It does get easier but cakewalk is exaggerated. But I agree it's probably better for you to wait for the new difficulty modes. Hopefully they're not just +enemy health/-player damage though.
Unfortunately no - no exaggeration. Even as a RPG newbie in my first playthrough I found the fights after Hiberheim astonishingly easy, although I had to correct some character setups by adding abilities to drain resistances and willpower after leaving Cyseal.
I think I had 3 character deaths in my first attempt on normal shortly before the final battle, 2 of them in Cyseal in the first fights. The fights really tend to be on the easy side, although you might feel different as some enemies are hard (= long time) to kill, but at a closer look their damage output is often lacking (like Boreas).
The key is of course crowd control and battle setup - brute strength and blindly storming into the fihgts can be a way to desaster.
So in other words, you were an RPG newbie, you experienced the beginning of the game as an RPG boot camp, and suddenly the game became a lot easier because you learned how to play an RPG.
Wow, what a surprise.
Normal difficulty is just what the game was balanced for. The other difficulties are just some number tweaking relative to the "normal" difficulty. Said number tweaking makes a pretty big difference last I saw some numbers.
But that's just how I see it. What do you mean by normal being hardly normal?
I think he means that Normal difficulty is balanced still too easy. I somewhat agree with that. I played a pretty unoptimized party (half-intentionally.. though mostly for fun 'theme' purposes) and felt like I normal difficulty was balanced enough. On the other hand, if you actually spent time designing your characters/party well then normal difficulty becomes too easy.
That being said it's kinda semantics, in other words, ignore than "Normal" is called "Normal" and just think that there's difficulty is numbers 1, 2, 3, or whatever. Hard is okay if you optimize your party (to a degree - e.g. not using unbalanced traits like Lone Wolf + Glass Cannon).
I do have to reiterate, though, that I would like Harder difficulties to result in difficult encounters in terms of changing the actual encounters, better enemy party design, more skills used by enemies, better AI, etc. Not just +enemy health/-PC health/+enemy damage/-PC damage/etc. Of course that's not an easy approach but it's much more preferable.