Thanks Amerk for playing the game. As you can see, the battle difficulty isn't stat based. Basically Croid's stat's will never increase dramatically by leveling up. Take this for example, Croid at level 1's HP is 100 and at level 99 is 400. The game requires you to buy new weapons and equipment for your characters if you want to do more damage and have an advantage in stats. Try buying a Bastard Sword, probably the most expensive sword you can purchase at the moment and Croid will be doing way more damage. Thus leveling up is probably best so you can increase speed stats and gain an edge in battle. I simply did this so that battles would either always be challenging and require some slight thought to defeat enemies quickly. Don't worry though, your characters learn more powerful and useful skills on the way which will make battles easier too.
I did this because the game is heavily quest focused too. I want the player to rely on quests, mining and fishing to make a lot of money which will be used to buy equipment that will make characters more dangerous to enemies.
About the world map, that might be changed for disc one release depending on how many people don't like it. I didn't see it as a huge problem because I personally like the slower small graphic moving on world map.