Many years ago, a powerful talisman known as Idol of Sorrow turned the ancient Holy Land, the home of the Forest Folk, into the cursed Land of Disaster. The idol's evil powers once again awakened when the king of Heladin mistook it for a symbol of peace. One day, Prince Devian of Azalin Empire is visited by a mysterious stranger. The stranger hands him the Idol of Sorrow, and before long Devian realizes that he has been entrusted with the difficult task of taking the idol back to the Land of Disaster and finding a way to remove the curse.
The Ancient City is a first-person action role-playing game and the fourth entry in the King's Field series. Its core gameplay mechanics are similar to those of the predecessors: the player must explore vast interconnected areas and fight hostile creatures and weapons and magic. There are four types of weapons in the game: swords, clubs, axes, and bows. Repeatedly attacking with the same weapon raises its level, eventually allowing more powerful attacks with it. Magic is handled in a similar way, with spells increasing in power and raising Devian's magic points when used. Weapons and armor slowly deteriorate, but a blacksmith can repair them. Like in the previous games, every NPC can be attacked and killed. As opposed to the predecessors, the protagonist can swim underwater for a limited amount of time.