Pirates of the Burning Sea is set in the year 1720, in the Caribbean Sea and its vicinity. Players choose to be either Pirates, or one of three European nationalities -- Spanish, French, or English -- which had colonies in the area at the time. Players who choose to be from one of the European nations ("nationals") choose from one of three professions: trader, privateer, or naval officer. Pirates ("rats") may choose between cutthroats and buccaneers.
Gameplay revolves around player-based economies, PvE-based port contention, and PvP pirate zones.