TL2: 67 hours in
Yikes. I hate that Steam is tracking my hours played, because it gives my wife ammunition to use against me...
Anyway, I'm 67 hours into Torchlight 2. I've played every class to at least L15, and I have something like 5 embermages, including the one I was playing only with my brother, the one I experiment with, and the one I'm progressing through the game, plus a couple one-offs used to test an early game build spec.
In case the fact that I've got 5 different characters of the same class wasn't a tip off, here is a hint: I love this game. It honestly is just about everything I wanted from D3. It has weaknesses, definitely (things I'm certain will be addressed once the mod community opens up; them and more) but the game itself, the core things, are pretty much exactly what I want from a Diablo clone.
In the TL2 forum there is an argument raging about whether or not full respecs should be legitimately allowed. (A full respec is possible without flagging your character as a cheater, you just have to jump through some hoops.) I have stated my thoughts on this before, in my post about D3. If the game is fun, it shouldn't be a chore to re-roll a new character.
The way I see it, there is opposition in everything. It's the way the world works, and more importantly we as human beings are hard-wired to account for this fact. We appreciate things more that we have to work hard for, pain helps us to more fully appreciate pleasure, and the things that we value the most are the things for which we have risked the most. Not to get all deep and whatnot, but this basic principle, I feel, holds true for shallow entertainments such as video games as well.
To wit: if you want people to enjoy success, you have to give them the opportunity to fail or that success means nothing to them. Applied to Torchlight 2, if you want people to enjoy the feeling of triumph that comes from a successful character build, you have to give them the opportunity to completely screw the pooch. This, I think, was D3's most grievous mis-step, in my opinion. No meaningful permanence in skill choices meant that there was no reward for choosing the "right" ones, nor punishment for choosing the "wrong". A very large part of these games for me is not to beat the baddies or to see the cinematics. My goal isn't to finish the game. My enjoyment comes from the meta-game of finding the optimal character build with which to progress. If there is no risk of "losing" this meta-game (by building a broken character) then there is no reward for doing it correctly.
Now, there are folks who are all about googling for the optimal builds, meta-gaming to determine the optimal equipment, etc... To them, I say, perhaps D3 is a better choice. When balance changes come down the pipe, you won't have to cry about your once-optimal build now being sub-optimal. You can just switch skills, and carry on. Have fun with that. For myself, if balance changes come in TL2 (and they have already) then if my build is suddenly non-optimal, I have absolutely zero qualms about rolling a new dude. I'm not in it to finish the game, I'm in it to play the game.
Torchlight 2 lets me play that game, and even though I haven't completed the game yet (Act 3 on Elite, without twink gear from previous playthroughs, is slow going) I am still eagerly anticipating my next full embermage playthrough as Frost rather than mainly Fire. And even more than that, I'm eagerly anticipating what the mod community has in store once the full tools are released. Hell, I've got more than a few ideas of my own.
Which brings up another point of contention for some folks. The mods. For some, TL2 is all about the mods. What Runic has given us is great and all, but if Diablo 2 taught me anything it's that the folks who love a game can bring some pretty awesome things to it if they are allowed. D2 did not have any officially endorsed moddability, and in fact the modders had to build their own tools and reverse engineer the game data themselves in order to get it done, and yet they still brought us awesomeness such as Median XL and Eastern Sun. What will those same folks do when given the tools to do it legitimately?
For TL2, I see a bright and stunning future, filled with awesomeness. For Diablo 3, I just see more drop-rate tweaks.