What is Escape from Tarkov?

You might have heard of Escape from Tarkov, but what actually is it? How do you play Escape from Tarkov? Here is a light guide for anyone curious about what the game is and how it works.


Escape from Tarkov is developed by Battlestate Games (BSG) and was launched into early access as a closed alpha game in 2016, before reaching a closed beta in 2017.

Getting Started

Escape from Tarkov is a hardcore, tactical, first-person shooter which involves hyper-realistic combat, gun and health management.

The game works by entering players into ‘raids’, which is where around 15-20 players will enter into a map pitted against each other and can explore the map for loot, kill other players and ultimately look to ‘escape’ the map by finding extracts. Extracts will be certain sections of the map which will allow the player to escape the raid and leave with their gear – this is the only way players can leave.

This style of gameplay means the stakes are extremely high. Death means that the player loses everything they have brought into the raid and collected during the raid.

You can download Escape From Tarkov from the official Escape From Tarkov page. Check out our guide on how to download it and get started.


When you are on the main screen, you will see the below menu:

Escape From Tarkov menu
Escape From Tarkov menu

Go into ‘Character’ and you will be taken to your stash.

How to play Escape from Tarkov

PMC or Scav

Once you click on ‘Escape From Tarkov’, you will be taken to this screen:

Escape From Tarkov character selection

You will have the choice of Scav or PMC.

Your PMC is your main character, where you will be able to select your loot and complete various missions that are assigned to you by the Traders.

Your Scav is a random character, with random gear. You will also join the AI Scavs on the map, who you can help in killing PMCs. Killing Scavs as a Scav is perfectly possible, but will harm your Scav rep, which will mean that the time you can next play as a Scav again will increase, and your random gear will get progressively weaker. All other Scavs on the map will become hostile towards you too.


Each map is unique and complex and poses its own challenges. Some, like Woods offer a tense but quiet experience, often relying on hearing rather than sight. Others like Factory are oppressively small and will give you no choice but to fight other players.

For beginners, we would suggest starting with Customs, Shoreline and Woods. These maps are of average size, have simple extracts, and generally speaking will see low to mid-level players running through. Maps such as Interchange will attract very high-level players.

Sunrise begins around 6:00:00 and sunset at around 20:00:00.

Escape From Tarkov maps
Escape From Tarkov map selection screen

Don’t worry about missing any of the maps. By following the missions the Traders set you, you will be required to complete tasks from each of the maps, and will need to explore all of them fully.


Selecting ‘Trading’ on the main menu shows the following screen:

Traders in Escape From Tarkov
Traders in Escape From Tarkov

The Traders work essentially like a shop in most conventional games, however, they will also have Tasks which will gift certain rewards and in turn upgrade the items that are for sale.

Progression with the Traders may seem like a trivial activity, but it is crucial for progression in the game. High-level gear will only be available after many completed missions.

Does Escape From Tarkov have a story?

There is no real story to Escape From Tarkov, apart from a loose setting to the game. The game is set in a fictional region of Northwestern Russia, in a fictional city called Tarkov where there is a conflict between the USECs and BEARs, two Private Military Companies (PMC). The political breakdown of the region has caused an all-out war and apocalyptic destruction.

There are also Scavs, who are previous locals of Tarkov, ex-PMCs and other rogues of the political situation who are hostile to both USEC and BEAR.

Battlestate Games is a Russian company, and therefore a lot of the game’s setting has Russian architecture and writing. The Scavs in game speak Russian too.

If you’re unsure whether to choose USEC or BEAR, it only makes minor differences to starting gear, voice and certain mission requirements later on. Choosing USEC or BEAR makes no difference to gameplay.

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