Yeah, but this "critical path" is critical only because the writers decided so. You need to side with the vamps first, then you are allowed to fight the shadow thieves, but not the other way around. Storywise it doesn't make sense, because Bodhi could have offered a free ride either way. She has to get the main character to Spellhold anyway, if Irenicus is to proceed.
But I agree with all of your points regarding the comparison with BG1, especially the lacking evil path and the quiet npcs. And the terrible-no-good party controls in BG3. The follow jump system only made it worse, they keep hurting themselves with jumps.