Studies of materials under extreme conditions have relevance to a broad area of research, including planetary physics, fusion research, materials science, and structural biology with x-ray lasers. We study such extreme conditions and experimentally probe the interaction between ultrashort soft x-ray pulses and solid targets (metals and their deuterides) at the FLASH free-electron laser where power densities exceeding 1017 W/cm2 were reached. Time-of-flight ion spectrometry and crater analysis were used to characterize the interaction. The results show the onset of saturation in the ablation process at power densities above 1016 W/cm2. This effect can be linked to a transiently induced x-ray transparency in the solid by the femtosecond x-ray pulse at high power densities. The measured kinetic energies of protons and deuterons ejected from the surface reach several keV and concur with predictions from plasma-expansion models. Simulations of the interactions were performed with a nonlocal thermodynamic equilibrium code with radiation transfer. These calculations return critical depths similar to the observed crater depths and capture the transient surface transparency at higher power densities.