I would say there is something in this, my experiences are mainly freeplay. I find the term "Openworld" to fit freeplay more than the rest so spend 80% in freeplay (loading screens are the pits in this game).
The drops from little groups of 3-6 is worth hunting down or looking for. I always when flying from area to area look for these little groups I know exist, they often give me better loot than chests. Not always but the chances seem better, IF they drop loot it is normal good.