I had the same problems with Elder Scrolls and Fallout. I really hoped they would have improved things with Skyrim, but nope.
There are big problems with the AI and the physics of their game engine. There is an overabundance of no fear for the enemy AI. Combat is basically whack-a-mole. The enemies have no reaction to being attacked... If you attack an enemy first it does not even interupt their attack animation.
Condemned did a better job at melee combat and it came out in 2005. It seems like they would be better off using Unreal engine or one of the other game engines.
I gave Elder Scrolls and Fallout a fair chance but im just not into the games that Bethesda makes. When so many other games have smooth animation and physics theres really no excuse for this rock-em-sock-em-robot combat in 2011.