What we have here is a saga in two parts. In BG1 you start off at level 1 with no XP, very basic weapons, items and spells etc. and that is how it was always meant to be. You can't expect to be immediately thrashing the life out of your opponents in a game which was designed to be the BEGINNING of an adventure. BG1 has the advantage of the "patchwork quilt" map with the wilderness areas which you can wander off the beaten track to explore, if you dare or are unwise enough to do so. This makes BG1 a bit more "sandboxy" then BG2. If I still to this day have one complaint against BG2 it is that it did away with the wilderness areas.
BG2 did many things just as well as and in some cases better than BG1 did them. As a whole the two games considered as one saga in two parts are a triumph and are the best games I have ever experienced in the course of a long gaming "career". I find it hard to understand when some people express the opinion that you might as well forget BG1 and move straight on to BG2. If the 640*480 resolution bothers you, you can use the widescreen mod (if you can get it working to your satisfaction) to correct that.
It is always very interesting to hear other people's views, however.