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Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag won't just take place in the 18th century. Players will also step into the shoes of an Abstergo Entertainment employee working in the present day.
As a new Abstergo employee, players will work out of the corporation's Montreal office. They'll use the Animus in order to dive into Captain Edward Kenway's memories. However, they can also exit the Animus at any time and explore Abstergo.
"Absolutely," Ubisoft said when asked if players would learn more of Abstergo's backstory and mission. "A taste if you just play the main story, and an entire buffet if you explore everywhere."
There's a set of required missions in the present day with a "clear story arc." Players will explore the office, eavesdrop on conversations and hack systems. In the process, they'll encounter both old and new faces. There's no actual combat, though.
Although Abstergo is a front for the Templars, not all of the employees at the office belong to that secret order. Ubisoft stresses that the player character isn't strictly allied with the Templars or the Assassins. There doesn't sound like you make a concrete choice within the game. You won't be presented with, say, conversation options. If there's any decision being made by the player, it seems to be an internal one.
"It’s from your point of view. You work for Abstergo, but you may like Assassins better. Or neither."
Ubisoft wouldn't say who the main character is. It's not Desmond, for reasons obvious to anyone who played Assassin's Creed 3. The story of previous games will continue but now it's being told from a different perspective.
Players won't be taking on the role of one of Desmond's relatives, either. In order to relive the memories of Edward Kenway, Abstergo will rely on newly developed "genetic memory cloud servers." These servers enable anyone to dive into another person's memories. This new Abstergo tech explains how players will be able to take on the role of Aveline de Grandpre as well as Edward's first mate Adewale in AC4.
To go along with the new details, Ubisoft also released a set of screenshots from the Abstergo office. It sure is a fancy space. Google had an office on the Citadel from Mass Effect, it would look something like this.