I've always been disappointed by the melee in Holdfast, so I'm going to try and break down why I hate it so much.
I'm gonna start with saying that I'm a Napoleonic Wars veteran, my regiment fully migrated here in February of 2020. I am thus used to NW's combat, so my critique is going to be centered on the differences between the 2 systems, because I find the Mount and Blade melee combat to be overall better.
God, I'm so heavy
The first thing that I was able to notice is just how heavy I feel when attacking. My attacks are slow, there seems to be a full second between clicking the mouse and the actual attack animation. The Napoleonic wars animations always look a tiny bit faster. The wind up times are the same, but the attack is faster. I would suggest trimming down the actual attack animation. In particular, swords just don't feel lethal in Holdfast, it feels like you're spreading butter on a comically large slice of bread. Worse still, while appearing to be less lethal than Mount and Blade animations, they are, in fact, far more damaging, with bayonet hits being one hit kills most of the time. The disconnect between what I see and I think its consequences will be versus what actually happens never fails to catch me off-guard. This applies to other areas too.
A sword to the head doesn't kill you?
Damage seems to be random in melee. A hit to the head has exactly the same chances of one shotting the enemy as one to the legs. Perhaps there is an actual difference between the 2, seeing as the system is capable of detecting headshots, but since most bayonet hits are instakills anyway it just doesn't feel that way, what body part you're hitting doesn't feel important, as long as you land a hit it's done. Speaking of which
The enemy ->° My Hit ---------------->°
Never have I felt so drunk in my life as when I engage a moderately skilled player in close combat. Despite the hitboxes being so ridiculously large that people sometimes get stuck in formations, we've even had to adapt to that when doing formations, misses in melee are very common. I've figured out why when I tried, in a bout of frustration, switching to 1st person: the center of your screen isn't where your hits are going. The worst offender with pole weapons (flags, pikes and bayonets) is the upper thrust, it's so far away from the aiming reticule that it's no wonder I miss people when I use it, with the lower thrust being much closer but still not exactly near the center. Even swords are affected by this, but they remain the best weapon in the game since the right and left swings perfectly cross the center of the screen. Even if it looks akward, making sure that the attack animation actually attacks where you're aiming is important.
Cav too good, hence bad
Before I get to the crux of the issue, I want to talk about the cavalry. I've not played much as a cavalryman, since I really don't find riding enjoyable in this game, but from the fact that people with golden medals on horseback are perfectly capable of taking me out makes me think that the controls for the horse aren't bad, just difficult. With that said, properly trained cavalrymen are way too damn powerful. Let me explain. In NW, a DLC for a game based on the medieval era, cavalry was very strong, but not almighty powerful as here, why is that? You know, in real life, horses aren't that dumb. If they see that they're running towards a spiky thing, they're gonna stop, turn and run in the opposite direction, that's why the square formation was so effective in real life. How did NW imitate that? Well, if you hit the horse with a polearm thrust, the horse stops dead in its tracks and soars, basically giving you and your mates a full second to kill the horseman or his horse and then him. In the last update to Napoleonic Wars, they even added a mechanic where you would get de-horsed if you received a decent hit, without having to kill the mount. The result? Basically, attacking a regiment that was able to form up and was decently trained was suicide (just like in real life). This did not make cavalry useless: first of all formations of riflemen did not have bayonets attached to the weapon (they had them as a terrible knife), so they if they got caught they would get slaughtered, also if a regiment is caught unprepared it would get massacred, they would still be able to overwhelm artillery positions and an infantry regiment coordinating with the cav was a horrible sight, as it turns out anti-cav formations were very good targets for artillery and line alike. May I also mention that getting run over by horses wasn't that deadly? Even with heavy cavalry, you would need atleast 4 full speed charges to kill a man at full HP, and the stumble animation only lasted 2 full seconds, instead of being X(the time it takes for the ragdoll animation to stop)+3 seconds. I just don't understand why you didn't implement this: cavalry is basically able to pull off frontal charges that would put medieval knights to shame, you literally can fight cav only with cav, and thus they're severely limited in numbers. There were full cav regiments in NW, can you imagine what would happen if there were formations of 10 horsemen on either side in HF? I'll also add that, since lines can remove their bayonets, there are way more opportuinities to catch lines off guard in Holdfast than in NW. The fact that you put the soaring animation for when the horse is hit by musket fire and not for when it is hit by a bayonet is mind boggling to me.
The point of it all
But enough of that. The crux of the issue has mainly to do with damage, and the animations. This game doesn't have physics in melee. It doesn't matter how fast you hit the enemy, just how clean of a hit you pulled off on the guy: the damage wouldn't change. In NW, you couldn't just sit on your ass while fighting. Spinning, violent turns, constant pacing: just like how real people fight, to truly make sure you land a good hit you need to put your whole body behind it. Animations that hit the target too slowly would even bounce off, giving you a short amount of frames of vulnerability that put you at the mercy of a prepared attacker. You were at your most vulnerable at the start of your swing, where you were still gathering speed, and past the apex, where it sharply decreased. This also meant that the importance of footing was enhanced: "long" range fights were usually fought with people thrusting, usually with the upper animation as catching the head consistently yielded a kill, and backing off to make the hits bounce, while good players engaged in intense short range fights where you could aim at the legs, thus making sure it wouldn't bounce but it would require atleast one more hit to kill, or take a risk aiming at the upper body, and of course medium range fights where they would be constantly within bayonet reach but not too close. Hits in Holdfast are lethal all the way through. The actual animation doesn't matter, you see people who got this and basically turn every thrust into a swing to increase their chances of hitting something, that kind of thing would have resulted into a bounce in Napoleonic Wars.
TL;DR: Animations are too sluggish, body parts hit are irrelevant, attacks are too far away from the center of your screen, put in horse jolting animation when they're hit by a thrusting polearm, consider trying to implement a physics system for attacks if it's still possible this far into development.