Ambition: A Minuet In Power is the color of desire!
In 2017, my husband and I attended Versailles’ Fetes Galantes, where we spent an extravagant evening dancing in the Hall of Mirrors, playing antiquated games in various parlours, and dining on an endless supply of champagne and macarons. All of this, naturally, in the most fantastically fashionable fineries the 18th century had to offer — powdered wigs and all! Of course, there were no lords and ladies to influence, no nobles to impress, and no court gossip to be had — just merrymaking amongst other Francophiles who enjoyed pretending to travel back in time for one lavish night. Too bad there’s no way to truly time travel to the parties in Versailles and Paris… or is there?
Okay so no, I haven’t discovered time travel. But what I have been treated to is Ambition: A Minuet In Power — a visual novel set in Paris on the cusp of the French Revolution full of romance, intrigue, gossip, allegiances, and… well, the revolution. Developed by Joy Manufacturing Co. and published by Iceberg Interactive, Ambition: A Minuet In Power is a thrilling adventure from a shrewd socialite’s point of view. With a colorful cast of datable characters that will have you questioning your alliances, allegiances, and even those closest to you, Ambition: A Minuet In Power will serve to captivate those who have ever wished to rub shoulders with the Bourgeoisie and Revolutionaries alike.
Players will take on the role of Yvette Decaux, a young provincial woman who has been summoned to Paris by her fiancé, Baron Armand de Marbo. Marbo has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but she pays that no heed, maintaining his household and attending parties in his stead. All was going well until her fiancé’s so-called ally publically embarrassed her at one of his soirees, attacking not only Marbo’s honor but Decaux’s character. Seething with rage, Decaux swore then and there to stay in Paris and succeed, no matter the cost.
What does success look like? That’s up to the player to decide. While ensuring rent and servants are paid is one measure of success, so too is turning the tide of the revolution, ensuring the Church, Bourgeoisie, and other factions favor your MIA man’s mission. Or maybe the fury of a woman scorned means new love is in the air? Considering the plentiful options around gay Paris, Decaux isn’t hurting for options — in fact, whether or not she aids her AWOL fiancé, love is a battlefield, and weaponizing romance can mean big changes for France’s political landscape.
And so, Decaux spends her days attending fabulous parties thrown by various members of 18th century France’s high society, teasing gossip out of the attendees through coy comments and the occasional favor. Whatever she hears, she reports back to the local gossip rag, where she can earn some cold hard livres and peddle influence to sway public favor towards or away from a specific faction. In-between these scintillating soirees, she’ll wander the streets of Paris, encountering acquaintances, friends, and love interests that may yield their favors or interesting intel. All of this, of course, while looking for that Baron Marbo of hers. Or not. The choice is yours.
While living in Paris, Decaux must take care of the precarious balancing act she finds herself in — certainly in political leanings, but also in her credibility and peril meters. Keeping a high level of credibility makes maneuvering through social situations a breeze, while a low peril level means there’s less of a chance of being sent to prison… or the guillotine. After all, when in 18th century Paris, it’s not a given that one will always keep their head!
I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit of a goody-two shoes when I play games (always have been), so normally a game where I’m actively encouraged to cheat on my fiancé would give me pause, making me fear in-game repercussions for my adulterous actions. But Ambition: A Minuet In Power makes this hard ask easy… and relatively risk-free. Surely Marbo understands that you’re only sleeping with other people in an effort assist him in his vision for France’s brighter future? At least, he didn’t say much of my ladies-only romantic escapades when we eventually did speak plainly to each other. I found this extremely freeing, as it really allowed this mechanic of secretive romances to shine; now that I know better, I’m ready for a second playthrough of Ambition: A Minuet In Power, except this time I’m going to be cozying up to absolutely everyone.
But enough about me, back to soirees! Ambition: A Minuet In Power asks players to party like it’s 1789 — you’ll be run ragged by how many parties you’ve attended by the end of it. After you’ve purchased and chosen a dress that will impress the faction hosting the party, you’re off in your fineries to enjoy a fabulous evening. Each party has a set number of turns, which means only a few opportunities to speak with others present. Will you investigate the strange noises coming from the coat closet outside the vestibule? Or will you tail the clearly drunken man with loose lips that would sink ships? Perhaps you’ll accept the proposition of a ménage à trois from a couple that’s been eyeing you all night? Or will you confront the woman who has been getting a little too close to your fiancé? The night is yours, but be mindful of your meters — you wouldn’t want to risk losing credibility over a spilled drink or poking your nose in the wrong place…
The cherry on top of all this wonderful gameplay were the aesthetics. I’m a sucker for a good map, and seeing the streets of old Paris was absolutely delightful. Choosing one of the available locations on said map treated me to visual renditions of real places, such as Parc Monceau and the Fontaine des Innocents, which was simply lovely. But perhaps the single greatest thing that amplified the overall immersion was the music, which was all from the Baroque and Classical periods. Nothing could have done more to transport me back to the time period than the soothing sounds of harpsichord, string quartets, and other exquisitely composed songs featured on the soundtrack. I’ve actually been keeping the game on in the background just to listen to it!
If I have any complaints for Ambition: A Minuet In Power, it’s that I didn’t always see information right when I needed it. It was frustrating to wonder which gossip I needed to sell in an effort to get bonuses, only to have to go back to my house to check my notebook for anything mentioned days earlier. I’m also convinced that I can gain an invitation to my sworn enemy’s party by the 24th, but I had it in my head that the party was in May, not April, so I completely missed the boat. And because I know the history surrounding the French Revolution decently well, I didn’t feel like I had many options in terms of an ending — side with the revolutionaries or bust, right? But some trailer visuals made it seem like maybe I can become a queen? Maybe? Hard to tell. I’m sure I’ll have to play again to find out, but I’m more than willing to play Ambition: A Minuet In Power as many times as it takes to get it right.
Those hoping to fully LARP as a lavish lady of 18th century France won’t be disappointed with Ambition: A Minuet In Power. This invigorating visual novel has all the twists, trysts, romance, and intrigue you’d want from a game about high society on the cusp of the French Revolution. Will you help your fiancé free France from the ignoble nobles? Or will you lose your head in the process?
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Iceberg Interactive; Developer: Joy Manufacturing Co.; Players: 1; Released: August 18, 2021; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Ambition: A Minuet in Power provided by the publisher.