This is where that sensation of a constant need for efficiency comes into play, and I'd say that playing Atelier taught me more about good time management than a college education ever did. Your jobs are charted out on a tic-tac-toe-like grid, but you'll only reveal the outermost tasks once you've completed your primary objective for the trimester. This creates a nifty micromanagement of your quest log, forcing you to spin multiple plates and devise the best way to help everyone you can in the time allotted--time that you cannot reverse. At the end of each four-month cycle, you'll have to submit a report to your boss, which can be a gateway to funny in-game cutscenes and real-life anxiety alike. But hard work has redolent benefits: Slapping 100 percent completion stamps on your entire quest grid grants the same gleeful satisfaction as that time you got a gold star on your third-grade science project.
Once you've decided the best way to budget your time, the means to accomplishing your obligations, Synthesis and combat, are simple but enjoyable. The menu-based alchemy system is definitely the deeper of the two, where any and all items you find can be broken down, remade, or fused into new creations and recipes. Each step towards crafting an item is filled with depth, from the ingredients you choose to the order you add them, with special abilities available almost every step of the way. This all seems complicated, but Atelier eases you into its mechanics so that you're never overwhelmed--only intrigued by what might be possible to make next. It feels genuinely great to craft a tricked-out material, which you then use to create a souped-up weapon. The cycle of collect-create-collect is pretty darn addictive, once you dive into it.
Combat doesn't offer the creative possibilities of Synthesis, but it's totally serviceable. Battles aren't random, which is nice, but you can put enemies on the back foot pretty consistently, which makes the combat feel a tad too easy. The wait-in-line management of Atelier's turn-based system gets spiced up by interplay between your six party members, letting you choose when to assist or defend and setting up some dazzling attack animations. Monster designs feel like the combat itself: a bit unsophisticated, but entertaining enough.
By the end, you'll be amazing at how connected you feel to Escha and Logy's journey, as well as the game mechanics themselves. Every aspect of Atelier, from its characters to its systems, is just so charming, making it easy to forgive core gameplay that sounds humdrum on paper. While this isn't the most pulse-pounding JRPG in existence, it's eminently accessible, and will provide dozens of hours' worth of laid-back fun for efficiency-minded gamers and buzzer-beating moments for procrastinators. At the end of the day, Atelier is all about completing a job well done, and feeling appropriately good about yourself for doing so.