I'm a veteran BG and BG2 player and just rediscovered the games recently. Playing through a full saga and just arrived at SoD for the first time. My progress so far has been limited so this is little more than some first impressions. I'll also try and avoid anything that might trigger some of the fighting I've seen in other threads
1) The start is confusing.
We're doing what now? When is this taking place? Is it immediately after I killed Sarevok? No, Imoen is saying something about training so she's obviously had time to start that with the Duchess.
I get why Imoen isn't in the team and think this is handled well (with the exception of some of her gear - if this is not immediately after killing Sarevok I'd like a way to get some of it now, please. I know I get it back later BTW, but that's not the point). But, why is Safana here? I'd ignored her in BG1, but it's possible that she may have died for a player - someone completely new might have worked better (either a temporary recruit, or someone to bring along with the story). From what I've seen of the new NPCs they're interesting so this could be a way to showcase it as well.
A narrated scrolling text intro might have worked well to start us off and set the scene.
Also, worth pointing out at this time that Khalid was annoying me and I've always previously liked him.
2) The initial dungeon is curious.
There's some good stuff in here. The torch "puzzle" was interesting, but a bit too easy to miss, especially coming straight from BG1, which I don't think contains anything similar. The layout was good, not too dungeon-y and it looks great.
There's a few weird points - most specifically the random mage wanting moss just felt out of place.
3) The initial dungeon is tough.
Weird, as I don't think any of the individual undead, or the mercs/acolytes are necessarily that bad but I got pasted a good few times until I'd found my feet. The fact that previously learned tactics no longer work is both a good and a bad thing I guess. Particularly the large mob of initial undead including the spell caster forced me to reload a few times before I worked out a solution and even then I struggled a bit until the flaming fist stepped in (embarrassing, I know). Maybe I was just overconfident and not prepared.
The handholding from a plot perspective (with Imoen and the FF right behind you and ready to step in) seems incongruous with the actual difficulty of the fights. It's been a long, long time since I explored Chateau Irenicus (as a Dungeon Be Gone fan even back when I last played) and I remember the panic even minor opponents there caused, but then you start that practically naked, almost alone and in shock. This should have you starting from a position of power.
It's definitely better than the terrible "fetch a potion for Dreppin" prologue of BG1 though.
4) I'd forgotten how nice the BG2 style information, subtitles etc are - eg, "drinks a potion" when a combatant takes such an action. The feel with the relatively large number of actors on screen is good and nicely sets up what I'm expecting later with scaled battles.
5) We then get what seems like an actual intro and prologue.
At this point I started thinking that the whole initial dungeon was a bit irrelevant and we're actually starting the game now. The initial bits are nicely handled. Again, a mix of some good stuff (the overall feel, the panic in the streets, the art), with some less good (a few stupid quests, especially the lost money one, but these are really no worse than the vast majority in BG). It's also really easy to miss things, which isn't necessarily bad, but just a difference when coming from BG1. Again, some minor opponents are tougher than expected - Shank and Carbos these ain't.
We also start to see some of the clever touches - quests it's possible to get wrong (I got the wrong wine and had to go back for the right one), results of previous actions (sparing the life of Korlasz or not earlier actually has an effect).
A few niggles
* why force me to lose my money? It wouldn't be game breaking and I ended up with more than that again from selling assorted junk I'd brought with me.
* A better explanation of the chest would be good, if nothing else a "it's coming with you and it's safe/secure" would be reassuring
* An in game pointer to Imoen's adventuring stuff would also be helpful. It's not really obvious, especially since her room is not decorated like a bedroom AND when she's ill she's in the protagonist's bed.
* Why is this chapter 7? Chapter 7 was the hunt for Sarevok, if this is a continuation from BG it should be chapter 8. I'm still seeing quests in the journal that I obviously can't complete.
* Recruitment. I generally like the way the old characters are used and the explanation around why there are so limited a number is good (I'm glad that Jaheira and Khalid are finally getting some alone time). I'm in two minds about the way some of this is handled - eg, Tiax is the only cleric available, did I mess it up by him not coming with me (even though I enjoyed the encounter)? It felt like the available party is a bit lightweight - I was left searching for a fighter to join.
* The crusade. I word itself is a bit loaded, I'm wondering if different players have a different reaction to it? The purpose of it wasn't especially clear either. Not so much a criticism of SoD, but the entire series does not make it easy for a player to become immersed in the lore or really understand the world. I'm not sure how that can be handled in game. As a PnP DM you'd give players a handout on world background before starting a campaign.
* The hooded man sounds familiar.
* Skie's plot is a bit meh. Not a huge fan. Never mind the lack of fuss about her previously departed father. I think there's room for a character arc though so I could be persuaded on her merits.
6) Then we're off.
I like the way the quartermaster works (and don't recall seeing this used before). This is clever and even more so once I know he's coming along.
I wasn't overly enamoured with Corwin's scene with her daughter. I assume that means she's going to take a dirt nap at some point. The march through the streets is nicely done, including the change in mood of the crowd. Great to see Viconia, especially from a BG2 continuity perspective as I'd only had minimal interaction with her in BG.
We arrive at the first camp. This looks great (again) and reminds me of some of the locations in BG2 (which I now can't wait to see again). Again, the quartermaster, priest and guy who handles the sleeping arrangements are well done. This feels solidly set out, it's a temporary base but got the things I need to start exploring before we move on, so I get a feel for how this will play out. The only weird thing seems to be that Viconia's Duergar companion seems to have travelled with us, despite her being quite explicit about him leaving her alone.
Overall, a good first impression. It's better than starting BG (what am I supposed to be doing now? Argh, a wolf, RUN!), but not quite as strong as BG2 (I don't remember what it's like starting ToB).