If they did that, I would be fine with it - as you say, balance. This does not feel like that. Aside from anything else, it’s not the weaker companions that need weakening further, its the top tier that are a problem. But Funcom’s last attempt at fixing this issue (the ‘great thrall nerf of 2020’ ) was largely a failure if we are honest. The strongest followers were nerfed, but remain the most powerful things in existence, but the weaker ones (especially the non-greater pets) were nerfed to the point of near irrelevance - the result being that it became even more essential to get exclusively the strongest thralls and only bother with greater pets. Before Funcom ‘fixed’ this issue, I used even t1 exiles, I used lesser pets and levelled them all the way to 20 - and, sure, they never became strong enough that I felt confident about them in the toughest fights (which seems correct), but they still felt worth having. Since they were nerfed those at the lower tiers that I tried just died, against weak enemies, in moments. Spending hours doing all the work, levelling a lesser pet to level 10, only to have it die to a t1 thrall in the couple of seconds it took for me to slaughter two others convinced me to not waste my time with anything but the best. That doesn’t seem like balance, and nor does this.
Similarly, I’ve spent some time on testlive trying out the new combat - and that doesn’t feel so much like it’s making the player more powerful, more like it’s removing the relevance of stamina management, and making choice of armour more meaningless (so that you might as well just go with heavy armour, since there’s no penalty for doing so - less variety, less choice). Combat honestly felt like I didn’t need to pay any attention and could just stand still clicking Maybe that is evidence of the player being made more powerful, but it felt more like a reduction in possible interest and enjoyment.