In this post, I want to take a look at one of the most divisive, and therefore arguably one of the most interesting characters in BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda: Reyes Vidal.
SPOILERS to follow for Mass Effect: Andromeda and, in particular, Reyes’ character arc
Despite having a short appearance in Andromeda compared to other major characters, Reyes leaves a large impression on the player. Part of this is no doubt his role in the player choosing who rules Kadara, but when compared to other instances in the game where a similar choice exists, such as choosing the asari pathfinder, his memorability cannot be attributed solely to his involvement in a major plot decision. His brevity allows for a very tightly controlled character arc, where mystery and half-truths quickly build to the bottom line of his character: can you trust him?
Reyes defies expectations. This is apparent from the moment you meet him in Kadara Port. You’re supposed to meet with an Angaran Resistance contact, “Shena”, and having worked with the Resistance before, the expectation here is to rendezvous with another angara – until Reyes shows up. This first surprise is captured by Ryder when they say, “I was expecting someone more…angaran.” Reyes seems free with information about himself, quickly revealing his real name, stating he “hates code names” and acknowledging he’s also a smuggler. This looseness with information, along with his charming personality, are meant to lure the player into the sense that in a port where everyone hates Nexus agents, this guy is on your side. This guy can be trusted.
Reyes tries to win your trust the more you interact with him: he helps you investigate the murders in the port, he makes sure that you know he will spread a good word about you, and he provides information on other happenings. The Charlatan is mentioned several times in conversations with him, but he does a convincing job of referring to the leader of the Collective with some distance, like when he admits jealousy to the Charlatan having a better code name than him.
His veil begins to be exposed when you help him against his rival, Zia. Ryder can proclaim that Reyes is a better man than Zia thinks, to which she laughs and gives the big hint: “Oh, honey. You’ve no idea how wrong you are. But you will.” On the surface, this can be taken as a simple disagreement with your assessment, that no, he really is a scoundrel. Below that, the player is told that Reyes is more than he lets you see. Zia’s statement is quickly glossed over with a gunfight and the resolution of that quest, and the player does not have an opportunity to bring it up again. In fact, the opposite occurs, as Reyes thanks Ryder for saying that about him. Whether this is a moment of honesty or furthering of the persona he’s building is left to the player to decide.
Reyes has one clear moment of vulnerability after stealing the whiskey from Sloane’s party. On the rooftops overlooking Kadara Port, Ryder asks Reyes why he came to Andromeda. Reyes takes a deliberate pause and swig of the whiskey, closing his eyes before responding, “To be someone.” The sincerity of his words are apparent – if everything else is a lie or half-truth, this much is real. Reyes chooses to confide something deeply personal to Ryder (and by extension the player), and this aligns perfectly with his big reveal.
In the showdown between Sloane Kelly and the Charlatan, the player gets the payoff of Reyes’ character. Reyes’ entrance with “You look like you’re waiting for someone” harkens back to when the player first met him, and the juxtaposition between that meeting in which he’s a low-level smuggler and his reveal as the leader of the Collective is meant to remind the player of his deception. Coupled with this revelation is the player’s turn to pass judgement; Reyes lays his cards on the table, and the player decides who to trust with rule of Kadara. The choice is memorable in its moral shades of grey, as Sloane demonstrates throughout the Kadara arc that she’s more of a dictator, but straightforward in her intentions, whereas Reyes’ dishonesty in both his identity and the duel feel like a personal betrayal, despite his good intentions for the people of Kadara.
Interestingly, pursuing a romance with Reyes and allowing him to take over Kadara reveals several occasions where his trustworthiness is a central focus. Reyes makes three promises: he promises to make it up to Ryder when he abandons them on their date, he promises him sneaking around in the storage room is also to Ryder’s benefit, and he promises to protect the Initiative’s outpost on Kadara. In all three instances, he keeps his promise. At the end of his romance, Reyes asks Ryder to dance to make up for ignoring them on their first date. In the storage room, he reveals he was searching for a bottle of whiskey to share with Ryder, although this is arguably just a cover for his true purpose in that room. And once Ryder establishes an outpost on Kadara, ambient dialogue heard around the outpost and port suggest that the Collective is providing protection for the outpost, by order of the Charlatan. This three for three suggests, at the very least, that when Reyes makes a promise he will keep his word.
It’s no wonder Reyes is a highly discussed character. He has all the right things going for him: a dashing personality, involvement in a morally grey plot decision, and enough ambiguity in his words and actions to keep the player guessing. His short character arc allows just enough time for trust in him to build, as well as being brief enough for the the player to forgive any perceived betrayal. The answer to whether Reyes is trustworthy is subjective, but the beauty of his character is that there is plenty of evidence to argue either way. No matter what the player decides, it probably isn’t the last Andromeda has seen of the scoundrel.