Moonlight bathes the rolling hills and forested glades, glinting off our serried rows of troops. Up ahead, a white castle gleams from the top of a steep hill, torches flickering distantly under the sloping eaves of its distinctive roof, a pale sentinel watching over the valley; our objective.
The wind whips across the battlefield, rustling trees, sweeping through the grass and carrying the distinctive red maple leaves of a Japanese autumn on its gusts. Between our troops and that castle lie our foes, ranged in their thousands to meet us.
Dimly glowing paper lanterns, carried by one man in each unit, swing in the breeze, and as we begin to push our forces forward, rain begins to fall on the battlefield. The black, lacquered armour of our troops glistens wetly under the downpour as pikemen advance steadily up the hill.
Then, from the forested glade to their right, a burst of light - a volley of flaming arrows, launched in ambush, arcs through the night sky and lands among our troops. There is an unmistakable hiss as the lethal, flaming darts find wet ground, wet armour and wet flesh, and our pikemen fall in disarray, weakened; easy prey for the cavalry who now sweep thunderously across the slick grass to finish them off, swords rising and falling in dancing curves.
Shogun 2 boasts nine factions, each a historical clan of the era which starts out with its base in a single state of Japan, and which has certain unique strengths or weaknesses, as well as certain unique characters associated with it.
Shogun 2's most standout multiplayer innovation is the revamped skirmish multiplayer mode which, unlike the modes featured in previous Total War games, attempts to inject context into brutal online bloodbaths.
Extensive aesthetic customisation options will allow you to create a visually unique commander, and your Avatar's abilities will also be upgradable via a skill tree. Fighting battles will earn you experience that can be channelled into a number of specialist areas, including your general's ability to rally his troops or wield bows with increasing skill.
Along with taking advantage of avatar upgrades you'll be able to bolster your troops' abilities, making them faster, stronger, deadlier and able to go longer between toilet breaks in wintry conditions. Clearly, the opportunity to mould your armies to suit your playing style has the potential to exponentially broaden the series' multiplayer appeal and longevity.
These new multiplayer battles will be orchestrated from a traditional turn-based campaign map similar to the ones we've grown to love during the series' single player experiences. It features 65 provinces and 12 naval regions across which players will form clans and fight for ownership of Japan.
Each of the provinces possesses its own tactical, economical and military advantages. Some contain specific dojos that allow you to recruit higher level troops, ensuring your army options will ultimately be decided by your battlefield prowess.
Shogun 2 takes the series to the next level and then some!