Imagine being one of the few players who finds anything about archwing exciting. Perhaps that's why you think archwing is sufficient for Empyrean and why we differ in opinion regarding the need for proper starfighters.
Here's the thing: I'm a veteran. I've been playing Warframe since May 2013. I'm not a hardcore player. I don't care about min-maxing. I didn't care about running several hour-long survival sessions back in the day. I didn't care for Trials. I don't farm for anything in the game. If I want something, I buy it with plat. Warframe's grind doesn't appeal to me. I don't care about high difficulty. I don't care about endless content drops to satisfy endgame. I don't care about clan research. I'm not saying any of that justifies DE's decisions over the years. I'm just saying that I'm a veteran, yet I don't play the game for the same reasons you do.
Thing is, I care about the gameplay experience, which, at its base level, is the gameplay mechanics, mission design, and level design. My issue with Warframe, and why I've stepped away from the game, is that its gameplay mechanics are very poor, imo. I don't find it fun to run around and shoot things in this game because I can't stand the shooting mechanics or how we move while shooting. I don't find most of the guns fun at all. I don't like the movement animations. I think they're awful. I don't care for the parkour system. Never have. It's nice to be able to move fast across the map using bullet jump, but I hate that the gameplay is so lackluster to me that I want to finish a mission as quickly as possible in the first place.
I'm not a fan of archwings, as I've mentioned enough here. I think they're boring. Yeah, I prefer star/space fighters. I prefer taking on other space fighters and capital ships in gameplay that's centered around high-speed fighter vs fighter gameplay. I don't like flying around with a glorified jet pack. Steve mentioned the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi when talking about Empyrean. That's what I want, not the space simulator-like mode that DE has shown off. That's why more than ever, I want space fighters.
I don't like the tileset structure. I've never been a fan of this puzzle/maze system with randomly generated tiles. I'd prefer maps that are actually designed to be like the place they're supposed to be. If we're on a ship, I want it to be laid out like a ship. I want unalerted enemies to be behaving like they're on a ship. I want to see different types of enemies that are believable for a ship. If we're on a planet, I prefer if it actually feels like a diverse planet with closed and open areas and not just like a cave. That's why I wanted open world.
Yes, I wanted open world. I wanted that because I wanted DE to focus more on the core gameplay experience of fighting enemies. I wanted an immersive, interactive, and dynamic world that would integrate all of Warframe's various game modes, something that would fully capture the Warframe gameplay experience. I wanted something like Ghost Recon Wildlands, with dynamic AI, dynamic weather, dynamic side missions, a core cinematic story (open worlds need to be the setting of the cinematic quests and designed around them), and civilian and enemy populations in the actual open world. Instead, DE gave us a poor copy of Destiny's map design (seriously, take a look at how Destiny 2's gameplay loop is on their various maps, and how the experience is designed. It's very similar), with a focus on collecting fish, gathering gems, and fighting ugly monsters using the still-awful Operator mechanics. And then they repeated it with Fortuna.
But DE handled open world the same way they handled archwing, lunaro, conclave, and frame fighter. When players told them their issues with what DE was making, they didn't listen. People didn't want open world because they didn't want an MMO-like map that was focused on collecting stuff. I, and others, offered them constructive feedback on how to create an open world that actually maintained Warframe's core gameplay experience. They didn't listen. Before open world, they did that with the systems mentioned.
People were enamored with Archwing because it was something different. There was so much space to move. It felt freer than Warframe's core gameplay. But there was nothing to archwing beyond what they had been showing off in devstreams. It was barebones. There was no depth to it. The gameplay experience was shallow and it was designed to try to replicate the tileset mission structure. It failed, because it ended up being boring and underdeveloped. And when players asked them to continue to work on it, they ignored those calls too and moved to something else, only coming back to archwing later and still not improving it in the ways it needed improving.
Lunaro was dead before it was released. The vast majority of people were not enthused with Lunaro. They told DE as much, even in the devstream chat (which is usually the place you'll find the most hype, at least at the time). Most did not want a random sports mode in Warframe. Players wanted something focused on combat. DE released Lunaro anyway. Dead on Arrival. It's still dead. They chose not to listen.
Frame Fighter was another waste of time that most said was nothing more than a neat experiment for Tennocon. When DE started talking about adding it to the game, most said that DE needed to actually make it good before they released it. As with most things, what we ended up getting was very little more than the barebones, poorly-made mode that debuted at Tennocon. Some counter-argued that it was just a side project by one or a few of their devs. That doesn't matter. DE should aim for quality for anything they officially put out. Players said as much. They didn't listen.
Conclave failed before any of that. It wasn't popular. It didn't work with DE's P2P hosting system, and people complained it was toxic. Even more of an issue than that, Warframe's mechanics were ill-suited for PvP gameplay. Some of us suggested ways to improve the experience, namely by improving the core gameplay mechanics that made frantic PvP action such a pain in Warframe. Some of us suggested changing the approach to PvP by shifting from an Unreal Tournament approach to the gameplay experience to an objective-based approach to the gameplay experience by building PvP around the existing tileset mission structure. But nope. DE tried adding new maps, adding new modes based on modes in other games (like the oro system), even turning a PvE system like Solar Rail Conflicts into PvP (a system which had its own issues with toxicity that ultimately failed because of DE's approach to the mode).
I think the gameplay experience has been dull. I put up with it for a long time because I was a fan of Warframe's aesthetic, of the Excalibur warframe's abilities, and of the melee system (before they gutted it with Melee 2.999997), and because I had hope that Warframe would improve in the ways I thought it should. It had the potential to be better if DE improved on the core mechanics of the game and on the way in which the game was designed (the areas and systems mentioned above). After six years, I think that potential has been squandered.
So, as a fellow veteran, I'm at the place where I'm cynical and displeased with Warframe (I was bitter at first but that has become disappointment), but not for the same reasons. No amount of challenge or new rewards or new warframes is going to change that for me. The only thing that will change how I feel is if the core gameplay experience improves, and quite frankly I don't think DE even believes it needs improving, unfortunately.
Empyrean absolutely feels like Archwing all over again for me. It promises something more than it will actually deliver. Players keep expecting some big surprise from DE, that somehow there's something much bigger to these shallow game modes that DE just isn't showing off. That's never the case. People expected that with Archwing. It turned out to be just as shallow and empty and underdeveloped as it looked on DE's devstreams. People expected that with Plains of Eidolon. Plains of Eidolon was not much more than what they showed off at Tennocon. Some people are expecting something much more than what we've seen of Empyrean. I don't understand why, but I understand that's how the Warframe playerbase is.
Back when all we had was a few snippets of codex lore, people swore that DE had this big grandiose plan for the story and that they were just keeping it secret. That was never the case. They just hadn't taken the time to come up with more story. That's why the cinematic quests didn't adhere to much of the codex lore (including Stalker's Orokin allegiance and his reason for hating the Tenno). That's why the Apostasy didn't match with The Sacrifice, particularly the Lotus' state of being (DE admitted that they came up with Apostasy before they wrote The Sacrifice).
It's the same thing with DE's approach to the systems they design. Most of the time, if they haven't shown something, it isn't because it's this big secret that they're keeping, like some major feature that they're just keeping secret until the release of the new system. They tend to show off what they have. Just like Archwing and Plains of Eidolon, Empyrean may look as though it promises something more beyond what we've seen at Tennocon, but most likely, that is not the case. Empyrean has already shown you limited mission diversity (none, actually, as we've seen the same basic type of mission with Corpus and Grineer), new resources that need to be grinded to upgrade the Railjack, and slow gameplay. There's no reason to expect something different from Empyrean.