While I only have an hour of playtime on the Steam version, I've poured many hours into the standalone version. When compared to similar offerings (i.e. Theme Park Studio), I still feel this as though this is the superior product.
It seems both NL2 or TPS have rather hefty learning curves. Both feature loads of tools and things to learn. To me, neither is easier than its competing counterpart. After that, it really comes down to how the rest stacks up.
In NL2, you're getting arguably better graphics, far more accurate physics, and a *much* more polished product. This is a finished game, with "free DLC" updates along the way; in fact, the new wing coaster trains just debuted a week ago.
In TPS, you're getting easier functions to build a park, and animated guests, but I feel like the advantages stop there. In NL2 it's really not that hard to make a path (just paint the ground), and adding flat rides built by others just requires adding the scenery object (script is typically already attached). I really wish TPS ended up being good. It's always nice to have something new and awesome coming along but it's just not there yet. Maybe in the future it will eventually become worthy of it's purchase price, but as of now I really wouldn't spend any money on it.
I'll be sticking with NoLimits 2 and RCT World (when it debuts).
Personal opinion time:
For me and many others, this is the absolute benchmark for accurate roller coasters. The level of intricacy with which someone can design their dream ride is unparalleled by any other software. As with anything this realistic, there is a learning curve that comes with the program if you wish to design your own. However, compared to NoLimits 1, the rate at which new users are becoming proficient truly speaks for how well the new track building system is. Some of the amazing works you'll see on YouTube, the Workshop, and NL fansites were created by people who just picked up the game a couple months ago.
Now, would I recommend this game to those don't plan to build? If you're a roller coaster fanatic, I'd still say yes. With Steam's integration you can download other tracks with absolute breeze. Plus there's other options to further satisfy your hunger for rides: sites like NoLimits-Exchange.com
provide an excellent abundance of things to download to your heart's desire.
This is as real as it gets... for the most part. If realism isn't your forte, go make that 1000 ft tall mountain racer you've always wanted. If you can build it, the simulation will always run it.
But perhaps the best part is the realism. The fact that some recreations get within inches of their real-life counterparts just shows the level of detail with which you can sculpt the rails. And for some, having that dead-on accuracy makes each ride feel as though they could be built into real life. You can build your dream ride, watch it go, and truly imagine it existing at your favorite amusement park so long as you could print out blueprints. That feeling is truly awesome and cannot be replaced IMO.