Pirates of the Burning Sea requires the player to choose a career from game start. For nationals, the player has three options—Naval officer, Privateer, and Freetrader. For pirates, the gamer has two options—to be a Cutthroat or a Buccaneer. The chosen career determines the features and abilities that accrue to the player when levelling up. For every other level passed, the player acquires one point that may be used to purchase power ups in the game. Each career offers 45 skills that function as a skill tree divided into 9 skill chains, each 5 chain links deep. Reaching the end of a single skill chain is equivalent to achieving Rank 50 in that particular chain.
Pirates of the Burning Sea features Swashbuckling, which refers to the in-game duel between avatars. The player chooses a fighting style at the onset. There are four fighting styles to choose from—Fencing, Dirty fighting, Brawling, and Florentine. Dirty Fighting is fought using a pistol and a cutlass. Fencing is fought with a rapier, while Florentine is fought using a dagger and a small sword. Brawling utilizes brute force through the use of arms and knuckles.