Escape from Tarkov New Player's Guide

Last Update: June 23, 2023 10:41 AM /


Escape from Tarkov screenshot showing a bus with the words "Welcome to Tarkov"

Welcome to the Escape From Tarkov New Player's Guide! Escape from Tarkov is a challenging first-person shooter, and this guide will show you how to survive, as well as outlining some of the most important terms you'll come across in the game. 

Escape from Tarkov New Player's Guide

Escape from Tarkov Key Terms:

  • Stash: Your persistent inventory that contains all the loot you’ve acquired and escaped with during raids
  • PMC: Private Military Contractor, your persistent main character who must be equipped with items from your stash prior to entering a raid
  • Scav: A playable or non-playable character who spawns with predetermined gear
  • Raids: A match or round within Escape from Tarkov
  • Extraction: Designated points around each map where your character can leave the raid and escape with your loot
  • Hideout: An upgradeable base that can provide numerous in-game benefits
  • Flea Market: A market where players can barter or sell items to other players

Escape from Tarkov Character Selection

The Escape From Tarkov character selection screen with two different character models: the Scav and PMC

First, let’s distinguish between PMCs (Private Military Contractors) and Scavs, the two character options you’ll receive before joining a raid (or map).

Scavengers, or Scavs, come in two different variants: playable or non-playable characters. Non-playable Scavs will spawn on maps and will be hostile to PMCs and friendly to player-controlled Scavs (at least until you try to kill them). Player-controlled Scavs are the ultimate low-risk, high-reward character and will play an important role in acquiring weapons and gear for your PMC character. After playing as a Scav, they will go on a temporary cooldown before they are usable again. You can get a general idea of your Scavs' loadout by looking at their character model prior to selecting them. Your Scavs' gear is randomized, meaning it may benefit you to choose an appropriate map based on the gear your Scav ends up with.

As a new player, it's a good idea to use your Scav frequently. Any gear lost with your Scav is unfortunate, but unlike your persistent character, this loot wasn’t lost from your stash; conversely, anything you exit the raid with on your Scav can be transferred into your stash. Loot that you do not transfer into your stash at the end of the raid will be permanently lost. If you have the room, try and transfer all gear and items from your Scav and put them in your stash. Anything that ends up taking up too much space can be easily sold to traders for money later on. It’s worth noting that each trader will buy only certain types of loot, and they offer different prices for each item.

The downside to playing as a Scav is they don’t gain experience for your PMC character. In addition, Scavs lack the ability to complete many tasks (quests) given to them by traders. Nonetheless, they should be an integral part in the early game for you to get weapons and gear. Occasionally, they can spawn with rare loot, such as keycards or other valuable items. Use your Scav frequently in raids! After you begin to stockpile weapons and loot, begin transitioning to your PMC character.

Now, let’s take a look at the PMC. At the beginning of the game, you’ll be given a choice to select which faction your Private Military Contractor character belongs in. Currently, there’s no major difference between the two factions you can select from (USEC or BEAR) beyond minor cosmetic options.

Private Military Contractors act as your main character within the game. Any skills you gain during a raid persists and are permanent upgrades to improve the overall abilities of your character. Skills may be actively or passively gained based on actions you take throughout the course of playing. Leveling your PMC can take time, but it’s essential for gaining access to higher-tier gear and new tasks from traders.

Escape From Tarkov Shoreline

As a PMC, everything will be hostile toward you during a raid. NPC Scavs that populate the map will not hesitate to shoot you on sight. In addition, any damage or illnesses you sustain while on a raid may carry over into the next raid. Either you can let those wounds heal up over time (which can be hastened with hideout upgrades) or you can expend meds to heal up instantly.

Balance is the name of the game when selecting your character. You want to level up and improve your skills as a PMC, but it is costly to outfit them with new gear every time you die. The Scav is a low-risk, high-reward character that won’t contribute toward much character progression in Escape from Tarkov. As a new player, use the Scav to start their cooldown and get easy loot. For the next raid, take out your PMC to try and gain levels by looting and killing enemies.

Scav Breakdown

   + Limited risk as Scavs do not use gear from your inventory
   + Not necessary to heal, feed, or recover your Scav
   + NPC Scavs will not attack you unless you shoot them first
   - Only usable after an extended cooldown after each raid
   - Skills and experience do not transfer to your PMC
   - Spawns with randomized gear that cannot be altered prior to joining a raid

PMC Breakdown

   + PMCs can improve skills that benefit the character in-game
   + Can level up and complete tasks that allow for better deals, rewards, and purchasable gear from traders
   + Can be outfitted with the highest tier loot and customize their gear prior to the match
   + More upgrades to the hideout impact the PMC characters
   - Injuries persist after raids and must be healed with items or they will heal over time
   - Higher risk as any gear must be equipped from the stash and can be lost
   - NPC Scavs will attack you on sight

Escape from Tarkov Hideout Upgrades

Escape from Tarkov Shoreline

An integral part of character progression in Escape from Tarkov is upgrading and establishing your hideout; however, many of the upgrades require some of the following prerequisites:

  • Leveling specific PMC skills
  • Increasing your reputation to a certain level with traders
  • Loot items and money
  • Other upgrades to your hideout

As this is a beginner's guide, we won’t cover the individual components needed to upgrade each part of the base; however, it should be noted that in order to upgrade the hideout you will need to meet multiple requirements for many of the upgrades. For example, to upgrade to level three vents, your PMC will need their strength skill to be at least level three, your generator upgraded to level two, and the necessary items. Check each individual upgrade by clicking on it and begin stockpiling the required loot early. It’s a good idea to just focus on a couple specific hideout upgrades at a time, or you will risk running out of room in your stash. Note: the stash itself is upgradeable through the hideout for a high monetary cost as well.

As a new player, some useful upgrades include:

  • Med Station, Level 1 (allows for faster passive healing of your PMC)
  • Intelligence Center, Level 1 (faster Scav cool down)
  • Workbench, Level 1 (useful craftables, such as some types of ammo)
  • Vents, Level 1 (a prerequisite to numerous other hideout upgrades)

As a new player, it’s better to think small with the hideout upgrades. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the necessary loot required for each upgrade. For some hideout upgrades, the loot can be rare or difficult to find, so it’s worth looking at the flea market for items you’re having a difficult time finding if you have the money to spare.

Escape from Tarkov Looting

Escape From Tarkov inventory or stash with various loot

Looting is a fundamental part of Escape From Tarkov and deserves a significant mention in this guide. As a new player, generally, it’s a good idea to pick up almost everything. Everything you can find in Tarkov (for the most part) can be sold to traders and other players. Even if an item seems worthless, it can often be used to upgrade your hideout, be sold for money, and may be needed to complete some quests.

In Escape from Tarkov, there are three different usable currencies beyond bartering: Rubles, Euros, and U.S. dollars. Most traders deal in rubles, but the trader Peacekeeper deals in U.S. dollars from the beginning. A good idea early on is to examine (right click or middle mouse button by default) all the items traders have, so you can see the items they have to offer. Many items can be bought via the currencies above; however, almost all the traders will trade loot items for some items in their inventory. Click on items from each trader so you know what items to keep an eye out for when looting.

As your PMC, be sure to take advantage of your alpha container. Located in your PMC’s inventory, the alpha container holds just a few items but anything within it cannot be lost if you’re killed during a raid. As such, it’s generally a good idea to put items that quickly run out (meds, bullets, etc.) in there. Just note, bullets or gun magazines can only be utilized when put in your tactical vest or pockets. If you come across a rare item that fits, make it a priority to stick those items in your alpha container.

Other useful things to be on the lookout for in Escape From Tarkov? Keys! Keys often allow access to certain areas, rooms, or vehicles on numerous maps. Keycards in particular are valuable as they are one-time use items that allow your PMC access to the Labs map, which contains some hard-to-find loot.

Escape from Tarkov Raid Tips

Escape from Tarkov Shoreline

Finally, to end this guide we will finish with some useful tips when you’re out there on raids. Certainly this guide didn’t cover every topic, but hopefully it will have explained and offered guidance on the basics of Escape from Tarkov. Be safe out there in Tarkov, friends!

  • Try focusing on learning one or two maps at a time. Interchange and Customs are fairly easy to pick up and have a diverse set of loot
  • Seeing in the dark can be difficult, so it might be best to select daytime raids unless you’re equipped with flashlights or night vision
  • Check your extraction locations after spawning in and learn where each extraction point is located (double tap the O key by default)
  • Selecting to insure items will return them to you if your PMC is killed and those insured items are not looted by other players
  • Set a goal for building your hideout and target those items you need while looting
  • If possible, be sure to loot already killed enemies. It’s good to stock up on extra weapons for your PMC and they sell well—just be careful where you go
  • Avoid wide open areas, and try to save your stamina for when you must run through these spots
  • Establish a route when looting on each map. The more you know a map, the more advantageous it is for you when fighting or running
  • Sound is absolutely crucial in this game. If you can, use headphones and avoid sprinting too much (mouse wheel controls your movement speed by default)
  • Heal bleeding wounds with bandages, broken limbs with splints, damaged body parts with first aid kids, and use painkillers to clear vision and speed up movement if wounded

How are you enjoying Escape from Tarkov? Let us know in the comments below.

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A picture of staff writer Alex A. Verdini
| Staff Writer

A gamer since his earliest memory, Alex enjoys practically every video game genre known to humankind (with a particular favoritism toward shooters and RPGs… More about Alex

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