Defining a CRPG can be difficult, especially recently. Almost every new release touts itself as a game with "RPG elements".
To be defined as a computer role-playing game I require the game to adhere to ALL of these three guidelines:
- Must have either an option to create a character or characters, OR the ability to select from different pre-made characters that differ in skills, appearance or playing styles OR the ability to play one central character that has skills, attributes, or prowess increase over time based on use,training, or levelling up.
- Must have a combat system. This can be arcade-like, turn-based, or any other combination. There must be some reward for these battles which can be either experience, coins, items, or some other form of advancement like karma or notoriety.
- Must have an inventory system that allows items to be equipped upon the character or characters. These items must not simply be items you "use" to progress the game, but rather items that affect the outcome of combats or the attributes of your character(s).
In addition, games must have at least TWO of these features in addition to the first three.
- Randomized encounters
- The ability to interact with non-player characters. This can be choice and consequence, being able to initiate side quests, or the ability to converse with the NPC on various topics.
- Character attributes or Skills
I feel that these qualifications are the closest I can get to assuring a game is a role-playing game. I will try to follow this when deciding if a game not on my master list should be considered for addition.