 levels above me, by getting a shot through their visor (bypassing their helmet and armour), killing them with one shot. Yes I was smug.
I think that’s the charm for me. It’s proper hard-core, but it feels fair. A bullet will kill anyone, no matter the level. Granted some of the very high-level gear does offer great advantages- but as the above shows, a bullet in the eye socket is STILL a bullet in the eye socket. You never totally feel hopeless in a confrontation…. except when you get shot out of nowhere. But that’s part of the fun. You’ll get used to it. And embrace it. And, if you’re like me, love it.
It’s still in beta, so if you’re expecting a fully polished and finished game maybe wait. Otherwise though, you can get in on the ground on something that I think could be genuinely special. As I said, it’s currently my only (game) love….