Lee has an embarrassingly deep love of all things "Mass Effect." Her favorite is the original first game.
Pelessaria B'Sayle, more commonly known as Peebee, is the romanceable asari follower of Mass Effect: Andromeda. She is the most popular romance choice for a number of reasons, but is (remarkably at the same time) probably also the most hated.
This article covers why Peebee was hated, where the writers failed, and how they could possibly avoid pissing off so many fans next time.
Grab snacks and join me.
For the record, I actually like Peebee. Which is . . .weird. Because I utterly despise Sera in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Peebee has long been hailed the "Sera" of Andromeda.
But for me, the key difference between Sera and Peebee is that Peebee is sometimes annoying in how she treats Ryder (pretending she doesn't care, etc), while Sera was straight-up abusive.
And even when Sera wasn't abusing the Inquisitor (threatening her with violence, mocking her culture and body, emotionally blackmailing her to give up culturally important aspects of her person), she was still callous toward any group of people who she didn't include in her idea of the "Little People" (basically the Dalish and mages, so God help you if you played a Dalish mage), no matter how oppressed they were.
When she wasn't being annoying, Peebee was very kind and empathetic and really wanted to help people, no matter their species or culture. It was a side to her that I really loved. Taking her along on the Archon's ship shows how much she cares about people even though she pretends not to ("Bastard! You can't hide!" and "Is there evil in every galaxy?" gets me every time). Also, Peebee's voice is way better than Sera's.
But I'm getting off topic here. This article is about everything that is wrong with Peebee. And sadly . . . there was a lot.
She Basically Assaults Ryder
"Assault" sounds like an extreme way to describe what Peebee does when she firsts meets Ryder, but that's pretty much what it is. "Assault" is physical contact that is harmful or offensive. Being sat on by a complete stranger . . . is offensive.
To be perfectly clear, I thought Peebee pouncing on Ryder was cute and it made me curious about her romance, even though I was completely aware that the writers were manipulating me. But for people who did not want to be pounced, this was unwanted physical contact and therefore offensive and therefore . . . assault.
Now, no one is a mind reader. Peebee couldn't have known that Ryder would find being pounced offensive . . . which is exactly why you shouldn't put your hands on a complete stranger.
Peebee knew nothing about Ryder when she did that. She was lucky Ryder was actually a patient person and not someone more violent who would have slapped her off.
The writers knew some fans would be annoyed by this, so they gave us the option to shove Peebee off, to which Peebee replies, "Don't like being sat on, huh?"
On top of pretty much being assault, Peebee's introduction was way too sexual. She literally sits on Ryder's private parts. For players who actually like the character, this was fine. But for players who didn't want to be forced into an actual sexual position with Peebee, this was annoying.
The problem is, the writers expected most fans to love Peebee and to hell with everyone who didn't. The scene was also written with straight male Scott in mind (since that is their target demographic), and as a result, Ryder has a stupid smirk where she seems to enjoy being pounced and Peebee makes a remark, "You're pretty solidly built!" even though you could be playing Sara (women aren't typically described as "solid," obviously).
I feel bad for the straight women who played Sara and wanted Sara to be straight, yet had to sit through Peebee straddling them and making sexual comments. I know how they feel after playing the female version of Commander Shepard, who I wanted to be a lesbian but who, against my wishes, kept flirting with every human male in sight.
I also feel badly for the male gamers who hated Peebee and didn't want her sitting on their junk. People have complained for years about Liara being forced on them, but Peebee takes it to a whole literal level.
This entirely annoying dilemma could have been easily rectified by having Peebee only pounce on players she has an established rapport with. Putting your hands on a complete stranger (and grinding your privates against a complete stranger's privates) is never going to be cool.
The entire scene comes off as the writer's desperate attempt to make you like Peebee. Instead, a lot of fans just hated her.
If the writers know a character is going to be polarizing, then there should be an option to kick them out. Peebee and Liam really needed an airlock option, and I say this as someone who likes Peebee but dislikes Liam. I feel bad for people who have to put up with her constantly annoying them. At least Liam can be ignored.
She's Too Human
Peebee is just . . . too human. Plenty of fans didn't mind this (obviously, given her popularity), but this annoyed me to no end. Peebee is supposed to be an asari, so why does she make so many human idioms and pop culture references?
One of the cutest things about Jaal was probably him not knowing what a horse was and being baffled by the concept of Mardi Gras. I know that most asari would be knowledgeable about human culture and animals by this point, but referencing it all the time as if it were their own culture?
It's kind of ironic given how Peebee criticizes Cora for being one of "those people" who worship someone else's culture. Cora is a human who thinks she's asari and Peebee is an asari who thinks she's human.
Peebee even has eyebrows! Not tattooed eyebrows like Liara (which was ridiculous enough) but actual eyebrows growing out of her face!
One of the writers said Peebee had a human ancestor, which goes to show that (sadly) the Montreal team didn't know enough about the lore of this franchise to make a proper asari character: Peebee is way too old to have had a human ancestor, given that humans made first contact with the council races, what? Thirty years ago? And Peebee is a hundred years old!
I get that the writers wanted to make Peebee the opposite of Liara, but they went about it all wrong. Back in Mass Effect 2, Samara and Aria were anti-Liara characters. Samara was the opposite of Liara in every way (older, experienced, Renegade instead of Paragon, refuses a relationship with Shepard) and Aria was constantly juxtaposed against Liara throughout the sequel (they were both information sources for Shepard with opposite personalities and behaviors). Samara and Aria did the anti-Liara thing without contradicting the lore and did it damn well.
I mean, it was fine that Peebee knew about human culture and phrases, but having her reference them so much, as if they were her own culture, was silly. My tolerance for this nonsense tipped when she even said a Yiddish word (schmaltz) toward the end of the game.
She's a Walking Cliché
This one I find hilarious because one of Peebee's frequent sayings is "Been there, done that" and her entire schtick is always wanting something new.
When you first talk to Peebee on the Tempest, she refuses to tell you her life's story, instead pretending to snore and telling you how boring that would be versus getting to know her in the field. In this conversation, she acts as a mouthpiece for the writers, telling the audience that Andromeda is supposed to be something new, a completely new takeaway from the old video game formula of slowly chatting with a character across the game and listening to their life's story.
It was a nice concept on paper, but as with a lot of things in Andromeda, the execution failed. Peebee was supposed to be Not Liara but wound up being a cliche in her own right. I'd almost say this was done on purpose as a caricature of clichés . . . but I don't think the writers were that clever or self-aware.
The first way Peebee was cliched? Peebee was hurt in the past by her abusive ex-girlfriend, Kalinda, so now she has commitment issues, has problems expressing her true feelings, and insists on presenting herself as a loner who doesn't care about Ryder (or anyone else) beyond sex.
Um . . . Hello? This had already been done a billion times before. Zevran? Isabela?
Peebee is also a very young, annoying thief type (Sera, Mission from KoTOR), loves tinkering (Tali), behaves like a teenager and is a little crazy (Sera, Merrill) . . . She is every Young Girl BioWare trope rolled into one.
BioWare loves using the same old tropes over and over, we all know that, but it made zero sense to do this with a character who claims flat-out to be a departure from traditional video game tropes.
Having Peebee actually say to Ryder "Been there, done that" while figuratively handwaving the original Mass Effect trilogy as old news was the biggest facepalm ever when they just turned around and wrote her to be an annoying amalgamation of every Young Girl BioWare trope ever used.
Her Character Design was Terrible
I didn't buy Andromeda the year it was released, and Peebee's hideous face was a part of the reason why. To this day, it still baffles me that the developers thought that . . . thing . . . was appealing.
Peebee's face was hideous, and the black skid mark across her eyes made it even worse. I mean . . . what? There are no words to properly express my bafflement.
I mean, can I have a plot relevant f/f romance where the woman doesn't have a hideous face (ugh . . . Sera and giraffe-looking Merrill from Dragon Age 2) and doesn't act like a two-year-old and doesn't have commitment issues and doesn't hit on every male in sight while romancing me (Isabela)? Can I just have someone normal to romance like straight men get? Is that so much to ask?
The only f/f BioWare romance that hits all those check boxes is probably Liara, and to a lesser extent, Leliana. I'm not counting non-squad romances like Josephine or Suvi or Traynor or Kelly given that those gay romances are just breadcrumbs to placate gay players (and/or entertain straight males . . . ugh) and not real, full romances like Peebee or Liara.
One of the first mods I installed for Andromeda was the one in the image above. It's called the Peebee Tweak mod (or something like that). Not only does it remove the ridiculous face paint, it also smooths out some of the grandma wrinkles on this very young asari's face and gives her better makeup (a lot of the female characters had horrible makeup in this game, nightmare inducing horrible).
All that being said, I thought Peebee's outfit was fine. It was just her makeup and face wrinkles that were awful. (And the original face was just hideous altogether.)
Her Sex Scene was Bad
I didn't finish Peebee's romance the first time I tried it (for reasons I will list further below), so I wound up going on Youtube to see if I missed anything. Turns out I didn't.
First off, the dialogue is cringeworthy. But given that Peebee's dialogue always sounds like something from a teen movie, I could have looked past that. Especially after suffering through Kaidan's horrible romance dialogue the first time I played the first Mass Effect.
As I explain on my Kaidan article, I was put off by how young Liara looked and acted, so I felt weird about romancing her and suffered through a straight romance instead (which was a mistake because I hate Kaidan). Now here I am again, put off by yet another childish asari and defaulting to Jaal because I have no other options . . . People idealize the original trilogy and love bashing Andromeda, but BioWare really hasn't changed much.
Though I will admit, some parts of the dialogue were touching. Like when Ryder tells Peebee that she's safe. That was so sweet. And it kinda made putting up with Peebee's fake "I don't care" attitude worth it.
And on top of the dialogue being cringey in some places, Peebee's animations were . . . unfortunate. At least if you're playing Sara.
If you romance Peebee as Sara instead of Scott, the animations are exactly the same. You're supposed to assume that Sara and Peebee are scissoring, even though that's not remotely how scissoring works, and instead it looks like she's just riding an invisible wang.
The fact is, the animations were created for Scott and lazily recycled for Sara, leaving the lesbian scene with awkward animations that weren't intended for Sara's model.
And, yes. It is a lesbian scene. The asari are women, and "monogendered" means "one gender" not "no gender" and not "many genders." Just because BioWare doesn't understand the meaning of basic words like "woman" and "mono" doesn't magically change reality.
Peebee is a woman and she and Sara are in a lesbian relationship. Fear of Fox News and backlash from homophobes was the only reason the first Mass Effect had Liara insisting to female Shepard that they weren't lesbians because she's "not really a woman" (Whatever, BioWare).
After the heartwarming, well written, and well-animated sex scene Liara and female Shepard had in Mass Effect 3, it was pretty painful to see they failed so terribly with Peebee and Sara.
Yes, female Shepard and Liara had animations that were recycled from the straight version of the romance, but the animations were done so well that it didn't matter. Meanwhile, Andromeda's animations for Peebee and Sara were just lazy.
I feel like they could have figured out how to do a lesbian sex scene that was tasteful. They just didn't seem to want to. Sadly, all of the gay romances suffered the same neglect in this game.
So it's not just a Peebee thing.
Commitment Issues are Tiresome
I mentioned this up higher, but the whole commitment issues thing is really getting tiresome. I could have given BioWare a pass if they had at least written it well . . . but they didn't.
A good comparison would be Isabela in Dragon Age 2. Back in that game, Isabela was afraid of committing to Hawke because she was afraid she would hurt Hawke. So she pretended to be aloof and not care about Hawke, while flirting with basically everyone else in sight.
But the writers were very careful to make it obvious that Isabela really cared and was just pretending not to. There are several moments when she betrays her real feelings, and Hawke can even tease her about caring more than she pretends.
With Peebee, it's the exact opposite.
Before locking in the romance, you never see Peebee actually show that she sincerely cares about Ryder. Instead:
- she is continuously aloof
- refuses to talk about herself (so denies Ryder intimacy) while talking about herself to every other squad mate
- flirts shamelessly with Jaal
- talks about having sex with Jaal to Ryder's face
- asks Lexi to see Jaal's body scans
- hits on Cora (staring at Cora in the Nomad and asking about body tattoos)
- makes jokes about Ryder just being there to cure her boredom
- doesn't seem to care when Ryder flirts with other people (Reyes)
- says in front of Ryder that she likes Vetra more than Ryder
- constantly reminds Ryder that she has one foot out the door and her bags packed
Peebee goes out of her way to make Ryder believe she doesn't care about her at all. Or at least, that was the impression that I came away with when I tried romancing her. So I was genuinely surprised when Peebee asked Ryder for a commitment. Because she had convinced me she didn't really care, I said no and moved on to Jaal.
If the writers wanted players to think Peebee cared about Ryder, they should have shown it more. Isabela's romance was great at showing the truth, even while Isabela was lying her butt off.
Peebee's romance wound up feeling cold because she never showed she cared until the romance was locked . . . But she didn't give players who wanted more than Zero G fun-time enough reason to lock in the romance to begin with.
Her Loyalty Mission Missed the Mark
Speaking of Peebee's feelings, I feel like Peebee's loyalty mission was written with the purpose of finally revealing how Peebee truly feels about Ryder, but the execution . . . failed. Largely because, the fact that Peebee kidnaps Ryder in the escape pod (with Ryder only getting mad in a lighthearted sitcom way) was infuriating enough that people were too busy being pissed to notice what the mission was actually about.
The choice about killing or saving Kalinda reveals how Peebee feels about Ryder. Peebee sees Ryder as a hero. Ryder is the Pathfinder, finally there to make everything okay after the nightmare that was Eos. So if Ryder saves Kalinda's life, then Peebee sees her as a hero and can be seen grinning afterwards.
But if Ryder kills Kalinda, Peebee is sad. She doesn't grin when Ryder pulls her onto the platform at the end of the mission; in fact, she barely meets Ryder's eyes. She also doesn't crack jokes about her bedroom being gone during the escape, and back on the Tempest, she will be very disappointed and ask why Ryder killed Kalinda.
After Ryder explains why she killed Kalinda, Peebee makes a comment about people revealing who they truly are in moments of duress. It seems like she's talking about Kalinda, but she's actually talking about Ryder and the fact that Ryder disappointed her by basically murdering her ex-girlfriend.
Yes, Kalinda was evil and had tried to kill Ryder and Peebee multiple times. And if you bring Jaal on the mission, he will ask if Kalinda was always like that and Peebee will say yes, meaning that Kalinda's mind wasn't corrupted from cryostasis (so she is 100% responsible for her actions).
But it didn't matter that Kalinda was evil. To Peebee, she was still a person whose life was worth saving, someone who used to be a friend, someone who Peebee loved for perhaps decades. And Ryder killed her coldly and quickly, just like that.
It's a bit like if Ryder shoots Akksul during Jaal's loyalty mission.
If Ryder shoots Akksul, then she makes herself look like a rabid monster and martyrs Akksul, just as he wanted. But if Ryder just stands by as Jaal asked, then Akksul makes himself out to be the monster.
If Ryder shoots Akksul, she also looks like a monster to Jaal and he refuses to talk to her for a while. No matter that Akksul had attacked Eos and tried to kill Ryder and Jaal multiple times, he was still a person who Jaal knew personally and wanted to spare. Ignoring Jaal's wishes was disrespectful and showed that Ryder didn't really care about Jaal.
It's the same with Peebee and Kalinda. If Ryder shoots Kalinda, Peebee becomes disillusioned and stops seeing Ryder as a hero.
But here lies the problem: there are no consequences to Ryder's actions. Even though Peebee is disappointed and disillusioned, she still romances Ryder and goes on loving her. This was a wonderful opportunity to have some real roleplaying options in the game, choices that mattered.
If Ryder shot Kalinda, then Peebee should have packed her bags and left as she'd been threatening to. Instead, she is sad for five seconds and then stays anyway. Why? If this is supposed to be a roleplaying game, then let us roleplay! The word has lost all meaning.
Could you imagine if Alistair, at the end of Dragon Age: Origins, was angry with you for recruiting Loghain but never left the party? As much as fans were annoyed by Alistair and his black and white mentality, the majority of us still respected him for sticking to his personal beliefs, even if it meant losing him from the party.
Choices that mattered were a staple of classic BioWare games. Now the followers just kowtow to the player no matter what. Drack stays on if you abandon his scouts to die, Jaal stays even if you kill Akksul, Cora caves to your judgement if you expose her hero for a liar, and Peebee stays on the ship even if you murder her ex-girlfriend.
What's the point of having these choices if they completely lack a meaningful outcome?
Time for a Recap
I don't think I have anymore points. To sum it up:
- Peebee's introduction needed to be toned down. She should have only tackled someone she was locked in a romance with. The tackling made her more forced on the player than Liara ever was.
- The f/f option always being a woman-child and/or having commitment issues is tiresome. Can lesbians have more sweet, heartwarming, or hell, even normal plot relevant romances please? Why are those always reserved for male players? (Cora, Ashley, Miranda, Cassandra . . .) I know why. I'm just sick of it.
- Peebee's feelings for Ryder are way too hidden. Show me, don't tell me.
- Ugly Shrek face.
- There should be consequences to actions in a game that claims to be an RPG. Killing Kalinda should cause a stronger reaction in Peebee.
- For people who didn't like Peebee, there should have been an option to kick her out ala Sera in Dragon Age: Inquisition.