Don’t worry, your gossip probably won’t leave my lips.
Type: Single Player
Genre: Diplomatic Visual Novel
Developer: Joy Manufacturing Co
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release date: August 18, 2021
Here, you jump into the role of a woman named Yvette Decaux who has dreamed of bigger things that she couldn’t possibly achieve if she sticks to her humble town. It seems that she may be lucky as she happened to catch the eye of a Baron Armand who strives for pastures just as big, as in changing the country big. Both of them got engaged sometime before Armand left for Paris to participate in the Estates General and it wasn’t until a while later, and many letters sent back and forth, that Yvette is finally leaving for Paris herself. First order of business in Paris: meet up with Armand in The Orphan’s Feast. Except, when she arrives and double checking that she is in the right place, she can’t find him anywhere. Not even the patrons know where he could be (and they seem to have some… disdain towards him). And when she arrives at his estate, not even his maid, Camille, knows as he hasn’t been home in days.
Not someone to completely break down when one plan breaks through, Yvette still plans to succeed in her original goal, just without Armand beside her. Though, it doesn’t seem like her misfortune has stopped as the first party she attends in Armand’s place, a one Baron Maximin (or Viscountess Marcelle as it’s random who you’ll get), proves to be embarrassing and a reputation ruiner. But if we have anything to say about it, Yvette will get her revenge and will hopefully find out what happened to Armand.
While everything here seems overwhelming as you first start, it’s actually pretty manageable despite Yvette’s schedule becoming busier. At the beginning of the day, you’ll start on your calendar where you can see the days you’re going out to parties and is when you’ll open the new invitations to future parties. Just make sure you check your schedule as you don’t have to accept it right then and there. You can ignore it to briefly check your schedule or to see what the next day brings if you don’t care about getting a Credibility boost for accepting the same day it came in. Just don’t ignore it as it’ll hit your Credibility instead. It’s also best not to over schedule as you do need to rest as each time you go to a party you get a point of exhaustion, which will have your Credibility take a hit. You’ll also be able to see what dresses you currently have and your journal that hosts details on the factions, the gossip you’ll be getting, and a blurb on the romance options once you meet them.
There are five other people you can romance, if you don’t want to wait for Armand, and after you get enough favor with them, they’ll start sending rendezvous invitations (which will cause exhaustion as well).
If it’s a day for a party, you’ll have to pick out a dress that will appeal to the faction holding it, so you can get a Credibility boost right from the get go, and spend the whole day there. You’ll be greeted with a map of the party, with icons showing you the conversations you can join or start. Though, you only have a limited amount of turns, or conversations you can choose, not to mention that the next turn will result in them being replaced with new ones, so you’ll have to choose wisely. It helps that you can see the possible rewards each one can grant, granted that it depends on what dialog choice you choose as it shows all of the possible outcomes. This is a main way you can get gossip, which is important. Parties will also have some quick side stories or let you meet your other romance options that isn’t Armand.
Once you have a free day you can explore Paris, with the places you can visit indicated on the map. You’ll be able to visit “incidents” which is basically a side event that you can choose to visit after reading what’s going on there and the reward you might get. There are other points of interests that can be an important objective that you need to do to advance the story, advance your romance with the dateable characters, or check out a location. And lastly shops. This is the time where you can choose to sell the gossip you have for money that you probably need and buy a new dress that will appeal to the people attending an upcoming party or buy a backup dress as wearing the same one twice will lower the novelty of it more (making you not wear it once it reaches zero novelty). You can also check out a café that can give you an option to lower your exhaustion and get the chance to gain and lose favor, though you may want to rest at home if you have more exhaustion or want to be well-rested in cases that you have three parties in a row (which I did when I was accepting every invitation).
There are some more things to manage and keep track of. Aside from managing your days, you’ll have to keep an eye on your money. Not only will you have to take up the responsibility of paying your servant(s) every week, but you’ll need enough if you end up needing a new dress or if there is a dialog choice that will have you totally not bribing someone. This is helped by a few conversations having the option to get some money and the gossip you’ll be hearing can be sold to a gossip newspaper. You’ll also have to keep an eye on Yvette’s Credibility and Peril bar that will shift depending on the choices you make from what you wear to what you say. Credibility is used for dialog options indicating that it’ll check it to see if you passed or failed to convince the person you’re talking to. You’ll only be told how hard the check is, but it does seem easy enough to get your credibility back up and keep it up (the lowest my bar sat was maybe 3/4 full). Peril, however, determines how much risk Yvette is in and having it full promises something will happen to her. In opposition to Credibility, Peril is easy to get but hard to lower as there aren’t that many ways to lower it (and it doesn’t lower it by much). Luckily, you can hire a bodyguard that will protect you if you want to live dangerously.
There are also the factions that you can somewhat influence. There are the big two that will always oppose one another, The Crown and The Revolution, and three other smaller factions that will find themselves in allegiance to either one. While there are events you have no control over that will mess with the power and allegiances, you can influence them with some choices and peddling the gossip you heard. It depends on how juicy the gossip is, but you can influence what the public thinks of that faction by the way you decide to present the gossip and you do get the odd choice here and there that can let you push the smaller factions towards either the Crown or the Revolution. The faction you decide to side with will determine the ending you get, along with what the character’s endings will be.
Though, Ambition: A Minuet in Power does lack some clarity in some sections. There are a few people you can hire to work for you, but as far as I can tell, there’s no way to see your staff and how much total they’ll cost you every week or a way to see what benefits they granted you if you happened to forget. One of them, a tailor, even has one of their benefits as restoring dresses, but it doesn’t seem like he can (the discount he brings is worth it if you’re someone that would buy a lot of dresses and it does let you afford the more expensive ones). The Notables tab, which holds the basic information of the romance options you met, also seems to be missing information on what faction they belong to (and the glimpse you get with the favor notification is too quick). While it doesn’t really matter, it can cause you to lose favor with them if you happen to be going against their faction and their ending might be a bit rocky which happened with me with Honorade as I didn’t know her faction had strong ties with the Revolution until it was too late). It would have also been nice to know how much favor you had with them, aside from the favor sorting tab that lets you know who you have the most with.
There was also an instance of the game not telling you about a certain aspect (or if it did, it disappeared before I saw it as some tutorial dialog will fade out on its own). It has to do with the rendezvous as you will quickly notice that the ones you get sent take you to the same location. Having you read the same text as nothing new happens. This confused me quite a bit as what’s the point of visiting certain spots to unlock them as rendezvous options if you can’t? Especially when they suggest that you picked it when they did. Well, turns out you can send out your own rendezvous invitations where you choose the location by clicking a future date on the calendar. It would have been nice to know. In addition, I did wish you could access your journal outside of your home as I often forgot the faction standings, what gossip type Pierre wanted, or my dress situation was and I didn’t want to waste that day away. Also some slight annoyance when a time skip happened (especially since I had accepted rendezvous and party invites) and that there wasn’t any “skip read text” option.
It was also a bit sad that there doesn’t seem to be a mourning in the characters you met and helped, and especially the ones that you romanced. Honorade didn’t even mourn, and she was the one I ended up having the most favor with by the end and got the romance ending with, which was weird considering one of her defining traits was that she was considered to be weird due to her wearing her mourning attire way longer than it was socially acceptable. This also may be due to the ending I got, but Armand didn’t get a mention during the ending either despite being Yvette’s fiancé who I suspect would be devastated that she died (also I really wanted to see what he thought about the whole situation that happened at the end) or when she leaves him for someone else.
Overall, Ambition: A Minuet in Power was better than I thought. For these kind of games, the writing really has to carry the most burden and it can easily become a boring slog, but it wasn’t. The writing was delightful, entertaining, and weirdly energized me during one of my sessions late at night (usually I end up getting too sleepy to continue, but I didn’t here). And the characters are written pretty well and I enjoyed reading their dialog (especially Camille’s, she is a sweet maid). While there is room for improvement, if you want to play as a woman in 1789’s Paris who trades in gossip, manipulates faction standings to get the outcome she wants, and have six different options that want her hand, you won’t be disappointed with Ambition: A Minuet in Power.
Though, this might not be as worth it if you’re not interested in replaying (as one playthrough takes around six hours) to try and go for a different ending, go after different romance options, and do any lingering side stories you didn’t get to finish.