Maybe I need to play some more then but I dont recall any side quests at all in the first part of Ferdock or the Docks area, at least not up until this point. So far everything I have seen is the main quest line back and forth.
Weird then perhaps you don't put enough care in people talks in town. Most time when there's a street vocals talk it's the hint that there's a quest. Often it's just an events involving a mini quest but still. And also sometimes you get new mini quest through new dialog choices.
And you are quite close to start a new long quests linked to the town, the merchants war.
Haven't encountered the giant rat yet, but nothing I have fought has come close to taking half my health bar. Maybe I should have played with something other than the Warrior.
There's definitely a problem of difficulty level for the first area, but myself I felt it improves later.
Also don't forget it's a roster game you have plenty choice to compose your party and then you could do some more original mixes that could improve the challenge and the diversity.