Tarkov Interchange, Norvinsk Economic Zone, 1500 hours. As I made my way to the extraction zone after wading through the remnants of a Swedish furniture store - a venture which had cost me most of my ammunition and the use of my left leg - I spotted a figure scrounging for supplies 300 metres away. Aiming my rifle, I took a shot, the bullet’s echo so deafening that I could barely hear the Scav yelling Russian expletives at me.
This is just a microcosm of the stories to tell about Battlestate Games’ online survival FPS Escape From Tarkov. In a genre that often either fails or doesn’t try to convey any type of legitimate emotional response, raids in Tarkov become these enigmatic tales of the senses. My stories differ from most because I play Escape From Tarkov single-player.
Using the mod SPT-AKI, players create private servers that modify the game into a purely offline experience. From an artificial flea market, to the ability to customize bot difficulty, the mod does a great job of providing “a separate offline single-player experience with progression out-of-the-box for BSG’s official client”, to quote its website.
Though it's still an authentic Tarkov experience, SPT improves the flaws of its online counterpart simply by being offline. Tarkov’s lack of a ranking system and its unsympathetic starting mechanic, where players lose their equipped items upon death, mean that beginners have a hard time getting anywhere without being sniped from hundreds of metres away without a second to react.
SPT’s autonomous AI helps alleviate this issue. It’s skillful enough that fighting them evokes the type of drawn-out firefights that make the game so enjoyable, without becoming so challenging that their shots can pierce reality itself. Hackers are also non-existent, as are desync issues.
Vanilla Tarkov does have an offline mode; one that doesn’t allow items found in a raid to be kept and only features Scav AI. It’s there mostly for testing purposes and to allow newer players to learn gameplay elements before raiding online. So why haven’t Battlestate Games expanded it as an option for players who view the PVP as harsh and imbalanced?
When asked for comment, a spokesperson said “We have a negative attitude towards attempts to pirate or disassemble the game [and are] against activities [such as] hacked offline versions. Offline mode, which we have now, will remain in the game after release. Moreover, it will be improved including the addition of all sorts of new features.”
A chunk of people might see this as a lot of piddling over a barely contentious issue - after all, if you don’t like the game, simply don’t play it! The problem is that Escape From Tarkov’s flaws in multiplayer weigh down what many consider to be the greatest example of a survival FPS. The gun crafting alone - which allows you to build a wholly unique firearm with the thousands of parts at your disposal - exemplifies Tarkov’s prowess. It’s for this, and many other reasons that, Tarkov is so hard to let go once you've taken hold of it. And, after all, if you don't like the mod, don't play it!