The time of Marie Antoinette was an era of enlightenment, extravagance, and revolution. It’s only apt for an RPG-slash-Dating-Sim to take advantage of this setting’s intrigue, romance, and passion. Developer Joy Manufacturing Co. aims to create the ultimate visual novel experience in such a pivotal moment in history.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power is available for PC and Mac on Steam, for your regional pricing.
Story – Let Them Eat Cake
You play as the commoner Yvette Decaux, and you experience the most unwelcome homecoming to the capital of France. Your first social event has you humiliated and scandalized. But you’re not a woman who’ll take this abuse and pity. It’s up to you to dive into intriguing social politics and end up on the winning (and surviving) end of history.
The situation built for the premise feels like a real blank slate for the player to take advantage of. Each segment, from the parties to the errands around Paris, felt purposeful in your daily climb of the social ladder. The way Ambition rolled out the story that goes at the pace of the player, effectively placing them into the shoes of Yvette.
The writing is also great and uses language that pulls you further into the immersion without leaving you confused. It also delivers the right amount of comedy without feeling anachronistic. What I liked best is that it never rambled and always got straight to the point of every scene, which is something visual novels tend to do in the place of the “meat” of the story.
The city of Paris is well executed throughout the story. It’s clear that a lot of research went into the history and culture of the setting and era. Paris comes into its own as a character within the game. I appreciated the nods towards history and making the true-to-life struggle of the Crown and Revolutionaries affect your gameplay.
Speaking of character, its main cast all have their own memorable shtick and personal goals. I managed to find all of them to be intriguing individuals and motivates me to pursue certain storylines and stock up on their favor. The variety of personalities in the game’s romance options makes sure that there is someone for everyone.
Gameplay – Social Calendar Planning Simulator
In Ambition, your main method of battle is to attend parties and run errands around Paris, currying favor and spreading your influence throughout the city. Don’t forget that you need to have regular rest, pay off your rent and your hapless maid’s wages.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stats that Ambition sets before you from the go. Because so little is explained at the beginning of the game, inexperienced visual novel players might not be able to keep track of everything that they need to remember. Thankfully this rush is eased off after you’ve attended your first few parties, and you will know how to play the game.
I like how parties are treated like some kind of fighting ring in the game. However, there is a degree of randomness to the results in your encounters that I was not comfortable with. I almost never felt that the degree of Peril or the amount of Credibility I had ever made a difference in my success. Perhaps adding some preview of the results from each check could help, instead of just making a guess if my overconfident swagger has a poor chance of fooling anyone.
Unfortunately, despite the great writing, there wasn’t a lot I was able to do from the parties except collect gossip to sell off or peddle later. Increasingly, the little segments became more and more similar, and soon going to parties becomes a bit of a chore.
Other than paying off your household obligations, money also goes into buying clothes that raise your stats with the factions you are courting. The factions alongside keeping your credibility and peril in check will help you get the ending you want. All these RPG elements accomplish what they set out to do, but aside from the endings and your love interest, they don’t feel as well-integrated into the narrative of the story.
The dating sim element of the game is straightforward. I liked that the conversation checkpoints don’t blatantly reveal which responses your potential paramour would like. It really challenges you to try and understand each of your love interests even more and paint a picture of who they need you to be for them.
Audio and Graphics – As Detailed as the Versailles
Right off the bat, the admirable attention to detail is palpable in all aspects of the game – from the sprite art to the backgrounds, to the UI and the flavor text – every nook and cranny is styled to the theme. There were no elements on the screen that were touched with this specific Parisian flair and design philosophy, and this only lends to the immersion of the whole experience.
Anime-inspired bright eyes and over-the-top expressions decorate the faces of your Parisian harem. I thought this was a welcome touch to the typical realistic art this era is depicted in (like in Assassin’s Creed: Unity). It makes the game more unique and fun – it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought it was a fitting choice for the mood of the game.
The environment and background design are marvels, top-notch visual novel assets. Both the map of Paris and the houses that you visit for parties are arranged in beautiful ways that still make it easy for the player to decipher what they must do. The romantic flair in the smallest menus is such a delight, and your eyes will never get bored looking at what’s in front of you. The only gripe I would have is with the fashion, which I thought would play a bigger part in the game.
I don’t mind that they have a select few designs because they were well-made, but I had several different “dresses” presented to me which were exact copies. The recolor and palette switches could have been more consistent if just to provide visual differentiation for the player.
Another aspect worthy of praise is the music and sound design. The gorgeous scores add liveliness and sorrow to the appropriate scenes. The songs let me know when I am at a relaxing date in the park, in a tense conversation at the party, or at a serious political meeting. Even if this game doesn’t have voice acting, I found the accompanying sighs, gasps, grunts, and chuckles that pepper the conversation such a nice touch, really elevating the storytelling of each interaction.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Evolve PR.