Preface. This is my first wipe, really been enjoying the game. And wanted to share some mindset and approach strategies for playing this game that other newer players might find useful. I play a lot of different games, FPS included, BUT games that I’ve always really deep dived in to and worked at getting better are things like Fighting Games, MOBAs/RTSs, Run-Based games. I’ve always found the variety, moment-to-moment tension, and absolute thrill of them to be what I crave. Obviously Tarkov hits in a similar way. I am new, and not some demigod at this game, and my survival rate reflects that. This is not meant as some high-level guide but more a “how to properly get better at a game you are committing to playing”.
I have a hunch, that a lot of people who may have picked up this game lean a bit more heavily in the FPS genre, and are maybe missing out on areas of improvement due to not “training” correctly.
I want to cover 4 main topics here: 1. Hedging/stacking the deck 2. Deliberate practice 3. “Always on” 4. Knowing when to “go for it”
Most of us probably don’t concern ourselves too much when playing arena based shooters, COD, gun game, etc. You just … jump in and have fun. You “get better” just by grinding and sort of picking up habits based on feedback. The speed at which these matches plays out can really help people to get a “proficient” level decently quick. But in run-based/roguelike games and fighting games.. you plateau much quicker and hit a pretty hard wall. A very high level concept in games like these, where losing is FREQUENT, is simply the idea of hedging. Take a game like Darkest Dungeon. Love that game. Notoriously “unfair” and people get really mad about “random deaths”. Sound familiar? 🙂
In DD you cannot achieve “unkillability” or “god like status”. All you can do is stack the deck in your favor as much as you can, and always make the statistically safest choice. It’s a constant fight against attrition. The game is built around long-term success despite frequent loss. The way to do well, over long periods of time in it, is to make the choices that statistically have the highest outcome. You will still lose on some of those choices. Just like you will in Poker. But like poker, over a longer period of time, making the “better” choices will lead to success. “Success” here does not mean 100% wins all the time by the way.
In fighting games, you will frequently be in matchups that are unfavorable to you. Distance, fighting style of character, fighting styles of players, your comfort level with certain matchups and styles, etc. Doing what you can to increase your odds, even if it means giving up certain high-risk plays or playing ultra defensive (even if that isn’t the best style for your character), will create opportunities and increase success in the long run.
Tarkov is FULL of choices you can make to hedge. Even pre-raid. Deciding what to bring. SO many posts here and everywhere about “you need better ammo”. Such a simple concept. Yes, you might die in the first 30 seconds and lose that ammo. But *NOT* taking that ammo you are statistically decreasing your success outcome. And it’s not binary live/die in a single fight. Let’s say you survive an early PVP fight, but it took a lot of shots to down them and because of that you took a bunch of damage in return fire. Your armor is 50%, you’ve had to surgery a limb or 2 (which now have decreased max mp), and you are lower on meds (you brought a good amount of meds right? you hedged right?). Also, this potentially quick kill is now a loud firefight that you have been forced to stay near for a bit to get back to fighting shape… giving time to others to come looking for you. This can, and probably will, have consequences later in the raid.
I will take with me the best stuff I have to increase my odds. One of my buddies, will frequently bring out crap stuff and scav guns due to gear fear and a hoarding mindset with his stash. SO many raids I get out but he doesn’t. Most of the time I’m taking point, since I’m wearing the good armor and have the good gun, I take the initial gunfire and he still is the one dying. I’m hedging, he is not, and over a large number of raids it is increasing my survival and decreasing his. Which increases my $$, stash, XP, etc.
Bet on YOURSELF. Don’t go in half-assed because “ugh I’m just gonna die anyway.” You want pistol run and zero-to-hero? That’s totally fine. Some bizarro in-between with “meh” ammo, “meh” armor, and like… half the meds you should bring? Stop. Stack the deck in your favor.
2. Deliberate practice
This is probably my biggest complaint with Tarkov right now is the lack of a proper offline training mode. For context, in most fighting games, you can hop in the offline training mode and fully program an opponent. Meaning you can record, usually multiple, button/attack strings and then even set the AI to *randomly* choose which ones to attack you with or to respond with after blocking. This allows you to create highly tuned, and specific scenarios to train against. Constantly getting bodied by <Character>’s <Difficult to read pressure>? Set it up in the lab, train that specific scenario till you don’t have to think about it.
I would *LOVE* an offline mode that let me do something like this: “I want Customs offline, spawn me close to dorms, randomize 0-5 scavs/raiders/bosses/PMC AI in dorms” and just run that scenario over and over. “I want shoreline with randomized PMC AI with a random % rushing to resort”. Randomized AI of “aggressive”/“sneaky”/etc.
Due to the lack of that, we’ll need to practice the way I was taught to practice RTS/MOBAs. And that is you pick ONE thing. ONE thing you want to work on. You resolve yourself to say “I am going to lose this match, all I care about is practicing <thing>”. I lost a lot of matches while getting my macro skills tuned in Starcraft. Then when I moved on to the next topic of practice, my macro was muscle memory. And I started winning more. Rinse/repeat.
In Tarkov there is SO many things to keep track of, think about, etc. moment-to-moment. Just like fighting games and RTS/MOBAs. The way you get there is by zeroing in on one, and training it till you don’t have to “actively” think about it anymore. Checking corners, moving while putting concealment behind you, obscuring sightlines while moving, point firing, clearing areas, stopping to listen, using the nades you brought, using the propitol you brought. I’m gonna stop because there are SO many. Pick the ones that you have identified are getting you killed the most and get some reps in focusing 100% of your active, thinking brain on that skill.
Deliberate practice is how you get better at playing an instrument, playing a sport, doing *ANYTHING*. Just “playing more and more” can help until you reach the novice plateau phase. And then you need a plan.
I was bringing a nade as default in my load outs. And honestly, maybe threw 1 of them out of like 20 raids lol. Added it to my list of things to train. Start of raid countdown I say “throw the nade. don’t die with the nade.” Assuming I didn’t get 1 shot, my first thought in my mind was “THROW THE NADE” and I would. Is that always the right play? Probably not. But now when I’m in firefights, I have a muscle memory to throw nades which has directly led to me winning some fights via flushing people out, flanking, or straight up nade kills.
3. “Always on”
In a fighting game if you release your mental attention for a millisecond you can lose the round. Not always, but it can happen and I’ve done it a lot. To quote from Darkest Dungeon “Remind yourself that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.”
Tarkov will brutally punish you for a single moment of allowing yourself to not be “on”. It’s part of what I love. The long time a raid can go where you are completely engaged and working your brain the entire time. Not feeling it? Really just wanna listen to a podcast and play something? Don’t raid with your PMC. Play something else, do offline raid for practice, do a scav run, whatever. When you go in with a PMC, you need to be 100% the whole raid. That includes *NOT* panicking if you loot a flash drive you desperately need or a graphics card or something. Move properly, check sightlines, check corners, stop and listen, etc. I have been killed mere feet from extract because I turned my brain off, let myself relax and sprinted for 5 seconds to end the raid, and thought to myself “phew, that was a good one, time to go…” pop pop dead. Had I spent the extra 20 seconds moving a bit and checking angles I would have seen that other PMC coming from a different direction also heading to extract before it was too late.
4. Knowing when to “go for it”
So you’ve stacked the deck, you are playing at your absolute best you are capable of… and you just got dunked on hard. Bleeding out, getting pushed. My friend, welcome to the wonderful world of “wake up DP”. When the odds drop to such a place where statistically “it’s over”. Well my friends, it’s time to just “go for it”. NOTHING more dangerous than an unpredictable player that has resigned themselves to a loss. Swing out and push em! Nade em and bum rush em. Pop off some shots and go for a hard flank. Will you die most of the time? The odds say yes. But sometimes you won’t. Sometimes they get greedy and don’t respect the DP and don’t block your wakeup because “oh they only have a sliver of health” and you rock em. Sometimes that wild spray you take while strafing out of cover lands an ear/face shot. This shouldn’t be your default mode. But when you have already mentally resigned yourself, stop and change it to “well I have nothing to lose by playing like a madman here” instead of “sit still in this corner and await death”.
There is no right or wrong way to play this game and I don’t want to tell you how to enjoy it. BUT if you are getting frustrated, specifically, that you feel you aren’t improving as a new player. These above tips might help you. They also help remove the sting of loss. Again, I’m no expert. My first wipe! I’m a baby! But bringing the lessons and thought patterns I’ve learned and used in these other competitive genres has helped me play better and also not have a fit of rage when I die and instead use it as an opportunity to identify something to add to my list of things to train.