Would you like to run along a mountain path, through the hardy evergreen forest, hearing the wind hiss around the spiny leaves, reach the cliff edge, take the spit second decision: do I face what's chasing me, or jump and hope I hit the river and survive the fall?
Or would you like a copy of Excel, because you can have that if you want.
The big problem with CRPGs is that they grew from Tabletop -or Pen and Paper, if you prefer- RPGs, which need to use highly visible stats to resolve challenges and conflicts. Because the first CRPGs simply ported the numbercrunching and plusones from the tabletop to the screen, an obsession has ingrained itself in the inds of some CRPG players that those numbers are the essence of roleplaying games.
The thing is, the beauty of computer gaming is that it can take all the stuff that we need to do by hand to create the game experience on the tabletop, and hide it away from us. Yes stat progression is good, but do we have to see it? No, not any more, we certainly don’t have to obsess over it. What we need to see is the world, and our effect on it. One of my favourite Oblivion mods is one that makes all levelling happen automatically, feeding off the already organic, practice based system the Elder Scrolls games use. I never look at my skills page anymore
For a CRPG to be good it does not have to have an exhaustive stat manipulation screen, it has to have either a solid, well presented narrative where the player's choices matter (or don't matter, but in a dramatic fashion, but this is a musing which will have to become another post) or enough freedom for emergeant narrative to grow from the gameplay, or a good combination of both. Add to that a well imagined setting...
Actually, about setting: even a well presented fantasy soup is fine, but can someone please give me a good fantasy RPG without the words 'elf', 'dwarf' or 'orc'. I mean, you can still have the willowy magic users (eg. Feyron, willowkin, imagii?), stocky racial crafters (Hearth clan? Axe lords?) and hairy brutes who hate everything (RGPCodexers!), but at least call them something different. The elder Scrolls, for example, would be much improved by sticking to the '$mer' nomenclature and dropping the bog standard names.