So you've finished Assassin's Creed 3. Confused? We don't blame you. The series' mythology is a dense, complex beast, and even though a lot is revealed in the finale, it still leaves us with many lingering questions.
It's pretty obvious that this is the end of the trilogy, but it's not like Ubisoft are going to just drop their most lucrative franchise. Assassin's Creed will almost certainly return, and the ending of the latest game gives us some pretty big clues about the direction the next one will take.
First, let's recap. After retrieving the amulet buried by Connor, Desmond unlocks the Grand Temple's inner chamber. Juno appears and tells him that she knows a way to save the world from the incoming solar flare, but at a cost. He has to die, and she will be reborn in the physical world. Minerva warns Desmond that freeing her will have dire consequences.
Further reading: Review Q&A | Assassin's Creed 3 guide | 360 vs PS3 video comparison | Assassin's Creed 3 review | Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation review | AC3 secrets guide
Juno, as it turns out, is the real villain of the Assassin's Creed series. She's been locked away in the Grand Temple for thousands of years, secretly manipulating human history to lead Desmond Miles to her. Before they were wiped out, Juno's people interbred with humans - who were more likely to survive the solar flare because of their greater numbers. This allowed the First Civilization's DNA to live on, and Desmond, who has these genes, is the key to her release.
So Desmond has two choices. The first is to allow the solar flare to engulf the planet, then rebuild society with the survivors. The second is to liberate Juno and save it now, but at the risk of humanity being enslaved by her. Desmond reluctantly goes for option two, perhaps thinking that if he saves the planet now, the remaining Assassins will be able to stop her.
He activates the device containing Juno and is seemingly killed in the process. "It is done," she says, materialising next to his lifeless body. "The world is saved. You played your part well, Desmond. But now... now it's time that I played mine." She steps forward in the direction of the temple entrance, and the credits roll. But what does it all mean?
Juno being released is potentially very bad news for Earth. We know from previous games that human beings were used as slaves by the First Civilization. In Subject 16's video, The Truth, we see a figure in similar garb to Juno and Minerva using an Apple of Eden to control a workforce of humans. So they obviously don't think much of us (except, perhaps, Minerva), and Juno may see her newfound freedom as a way to subjugate humanity once more.
So the next Assassin's Creed game will almost certainly be about the Assassins trying to stop Juno. But will Vidic and the Templars join them, or will they side with her? Exactly how they'll defeat her remains to be seen. Ubisoft Montreal are fond of MacGuffins, so it may be the case that there's some ancient technology buried somewhere that'll stop her.
Desmond unlocking the Grand Temple on December 21, moments before the solar flare, was all part of Juno's plan. If the Assassins had arrived earlier, they may have found a way to save the planet without freeing Juno. But with only minutes to decide, it was their only real option to save humanity. If Desmond had gone for the other option, Earth would have been reduced to ashes; a wasteland, almost entirely devoid of life. Billions of people would have died.
So he bit the bullet and freed Juno, the lesser of two evils. The irony is that the Assassins devote their lives to preserving free will, but in the end they're forced to make a choice that's more in line with Templar thinking. Did Desmond make a mistake? That all depends on whether they can defeat Juno. With him dead, the Assassins will have to find another subject whose ancestors hold the key to humanity's salvation: the perfect opportunity to introduce a new hero.