Hate to be that guy, but ante-climatic or anti-climatic? I'm up to the last tier of the story mode, and the combat rocks when you have the equipment for it. For example, the King of Skulls is a cake-walk when you happen to have the sword Undead Bane.
Sometimes the stages are ridiculously small, e.g., you and 12 ratmen on a small boat is crazy.
On the repetition part, I've found that this game is best played for short sessions.
This is a bit wrong though:
You build two decks, your equipment deck and your encounter deck. The Dealer then adds his encounter cards to your encounter deck.
There's also an Endless mode which didn't get mentioned? Or blessings, curses, or the food mechanism which heals you with every move or, when you don't have any food, hurts you with every move - this can add a bit of tense decision making at times - e.g., the Charity encounter cards, if you donate heaps of food to the priest, then you get 1 - 2 blessings, but then you lose -10 health for every move without food after that.
But if you obtain a blessing like Self Righteous from doing so (it gives you +2 damage in combat per blessing you hold), then it can be a dramatic game-changer.
Anyway, I'll stop nit-picking, but there's a (IM(H/A)O) few gameplay dynamics noticeable by their absence, especially when you mention that the lack of direct counters is "it feels like a missed opportunity to add another strategic element to the metagame."
A (non-game mechanics) aspect I've enjoyed is how as you earn tokens from encounters, a small story unfolds from those encounters - e.g., The Lovers card, where you help two star-crossed lovers sneak out of town leads to the Angry Guildmaster, wherein you run into the father of one of the aforementioned lovers which leads to the Lonely Bard, because it turns out that Juliet was a bit of a ho.
I quite like how the encounter cards interact with your character as well - Stranger in the Shadows is a vampire who offers you gold for blood/health, but if you happen to blessed with Holy Touch, then it renders him vulnerable and you can attack him for the gold instead. Or the Demon Trader who will trade you your blessings for a piece of equipment, but if you come across him without a blessing, then you get to draw Pain cards.