Ambition: A Minuet in Power is an RPG? I think. Nowhere on the Steam page or associated literature will you find a scrap of prose that agrees with that assessment, instead referring to the game as a romantic visual novel. But, I’m erringly certain that RPG is a reasonable category for the game. It has dialogue and reputation systems to rival your nearest Bethesda offering of Sky-based-rims, except the sections between the schmoozing and smooching are less dragon-ey and more buying-pretty-dresses-ey.
You play as Yvette, a young lady from a common family who really bloody loves a party. She’s taking her first trip to Paris at the invitation of her fiance, Armand, with the intention of them moving in together. However, when she arrives she finds everything is not quite as it seems. Armand is not exactly the man he appears in his letters and, what’s more, in the time it’s taken to journey to the capital he’s gone missing. Rather than setting out immediately, hell-bent on finding her groom-to-be and answers to the knee-deep pile of questions she finds herself in on arrival, Yvette prioritises partying, procrastinating like any undergrad with an important deadline. This is where she needs your help to navigate through the social graces of high society by dressing to impress and making sure the right people hear the right things to increase her standing with warring factions. Oh, and she needs help finding Armand too I guess. Only if he happens to be at one of these parties though. We’re not going out of our way.
Despite its appearances as a relatively cutesy dress-up and romance game, Ambition: A Minuet in Power has a remarkably intricate reputation and credibility system with about a million things feeding into it. When I play a game to review it I make notes so I can remember key plot points, new mechanics and gut feelings. My notes for this game read less like the careful musings of a games journalist and more like the crazed scrawlings of a madman, due to the sheer number of connected systems I’m trying to keep track of. I’m not going to cover everything here because a) that would take all day and, b) I’m never going to explain them anywhere near as well as the game explains them itself. I’m simply going to give you a tantalising taste of what’s on offer and you can play the game yourself if that sufficiently whets your appetite – an undertaking I would emphatically recommend after the time I’ve spent with the game.
It’s day ten of your fiance being missing and you are, as ever, wholly unconcerned. You have a party to attend this evening and there are decisions to be made. What are you going to wear? You could wear the dress you wore to your previous party but, as you wore it last time it’s lost some Novelty and won’t gain you as much Credibility. You could wear the new dress you bought last week but that doesn’t do much good for your Reputation with the Crown, the faction that is hosting the party. You should’ve bought a new dress for tonight but you can only do one activity per day and you’ve spent the last few days frantically selling the Gossip you learned from the last party to journalists to increase your Livre (money), resting in bed to cure the Exhaustion you acquired from the last party and undergoing missions for friendly characters to help all of your stats. You suppose you’ll have to wear the dress from last time, with its reduced Novelty and take the hit to Credibility, which is unfortunate as it’ll decrease your odds of passing certain dialogue checks, which will, in turn, stop you from gaining Gossip, Credibility and Reputation that will help you in future conversations.
It’s all a very delicate and intricate web of interconnecting systems where you’re not quite sure if you’re the spider or the fly. It feels fantastic to balance all of your stats and choose which you want to target with your very valuable free days. All of this comes together in a range of different endings where the choices you’ve made, the consequences of those choices and the choices you’ve made to deal with the consequences of those choices send you down a path to determining the future of France, either for the Revolution or the Crown.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power is a very well disguised RPG with an incredible system to track your social standing, the key to success in 1790s Paris. To an extent, it may have blown my tiny little mind but I appreciate the depth and effort that has been put into developing the game. If you love Fallout: New Vegas but get bogged down by the troublesome shooting and combat, Ambition: A Minuet in Power might just be the game for you.